When is Christmas-y not Christmas-y enough? It depends on who you ask. For some, the term “X-Mas” is an abbreviation for Christmas. For others, it’s an affront that is offensive to an entire religion. To some, a red coffee cup with no snowflakes or other winter/holiday symbolism is crime against humanity. To others, it’s… a red coffee cup. And then there are those who politely wish people to have “happy holidays,” in recognition that not everyone celebrates Christmas. To others, “happy holidays” is nothing short of an insult. Clearly, different people hear Christmas messaging in very different ways.
But what about Christmas songs? So many of them have been accepted as part of the holiday—er, Christmas—cannon for so long. But are they really Christmas-y enough? We decided to take a closer look at some of them and rate them on a scale of one (meaning, it’s practically heresy) to four (i.e. it really captures the spirit of the season).
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Bing Crosby – “White Christmas”
Crosby wrote a song that captures nearly all the senses of the holiday. The sounds of sleigh bells, the sights of snow-topped trees, the act of writing greeting cards, “White Christmas” paints the most complete picture of Christmas.
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Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”
Christmas is, among other things, about being with those you love. So “Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree/Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me,” is something anyone who isn’t with their loved ones can identify with.
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“Deck the Halls”
First off, the song was originally penned as a celebration of New Year’s Eve back in the sixteenth century. With much of the melody and words highjacked from Welsh song called “Nos Galan,” “Deck The Halls” retains most of the original message of the passing of a year, welcoming in the next. “Fast away the old year passes, Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!” Making a great NEW YEAR’S EVE SONG. Not Christmas.
“Twelve Days of Christmas”
Unless you’re Kobe or Shaq and have five gold rings, most of the gifts in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” are fairly obscure references. Kobe and Shaq may frequently be around drummers drumming, and even ladies dancing. But do these ballers really bother with turtle doves? “Twelve Days of Christmas” is an English classic dating back to the early 1900s, but the song instantly conjures up carolers walking from door to door coaxing even the biggest scrooges to welcome in the season. Even though its pretty presents-heavy, it still feels like it’s in the spirit of the season.
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The Kinks – “Father Christmas”
This 1977 song by The Kinks is one of the most memorable modern takes on the holiday. Sung from a first-person perspective, a father dressed up as Santa is harassed by children from the other side of the tracks, imploring him to forgo the handing out of toys in favor of leaving a little cash under the tree. “Remember the kids who got nothin’,” they yell. The song’s upbeat irreverent lyrics are deeper than one might gather during a casual listen. Father Christmas takes direct aim at the modern gift-giving Holiday. Nearly 40 years after its release, it may be too rockin’ for more traditional tastes, but it actually gets to the heart of the spirit of the holiday.
Although the song details the night Jesus was born, “Silent Night” doesn’t leave the listener with strong feelings about the modern day holiday. There’s no mention of Santa, reindeer or presents. And maybe that’s why it’s endured: it is a song about what the holiday is actually about.
“Joy to the World”
Like “Silent Night,” this classic from 1719 focuses on glorifying Christ, although “Joy to the World” is different in that it’s about His triumphant return and not His first coming. Again, no mention of the modern additions to Christmas, but it gets to the spirit of the season.
Eartha Kitt – “Santa Baby”
A fun holiday song for any diva to sing, but it’s just about asking for presents and nothing else. When folks get crazy about wanting to hear ONLY Christmas music during the season, and this song is on their playlist, look out. It means they’re crazy.
“A Marshmallow World”
There’s no mention of Christmas in this song. Who made this part of Christmas cheer?
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No Doubt – “Oi to the World”
A politically incorrect song by punk rock band the Vandals (later covered by No Doubt for 1997’s A Very Special Christmas 3) about a punk rocker named Haji who runs into problems with some racist skinheads who don’t like him (likely because of his name and skin color). After a lengthy brawl (which saw Haji saving his skinhead opponent’s life by using his turban as a tourniquet. “If God came down on Christmas Day/I know exactly what he’d say,” Gwen sings. “He’d say ‘Oi to the punks and Oi to the skins. But Oi to the world and everybody wins!'” In other words, peace on earth and goodwill to all men.