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Ten Christmas Songs That Are Not Really About Christmas
Even before the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers are eaten, radio stations everywhere forgo the regular play lists and spend the next few weeks playing Christmas music. Tis' the season when pop stars begin promoting their Christmas albums they recorded last July, usually with one new song they wrote followed by a slew of covers of past Christmas songs. With so much Christmas being forced into our ears, is it any wonder that over they years mistakes have been made. That many of the Christmas standards we grew up to love, actually have nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever. The usual culprit is snow. For some reason any song about the winter weather is immediately assumed to be about the Christmas season.
#1. Jingle Bells
This is the ultimate Christmas song. But it is not about Christmas. This 1857 classic is about snow and horse drawn sleds. And about sitting next to the girl you like, a bit risque for the 19th Century. But it never once mentions Christmas. And no wonder. It was written as a Thanksgiving song. It became so popular that it was sung well after Thanksgiving and eventually into the rest of the holiday season. In the early 1900s there was an evolution of Old St Nick, thanks to an influx of immigrants from all over Europe. Each country had its own variation or version of Saint Nicholas. In America, Great Brittain's Father Christmas, Germany's Christkindle ( which translates to "Christ Child" and later evolved into the name Kris Kringle ), the Dutch Sinterklass, and a few other variations on holiday gift giving characters morphed into a new character, Santa Claus. This new hybrid version of Saint Nicholas needed his own theme song. Up to that point most of the existing Christmas songs were hymns about the birth of Jesus, all inappropriate for Santa's unofficial theme. Fortunately there was a neutral holiday song, Jingle Bells.
#2. Jingle Bell Rock
Well, certainly if Jingle Bells is not about Christmas, than neither was Bobby Helms' 1958 rockabilly classic, Jingle Bell Rock. A rock and roll update of the original, it changed the focus from a sleigh ride to dancing. But once again, does not mention Christmas. No doubt the song was written for the Christmas holiday, with assumptions that Jingle Bells was a Christmas song, but never bothering to mention Christmas in the lyrics.
Another variation on the Jingle Bells them was the song Sleigh Ride. Once again the song was about snuggling close to someone else in a sleigh. And once again no mention of Christmas. The song originated during a heat wave in 1948. Composer Leroy Anderson decided to take the edge of the heat by composing an orchestral piece about a sleigh ride through the snow, complete with the sound effects of hooves clopping, whips snapping and horse neighing. The piece was performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra, the recording of which became an instant hit in 1959. A year later lyrics were written by Mitchell Parish, and soon after the song version became popular with recording artists. Being so similar to Jingle Bells in theme, the song soon became associated with Christmas, ending up on hundreds of Christmas albums.
#4. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Another winter themed song inspired by a heat wave was Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, written in 1945 on what was then the hottest day ever recorded in the history of Hollywood. This time the them shifted from the outdoors to the indoors, as a couple find themselves trapped in a house by a snowstorm, but do not mind as it now gives them time to be romantic in front of the fireplace. Once again, a lot of snow and sex, but no mention of any holiday.
#5. Winter Wonderland
Once again, another snowy day. And once again, how it translates to romance. But no mention of Christmas.
#6. My Favorite Things
Not only is this song not about Christmas, it is not even about winter. Although some wintry things are mentioned in the lyrics, so are other seasons. The song does open with the lyrics "Raindrops on roses", which usually only occurs during the summer. Written for the musical, and later film, The Sound of Music, it is the song that Maria sings to cheer herself up. Exactly how or why it started showing up on Christmas albums is a mystery.
#7. Hazy Shade of Winter
Originally recorded by Simon & Garfunkel in 1966, it was the cover by The Bangles in 1987 where this winter themed song finally made the jump to Christmas song, thanks to the Christmas Mix version released close to the holiday. Christmas Mix meaning the sound of sleigh bells could be heard throughout the song, rather than any actual Christmas lyrics being added.
#8. Save The Best For Last
Christmas mixes were common around this time. Take an already existing song that is still charting in December, add rhythmic sleigh bells to the mix, and promote it as a Christmas single so it still gets airplay during the weeks when radio stations begin playing more holiday themed songs. While the Christmas Mix for this song was only around for a few weeks, and since then has gone back to the regular mix, Save The Best For Last is still played every December, under it's original mix.
#9. Linus & Lucy
This jazz classic first appeared in 1965 as part of the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas. While it may have originated on a Christmas special, the music was intended to be the theme for Lucy and her little brother Linus. As originally intended, characters were to have his or her own theme. Linus & Lucy was reused in all the other Peanuts specials and films. For example, it is the opening music in It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown when Lucy and Linus are making a Jack-o-lantern. Vince Guaraldi did compose some music for the special that was meant to be Christmas themed, including the opening song Christmas Time Is Here. But radio stations still insist on playing Linus & Lucy instead.
#10. Baby, It's Cold Outside
In 1944 songwriter Frank Loesser wrote a duet that he and his wife Lynn Garland performed at their parties. In the song, a date is drawing to a close. The girl thinks it is time to go home, while the guy, who is obviously looking to take things a lot further, insists she can't leave because because of the weather. The girl keeps coming up with excuses to leave, while the guy keeps exaggerating how bad the snow is getting outside. Lynn considered it their song, and was reportedly furious when Frank sold it to M.G.M. to be used in the film Neptune's Daughter. Exactly how a song about sex became a Christmas standard is still a mystery. As with all the other songs on this list, it does not mention Christmas or any other holiday in the lyrics.