I Hate Christmas Songs

It’s that Christmas song playlist time of year again. The most horrible time of the year.

I was wandering through the streets with a friend last week when Christmas carols started buzzing like tinny, torturous little winter bees. “Oh!” my friend exclaimed “they’ve started caroling!”

“Isn’t it lovely?” I replied.

Over Thanksgiving, my father cheerfully remarked “we have six Christmas Carol stations on the radio now!”

“That is terrific!” I said, gritting my teeth into a festive grimace.

I do this. I smile. I clap my hands. I act as though I am in the spirit of the season. I lie. I say things like “I hope they play Silver Bells” or “yes, it’s entirely reasonable that counterculture legend Robert Zimmerman has a Christmas Album.” But what I am thinking when I say these things is “if they play that ‘All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth’ song, I am going to stab my eardrum in with a very merry chopstick.”

When I found out that not one, but two, of the radio stations I listen to are playing nothing but carols until Christmas I muttered a word that Santa would not say, because it began with donkey and and ended with a word that rhymes with “muckers.”

I hate Christmas carols. And this isn’t me being an iconoclast or trying to say something controversial – I just really, really hate them. I remember a kid in school saying that he thought that Hell would be being in a concert where they played your least favorite kind of music, and everyone else liked it. Forever. This is the kind of 6th grade thought experiment 12 year old kids indulge in, but I remember it every Christmas season, because he perfectly described what this season is like for people who don’t enjoy carols.

And I feel horrible about this. Not liking Christmas carols is akin to not liking puppies or cupcakes or Marcel the Shell. And to be fair, there are ones I hate considerably less than others. I quite like listening to Eartha Kitt sing “Santa Baby” but I think I’d quite like listening to Eartha Kitt singing the phone book (remember phone books? Alright, a Twitter feed). I will also listen to Tom Jones sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” because that man is in his 70′s and just won’t stop pelvic thrusting, and that is inspiring, or something. I guess I’m able to listen to Christmas carols that involve the word “baby.” But not, you know, that baby. The Jesus baby.

Other than that? Yeah, I hate most of them. When I say this, there are inevitably people who come up to me and say “but what about — insert your favorite carol here — ? You can’t hate that.” And I will reply “oh, no, you’re right, that’s a really good one! Gosh! I didn’t even think of that one.” Want to know a secret? When I say that, I will be lying.

Partly, this has a lot to do with my own musical preferences. Given my own choice I generally gravitate either to cocktail music from the 30s and 40′s or punk bands from the 80′s (which gives a lot of credence to the notion that the 40′s were just the 80′s with coke, at least in my mind). Christmas Carols don’t tend to focus the witty wordplay of say, Gershwin or Noel Coward. They also don’t really help you learn how to place phone calls to cities. Those are things I look for in songs, apparently. But that said, I believe this goes beyond my musical preferences. I believe that Christmas carols might just plain be bad.

They’re bad because they do not have to be good, because they are not being judged by normal human standards.

Remember how in Love Actually an aging rocker re-recorded a terrible song where he substituted the word “Christmas” for the word “love.” It’s terrible. He knows it’s terrible, and an unadulterated attempt to capitalize upon people’s sentimental nature in the month of December. His entire bit in the movie is based around him making fun of this fact. I feel like a lot of singers end up doing this, but, unlike Bill Nighy, they just don’t admit it. And it’s not nearly as funny when they don’t admit it.

Because it’s not as though you’re ever going to get all outre and creative with a holiday song. There are only so many ways you can go with the themes. We understand the whole “Christmas premise.” Virgin birth. Reindeer. Snow. Santa. Visiting dignitaries with tasteful gifts. Gifts! Peace on Earth. It’s very unlikely that any Christmas carol is going to express a sentiment that wasn’t listed there. There’s never going to be much room for surprise.

Maybe that’s why people keep seeming to try to spice up those themes by having young children sing them. Which I know is supposed to be charming, but their voices. Their voices are awful. They sound like chipmunks drunk on helium when they sing about wanting their two front teeth for Christmas. Think about all the popular Christmas ballads you’ve heard sung by children. Now think about all the normal songs you listen to that have been sung by children. It’s pretty much just the cover of Radiohead’s Creep for The Social Network. Right. There is a reason those kids are not singing 11 months of the year.

All I’m saying is that all I want for Christmas is to not hear carols for a month. So if the world could just stop, that would be great. Everyone cool with that? No? Justify yourselves.


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    • Eileen

      My general rule: If a Christmas song is one that could be used as the entrance hymn at a Catholic church (O Come All Ye Faithful, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, etc), I probably like it. Those are usually musically interesting. If not, probably not. And Bob Dylan’s Christmas album is the only thing I have ever loved ironically.

      • Eileen

        Oh, and Handel’s Hallelujah chorus wouldn’t get played in a Catholic church, but it is still included.

    • Meghan Keane

      Bizarro Jennifer, Why do you hate Christmas? And what have you done with real Jennifer?

    • Chickalupe

      Oh Jennifer, I knew I liked you for a reason! I am there with you 100%, girl. I work in retail professionally, and will am forced to hear Christmas music every day at my job. My store started playing carols on Black Friday, and most likely will go on until New Years! Imagine my joy.

      Also, I am a non-Christian. I don’t make a big deal about my religion, but I do truly resent how much of the year is now dedicated to the Christmas season. This year in my city, on Halloween (my favorite holiday!) a local radio station started playing Christmas carols. On Halloween! Now granted, I do live in a Southern state that resides firmly in the ‘Bible Belt,’ but isn’t there a certain point at which it gets ridiculous? I mean, really?

      The cliché about about Christmas starting in October and lasting until January was a joke I heard growing up, told by terrible comedians and repeated by my father; but now, it’s feeling more like fact. Sad but true.

      • Chickalupe

        *facepalm* Please ignore the word “will” in the second sentence… don’t know how it got there.

    • stef

      I love Christmas music but I think it’s weird that so many other people do because most of it is so old. So it’s weird that you like 30s and 40s music but not Christmas carols.

    • Magda

      I have a limited selection of christmas music that I like, dare I say, enjoy. But as to the songs being horrible and uncreative, I definitely agree. I hate, “Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer”. HATE IT! Actually, there is a whole set of them that I hate. (“Last Xmas I Gave You My Heart” I’m talking about you!!!)

      But, one of my favorite Christmas songs, is by my all time favorite band, The Killers (so I may be biased) But I listen to the song even when its not Christmas. Its called “Boots”.

    • Natalie

      I have a party where I get plastered with my friends and sing all the Christmas carols as obnoxiously as possible. Then I get irritated by Christmas carols for the rest of the season.

    • Cheryl

      Oh, Jennifer!

      I can’t relate to this at all. I love Christmas. The entire season is just the best. Shopping is awesome. Presents are awesome (I am an amazing present-giver). The twinkly lights: awesome. Same goes for the wreaths, the holly, the mistletoe and the chunky dude in red at the mall who gives you the creeps just a little.

      So, naturally I love the music. Maybe because it’s just a part of my beloved Christmas “package”. Hearing “Frosty the Snowman” can totally perk me up for a whole day. It pulls me into the mood of the season, Ms. Jennifer and I love it. I just love, love, love it and nothing will stop that ever.

      You’re totally right about the little kids, though.

    • Rhiannon

      You should have muttered “Dominick the Donkey muckers” instead.

    • Arnie

      I can stand Christmas songs for all of about a week, but after that, they just piss me off. There’s only a limited number of times I can listen to even the best songs, and most Christmas songs are mediocre at their very best.

      It also pisses me off that, living in the southern hemisphere until very recently, everyone still insists on singing about how wonderful it is to freeze your nuts off at Christmas. Every single one of my Christmases has been in the middle of fucking summer, and nowhere near any frosty snowmen, chestnuts on an open fire, or sleighs, so why the hell do radio stations in the Southern Hemisphere feel the need to inform us that we are not having a real Christmas if we aren’t stuck inside with some kind of storm outside?

      *Ahem* Rant over.

      This song, by the fantastically brilliant Tim Minchin, sums up pretty much exactly how I feel about Christmas, and is about the only Christmas song I can listen to more than twice a year.

    • Jesper Lindgren

      You can listen til Hymns from Niniveh free on SPotify at MySpotify thats INDIE Christmas music, and you will not get tired of it.