Monday, December 22, 2008

Confusing Christmas Songs

While we were energetically singing "Jingle Bells" this past week, both of my kids corrected my lyric of "In a one horse open sleigh" to "In a one horse SOAPEN sleigh." This made me think of all the Christmas songs that I 1. Sang (sing) incorrectly, 2. Don't understand, and 3. Skip over entirely in our Reader's Digest Merry Christmas Songbook.

Lyrics I sang incorrectly as a child:
"Round YOUNG virgin Mother and Child" (She was young)
"Up on the housetop reindeer PAWS" (That one makes sense to me still to this day. Hooves can be referred to as paws, can't they?)
"Good tidings we bring to you and your KING" ("King" rhymes with "bring" better than "kin" does)
"Take a look at the FINEN TIN glistening once again" (I don't know what that means. So I looked it up. It's "Five and ten." What is that referring to? Cross streets? A time of day?)
"Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of YOUR faithful friends who are dear to us" (What does "yore" mean? Did you know that before you looked it up?)

Lyrics I don't understand:
"We'll tell scary ghost stories" (This is from "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Is it common for people to sit around at Christmas and try to scare each other? Am I missing out on a fun holiday tradition?)
"Bells on bobtail ring" (What's a bobtail?)
"Twelve Days of Christmas" (There are birds given on days 1,2,3,4,6,7. If you write a song that has twelve different things in it and half of them are birds, why not do the whole song about birds? Did the guy not know any more bird names? I can't name 12 different birds. Do people give birds for Christmas? Is wanting a bird for Christmas common enough to write a song about it? I have some friends whose son is asking for a rat. (Apparently they are really smart and bond well with their owners. Who knew?) Then there's the most confusing part of all: "Four Colly birds" vs. "Four Calling birds." I didn't even know this was a debate until last week when we got a "Twelve Days of Christmas" book from the library. It says "Colly birds." (It means black bird. Thank you My kids sing "Colly" now. Are they going to get beat up by the "Calling" faction? This discovery made me question years of singing an already confusing song.)

Christmas songs I have never heard nor sung yet are in the Reader's Digest Merry Christmas Songbook:
"The Merry Christmas Polka"
"Christmas in Killarney"
"Will Santy Come to Shanty Town?"
"The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot" (I just read the lyrics. Chorus: "He's the little boy that Santa Claus forgot, and goodness knows he didn't want a lot. He sent a note to Santa for some soldiers and a drum; It broke his little heart when he found Santa hadn't come. In the street, he envies all those lucky boys, then wanders home to last year's broken toys. I'm so sorry for that laddie; He hasn't got a daddy, the little boy that Santa Claus forgot." Really? That happy chestnut made it into this collection of songs? Are there really so few uplifting Christmas songs that this one made the cut? Was "that little boy" the editor for the songbook? Hmm...)

As a kid you never cared about getting the words right or even tried to understand what you were singing. You just loved being with family and sang the song loud and hoped that your enthusiasm for Christmas would somehow be detected by Rudolph's sonar.

So sing out this Christmas when you are a-wassailing with friends and kin (not king). It's the joy of being together that really matters.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting commentary on Christmas songs.
For "cheery" songs, you forgot "Good King Wenceslas" and the tale it tells of loyalty and freezing to death in the snow. Loads of fun, eh? I cry almost every time I hear it, sometimes even when it's just the music.
Or, how about "In the Bleak Mid Winter" (How 'bout just the title?) Lyrics? Here are a few - "Snow had fallen snow on snow, Snow on snow on snow ..." Must've been written by some poor sole trapped inside in Northern Europe or British Isles on Christmas day. Eeks!

Ok, Now, if you'll allow the board's old lady (and one of the trivia nuts) to explain a few things... lol

1. A "Five and Ten" is the nickname for a store that sells a wide variety of merchandise, usually at inexpensive prices. If you remember Woolworth's, Ben Franklin's, Grant's, Newberry's or Yellow Front stores, those were called "Five and Ten" or "Five and Dime" stores because you could get a bunch of stuff that would only cost a nickle or a dime.

2. A "bobtail" or "bobbedtail" is a reference to the way a horse's tail is groomed. Usually, it means that the tail has been cut off or "bobbed" to a short nub, as is often done with dogs. Sometimes, people refer to a horse's tail that has been groomed by gathering up the hair of the tail into a short ponytail, then wrapped/bound up into a short nub so, at a distance, it looks as if the tail has been "bobbed". This is often done in the winter in order to keep a long tail from getting wet and muddy and knotted.

3. Christmas in Killarney? I couldn't sing it for you, but I know my Mom could and my Father in Law could. LOL, you must not have very strong Irish or Scottish roots. I believe it's on my ITunes (at least once) from when My Father in law downloaded some CDs onto this machine.

LOL, Now you know more than you ever wanted to.
And do you know what it means to go a-wassailing? We didn't have any wassail this year. Sigh, we'll have to do that for Valentine's Day.

Have a good 2009 everyone,

January 3, 2009 at 12:45 AM  

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