blank'/> Mirth, Melancholy, and the Mundane: No Snow in Africa

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Snow in Africa

I listen to a lot of Christmas carols this time of year; from Thanksgiving onward, it’s all I ever have on.  I have a Christmas station on Pandora, I can stream the radio station that I listen to in my car, and I even have an mp3 player that has nothing but carols on it that I unpack with my decorations.  The reason for this is simple – when the crunch of grading and the end of the semester comes, it’s the perfect background music.  Because all the songs (for the most part) are familiar, it is easy to tune them out.  But when I need a mental break from reading journals and papers, it’s ALWAYS a song that I know.   This method would not work for everyone and I try very hard not to foist my listening habits off on other people (except when I find fun songs like “The Christmas Can-Can” by Straight No Chaser), because I know that it would annoy a great number of people who are already stressed and busy themselves.  In the end, we all have different ways of coping and I’d rather my method not create more need for coping by others.

So, I love Christmas carols.

One of the interesting results of listening to them a lot, however, is that I find myself over-analyzing the lyrics and there are a number of them that sort of drive me crazy.  It likely doesn’t help that I’m already a little crazy this time of year.  I thought, however, it might be cathartic to share these irritations with my dedicated readers and perhaps purge myself of them in some way…

Here they are, in no particular order.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Well, tonight thank God it's them Instead of you.   Wow.  I love being lectured by Christmas music right after I’ve put a new, unwrapped toy in the Toys for Tots bin, dropped money in the red bucket, and delivered my non-perishable canned goods and my Angel Tree presents.   Other than that, this one bothers me for a number of reasons (though I can appreciate the attempt to raise awareness of the plight of others as we spend too much money on presents).  Do they know it's Christmas time at all?   Life for many in Africa truly is difficult, but the idea that poverty and hunger breed ignorance about global holidays (that have been somewhat taken over in the secular world) is a little irritating.  And unless they are Christians or taken in by the secular side of the holiday, why would they really care that it is Christmas anyway?   Also, it actually DOES snow in Africa in the mountains.   So there.

“An Old Christmas Card” – Why I know you must have looked through thousands of cards / To find that wonderful poem that still brings a tear to my eyes – BUT WHAT WAS THE POEM!?!   It’s like the Christmas version of Tenacious D when he sang a song which is not the greatest song in the world, but just a tribute.  Except not funny.

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” – This one changes depending on who is singing it, but one of the versions contains the phrase presents on the tree, which has always bothered me.  Unless you’re getting a lot of jewelry (not a bad thing, mind you), you’d best be careful putting presents ON the tree.  How about ‘under’ or even ‘round’ the tree?  The syllables are right, the rhythm is intact, and it makes a lot more sense.

 “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – This whole song is creepy to me, but I’m trying to limit this analysis to a lyric here or there that stands out to me as being contradictory, nonsensical, or just plain silly.  So, while the entire song is a duet of her saying “No” and him pressuring her to say “Yes,” the line that really ruins it for me is, Say, what's in this drink. The song was written in 1944, so I’m sure it was much more innocent then – but, still, it’s just creepy.

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” – As the chain of information travels from the night wind to the lamb to the shepherd boy to the king, the solution to the problem of the baby’s cold is to bring him silver and gold – because THOSE will keep little Jesus warm.  Then again, we won’t even talk about how there wouldn’t have been flocks in the fields (and certainly not lambs) in December anyway.  That, however, is a whole other story.

“(Baby,) Please Come Home for Christmas” – This is the fastest story of an unexplained turn-around in fortunes.  In the first stanza, the sad and lonely narrator tells us that (usually) he [has] no friends / To wish [him] greetings once again.  In the very next stanza, however, we learn that friends and relations / send salutations.  Somehow, he managed to meet people and make friends in the time it took him to sing five lines.  And they still had time to send him cards.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – Now, while the title of this may be true, there’s one line that has always bothered me.  I have yet to meet anyone that has marshmallows for toasting at Christmas time.  Are we supposed to do so in the fireplace?  Or build a fire outside in the cold?  Now, what the line SHOULD be – so that the rhythm is right and the rhyme is preserved -- is 'chestnuts for roasting.'  I don’t know many people who do this either, but at least there’s a precedent set in another song.  Back to the marshmallows, though, if you decide you want some and you toast them outside where it's cold, I recommend taking some silver and gold with you.

So, let’s keep singing and loving our carols and running in from other rooms when we get to Fiiiive Gol-Den Riiiings, but I will continue to hear these little lines that are like a slightly off-key note in the musical tableaux that is Christmas celebration through song.

I am Just Another Blogger, and I think way too much about some things….


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