"When blood is nipped and ways be foul"
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. In fact, it has been that way for quite some time. It seems that every year elements of the festive season make their appearance earlier and earlier. The spooky Halloween stuff is no sooner stashed away in an attic than the tinsel begins to turn up. A few shimmering tendrils may be fine, but they can lead quickly to a triumph of tackiness. In Edmonton, Alberta, where I lived during the1980s, one suburban street acquired notoriety for the gaudy excess of its Christmas lights and associated paraphernalia. Candy Cane Lane, as it was dubbed, became a minor tourist attraction even as it strained the resources of the electrical grid. And to make matters worse, it was customary for visitors to don hideous Christmas sweaters before strolling among all the blinking, twinkling, glittering, and sparkling.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against Christmas décor except when it overwhelms the senses. There’s nothing wrong with a wooden nutcracker figurine, a wreath of twisted conifer foliage, or a spring of mistletoe. If the climate permits, you can plant a holly tree in your garden and enjoy its leaves and berries without hacking it to pieces as winter sets in.
Christmas is so pervasive and embedded in western culture that it impossible to reject it even if you wanted to. Embracing its more attractive features is the best strategy. By this I mean food, drink, and general merriment. I even like Brussels sprouts, unless of course they come dunked in duck fat and sprinkled with lardons – one of the more bizarre outcomes of those TV shows that try to turn cooking into a competitive sport. Best of all, Christmas is a holiday and, if you are so inclined, an opportunity to hit the ski slopes or trails. There’s nothing like a few hours of Nordic skiing to work off seasonal excesses. For many years, our family gathered in Banff, Alberta, for the holiday. It was just like living in a Christmas card or song. There was snow, sleigh bells, and even a bar made out of solid ice on the main street serving drinks. We can thank the Swedes for that great idea; God Jul to all of you.
Which brings me to the question of Christmas songs and/or carols. These songs, which are broadcast everywhere at this time of year, are a vital part of the festive ambiance. They can be divided along religious and secular lines as if to remind us that Christians and non-Christians celebrate the holiday in different ways. The religious songs focus almost exclusively on the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, which we are told took place in Bethlehem on 25 December in the year 1. The nativity story is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In the latter account, there is even a genealogy of Jesus, or perhaps it’s Joseph, that traces him all the way back to Adam. This improbable list has led more than one theologian to underestimate grossly the age of the earth and its inhabitants. And it raises questions about the rest of Luke’s account which was written almost a century after the events it describes. But I digress. Of the religious songs, the Cantique de Noel or Minuit, Chrétiens is my favourite. YouTube has an abundance of recordings of this nineteenth century classic to choose from. There is even one from Céline Dion in which she actually avoids screeching until the very end.
The secular songs are a very mixed bag. I like to categorize them as follows: lively – Sleigh Ride; amusing – I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus; sentimental – I’ll Be Home for Christmas; depressing – The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot; ridiculous – I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas; and downright dreadful – Never Do the Tango with an Eskimo. The Eskimo song definitely gets my vote as the worst Christmas song ever written and recorded. And it would certainly be in contention for worst song ever were it not for Yacka Hula Hickey Dula – a fake Hawaiian song that virtually defies description in ordinary English.
Bashing the work of others is probably not a good lead into where I am going with this. In 2013, I wrote the lyrics of a Christmas song to entertain our grandchildren and I am about to share my effort with you. It is sung to the tune of the first four lines of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, repeated with each verse. Now if you happen to be organizing a school Christmas concert or directing a merry band of carolers, feel free to include it in your repertoire. Just let me know how it was received.
The Polar Bear’s Christmas Dinner
There are no merry gentlemen
A dashing through the snow
No sugarplums or nutcrackers
No sprigs of mistletoe
No Mr. Scrooge or Tiny Tim
No Christmas caroling
No Frostie running through the town
No silver bells to ring
No chestnuts roasting on the fire
No presents ‘neath the tree
No sleigh bells jingling in the lane
Just gloom and misery
No holly boughs or ivy wreaths
No stockings on the wall
No blinking lights upon the tree
You can hear the children bawl
What caused all this to come about
Can anybody tell?
Were all the children naughty or
Did the Grinch escape from Hell?
The answer to your question now
Will sadden every soul
A polar bear killed all the reindeer
Santa can’t leave the North Pole
But there’s a happy ending for
The bear that made us cry
As he sits on a chair in his icy lair
He dines on Rudolph pie
Posted: 19 December 2017