The Long Dark Christmas Carol of the Soul

My friends who work in retail are already beginning to get a little… funny… about havingĀ to listen to the same twenty or so Christmas carols over and over again at work.

I’m not sure this constitutes torture under the Geneva Convention, but it is certainly annoying. My workplace doesn’t play Christmas tunes over any sort of loudspeaker, and if it did, I would probably want to take an axe to said loudspeaker too.

I always maintain that the problem isn’t Christmas songs in and of themselves, so much as the painful lack of variety of said Christmas songs. There are literally hundreds and probably more like thousands upon thousands of Christmas tunes out there, yet our ears are assailed by the same 20-25 of them every single time we step into a store during the holiday season. Even the new Justin Bieber Christmas songs might be an improvement.

… okay, maybe not. But at least they’d be new.

The shame of it is how many great Christmas songs there are that simply don’t get played, because they’re weird, old, or just because Elvis hasn’t done a version of them. Instead they play Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” which, Geneva Convention or not, is definitely torture.

So. Why do we keep singing Christmas carols? Here’s a wonderful article from Slate that examines the question, and gives the long history of Christmas songs–how the early Church hated pagan adaptations, how Puritans hated them and how the modern Christmas celebration arose.

And I also have two additions to my 12 Carols series, one of which is based on the other. Yes, I know that makes 14 carols, technically. What can I say, math has never been my area of expertise.

Lord of the Dance is only a quasi-Christmas carol. Its words were written in 1967, and it tells the story of Jesus’s life in first-person. It has absolutely nothing to do with Michael Flatley, I promise.

Lord of the Dance was based on Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, however, which was a Christmas Carol, published in 1833, but traditional long before that.

They’ve disabled YouTube embedding for this one, but have a listen. It has a weird little syncopated rhythm, and I remember singing it once in choir. It was fun.

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