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Column Heartbreak, misery and cloying sentimentality – the ingredients of any good Christmas song

We spend an entire month gearing ourselves up to the best day of the year with songs that document heartbreak, war, loneliness and The Wombles. Have we all gone mad?

WE LISTEN TO them unquestioningly (or in my case insanely) every year, but what is the real message behind the jingle jangles of Geldof/Bowie/Carey, et al?

They seem to be telling us that life is either a barrel of baubles or bloody miserable. Christmas songs can be broadly divided into two camps: the merry and the mightily depressed (for example, Noddy Holder versus David Essex).

The first camp has got it pretty good (it does have the birthday boy on its side). Overarching camp pop songs dominate the Christmas charts. Everybody’s having fun. Unless you’re George Michael and your heart has been cruelly re-gifted like a bottle of bubble bath by some wench who then tags along on a ski-ing holiday fraught with unresolved arguments and sexual tension. No wonder you hate Christmas.

Heartbreak, war, loneliness and The Wombles

The sad ones are the best though. Fairytale of New York is a consistent favourite, along with Jona Lewie’s Stop the Cavalry, Blue Christmas by Elvis and Wombling Merry Christmas by The Wombles. (ok, maybe not the last one). We spend almost an entire month gearing ourselves up to the best day of the year with songs that document heartbreak, war, loneliness and Wombles. Have we all gone mad?

Cliché is the icing on the Christmas cake though, trowelled on like brandy cream. Any real Christmas song must feature snow, for a start. When was the last time we enjoyed a white Christmas and didn’t complain about transport/global warming/the government/life? Yet still, apparently, we dream about them. Hit songs must also include any of the following:

  • Bells
  • Elves
  • Stocking
  • Mistletoe
  • Fire
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Food… (and, of course, the Coca Cola sponsored man in red himself. Sure it wouldn’t be Christmas without Coke.)

Take a bow: Sir Cliff, Sir Bob

And what about one-man Christmas machine Cliff Richard? He’s had four Christmas number one singles (it would have been five with Millennium Prayer but Westlife released an Abba cover) – that’s more number ones than Wise Men following the star. If he’d wanted a room at the inn, Cliff would have gotten it.

It’s now a universally-accepted fallacy that “there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime”. Still, we’ll enforce our own cultural perceptions on a vulnerable continent and its people. In a country where over 45 per cent of the population is Muslim, it must have been disconcerting to have Saint Geldof turn up and start trying to foist sausage rolls and mince pies into their palms and woolly hats on their heads.

It’s impossible not to be provoked into over-eating mince pies

Christmas jumpers are certainly climbing the ranks of festive tradition, though, and are as much a part of the Christmas pop video as aforementioned snow/reindeer/men in beards. The Christmas jumper may have been made recently popular by Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Toy Show, but have long been a wardrobe staple for any true advent evangelist. You can’t have too many jazzy jumpers, if Shakin’ Stevens is anyone to go by; the video for Merry Christmas Everyone is testament.

Despite the sometimes dubious morals of Christmas hits, it’s impossible not to be provoked by them into over-eating mince pies and filling your living room with fake snow. We must enjoy them as they were intended, like children with chocolate coins; consistently, for three weeks, until we feel sick.

You might want to first pick up a natty knitted jumper and a bottle of something fizzy, some misplaced cultural concern and a mince pie, it’s nearly here and as Greg Lake said so well; ‘I believe in Father Christmas‘.

Read: All of your favourite Christmas movies, squeezed into two minutes

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