Discerning content for Bad Hombres and Nasty Women

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Carol Shocker(s)

It’s that time of year again, Little Ducks. Brace yourselves for the shocking truth: 

Jingle Bells” is not a Christmas song.

Hell, it's not even a song about bells. It's a sleighing song. It's sort of the 19th Century equivalent of "Little Deuce Coupe."

Written by James Pierpont in 1857, it memorializes the 'cutter' drag races in Boston, where spiffed out sleighs would race between Medford and Malden Squares, and the drivers would try to pick up the local hotties.

Consider the original lyrics:

Dashing thro' the snow,
In a one-horse open sleigh,
O'er the hills we go,
Laughing all the way;
Bells on bob tail ring,
Making spirits bright,
Oh what sport to ride and sing
A sleighing song to night.

Jingle bells, Jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what joy it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh.
Jingle bells, Jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what joy it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh.

A day or two ago,
I thought I'd take a ride,
And soon Miss Fannie Bright
Was seated by my side,
The horse was lean and lank;
Misfortune seemed his lot,
He got into a drifted bank,
And we, we got upsot.


A day or two ago,
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow
And on my back I fell;
A gent was riding by
In a one-horse open sleigh,
He laughed as there I sprawling lie,
But quickly drove away.


Now the ground is white
Go it while you're young,
Take the girls to night
And sing this sleighing song;
Just get a bob tailed bay
Two forty as his speed.
Hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack, you'll take the lead.


I’m not trying to deny royalties to the writers of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Frosty the Snowman,” or “Winter Wonderland” (well, maybe “Winter Wonderland”) but I feel it’s important during this season of festivity and generosity to reflect on just how many Christmas songs have nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas. No Santa, no Jesus, no mistletoe. Not even any nog. Just a song about riding around in a giant horse-drawn sled in sub-zero temperatures, and how much fun that is.

How much fun does that sound like? How likely is it that anyone doing that in 2009 would be laughing all the way, as opposed to remarking all the way, “This is ridiculous. I'm freezing my ass off.”

I would also contend that even in 1857 the constant ringing of bells attached to a horse’s bobbed tail would only make spirits bright for about a minute and a half before sending you running off the back of the sled, o’er the fields, but I’m not prepared to make a big deal about it.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I lived on the island of Guam. We had a variation of “Jingle Bells,” entitled, somewhat appropriately, “Jungle Bells,” and even IT had more to do with Christmas than the Old Standard:
Here we are on Guam.
Without a hope of snow.
Under spreading palms.
Typhoons sure do blow.

Santa ought to know,

What tropics will allow.
Instead of riding eight reindeer,
He'll ride a carabao. (Oh…)

Jungle Bells, coconut shells,
Stickaburrs all the way.
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a carabao cart today. (Repeat)

Be watchful everyone
He'll send a telegram,
Today he'll be on Guam,
Sent out by Uncle Sam.

Santa will be here
To see what you have done
So let's all greet him. Ha! Ha! Ha!
And join in all the fun.


Ha Ha Ha, indeed. Ah, what wild, carefree scamps we were back in the day.

Oh, and by the way… you know what else isn’t a Christmas song? “Joy to the World” (the traditional one – not the one sung by Three Dog Night and written by Hoyt Axton).

Every year, BFF Donna, who has a doctorate in Sacred Music from USC, has to reference this fact whenever someone requests “Joy to the World” be sung as a Christmas hymn. If she doesn’t, she gets the stank eye from me. Or I’ll pop up and say, “Y’know… Joy to the World isn’t really a Christmas song…” (to the delight, I’m sure, of the elderly parishioners). But it isn’t. It’s a song about the second coming of Christ.

Pass the eggnog.

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