Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The dark and funky side of Christmas Carols

George Waters column for Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013:

Now that Christmas has passed I can say it: a lot of those carols are messed up.

"Angels We Have Heard On High"? Angels we have heard WHILE high, more like it. "And the mountains in reply, echoing their joyous strains"? Only at the holidays can you anthropomorphize alps.

I have also never understood the part that goes "In Excel sheets day-o!" Maybe the tally man uses them for figuring.

In the second verse of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" they rhyme "come" and "womb." That is loopy, unless you are in Liverpool. But then in the fourth verse they rhyme "come" with "home." I guess if you have just had a visitation from angels, consistency is not high on your list of priorities.

At least in "Jingle Bells" they keep the rhyme, but only by making up words: "The horse was lean and lank, misfortune seemed his lot. We got into a drifted bank and then we got upsot."

"Up on the House Top" details the contents of the stocking of Little Will, to whom Santa delivers a hammer, lots of tacks and a whip that cracks. God help his sister.

"God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay" sounds like a word order Yoda would come up with.

"Away In A Manger" proclaims "The stars in the sky looked down where he lay." I guess it's not just the hills that have eyes.

"It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" offers up this gem: "the world has suffered long" under "life's crushing load." Luckily, that flutter of wings you hear? It's not another hawk, come to carry off another of your young. It's just angels. Angels are a good sign! Um, right?

We think of Christmas carols as jaunty and uplifting, but if you manage to reach the fourth verse of "We Three Kings," you get "Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom. Sorrowing, sighing, breathing, dying, sealed in a stone-cold tomb."


Pop Christmas tunes can be just as strange. "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" promises there will be "marshmallows for toasting" and "scary ghost stories." You can kinda tell the writers had just lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Well, that's all behind us now. New Year's is coming up, and "Auld Lang Syne" will rule. Just don't look up the lyrics. Trust me.

Readers may contact George at