“Twelve Secular Christmas Songs that are Actually About Advent”

What do such musical gems as “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” have in common?

They are about Advent!

ChurchPop has a post by Susanna Spencer, where she states:

A couple years ago, we noticed that a number of the secular (not about the birth of Jesus) songs called “Christmas” music should be classified as winter themed music or even Advent music. If you look at the lyrics of many popular secular Christmas songs, you will discover that they are actually about getting ready for and waiting for Christmas.

Below is the list from the original post, which can be read here:

1) It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go

This song does not proclaim it to be Christmas, but that it is starting to look like Christmas. Stores are having sales, people are shopping and decorating, but it is not in fact Christmas day.

2) Silver Bells

“Silver bells silver bells, It’s Christmas time in the city, Hear the bells go ring-a-ling, Soon it will be Christmas day”

This song is in fact not appropriate for after Christmas, because the line about it being Christmas soon would no longer work. Again we hear of people shopping and preparing for Christmas. They are waiting and preparing.

3) Santa Claus is Coming to Town

“You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Now we know that the real reason for Christmas is Jesus’ birth, but the songs about Santa Claus coming are definitely more appropriate for Advent than Christmas. We should all take the penitential part of Advent seriously and shape up, and one could argue that the songs are irrelevant after St. Nicholas Day on December 6. My children actually call Santa, St. Nicholas.

4) All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, see my two front teeth!

Again we have a song preparing for Christmas. Maybe the sentiment of needing ones two front teeth is a little bit silly, but still this child is clearly still in Advent.

5) All I Want for Christmas is You

“All I want for Christmas is you, You baby, Oh, I won’t ask for much this Christmas, I won’t even wish for snow, And I’m just gonna keep on waiting, Underneath the mistletoe

This love song is really about waiting. It is about waiting for the one that the singer loves. We too are waiting for the One that we love to come on Christmas and at the end of time.

6) Last Christmas

“Last Christmas I gave you my heart, But the very next day you gave it away, This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special

Here we have another song in the theme of disappointed love. The song anticipates Christmas as a better time and is ready to be done with past sorrows.

7) I’ll Be Home for Christmas

“I’ll be home for Christmas, You can plan on me, Please have snow and mistletoe, And presents ‘neath the tree

There are a number of Christmas songs about wishing for a place or a person, and these all are symbolic of our Advent longing for Jesus to come as a little baby and to come again.

8) White Christmas

“’I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know”

Again a song that dreams of Christmas, and anticipates it. This one is more eschatologically focused since it remembers happy Christmases of the past but is hoping for the ultimate end of another white Christmas. We remember the first happy Christmas in Advent as we wait for the second coming.

9) Frosty the Snowman

The version that end with “I’ll be back on Christmas Day.”

Frosty is in one way merely a winter song, but when the version speaks of coming back on Christmas day, it must be taking place in Advent. (Unless it happened in Minnesota where we get snow in November).

10) We Need a Little Christmas

“But Auntie Mame, it’s one week past Thanksgiving Day now, But we need a little Christmas, Right this very minute, Candles in the window, Carols at the spinet

The setting of this song takes place during Advent. It is not taking on a very good spirit of waiting. It is sympathetic to those who like to decorate at the beginning of Advent.

11) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Had a very shiny nose, And if you ever saw it, You would even say it glows, And all of the other reindeer, Used to laugh and call him names, They never let poor Rudolph, Join in any reindeer games”

We all are familiar with the story of poor Rudolph who did not fit in with the other reindeer because of his shiny nose. However, there is Christian symbolism in his waiting and suffering to be accepted, and finally on Christmas Eve his light is symbolic of the light of Christ coming to each and every home.

12) It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

“It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, There’ll be much mistltoeing, And hearts will be glowing, When love ones are near”

Lastly, we have another song anticipating all the joys of Christmas. It talks about everything that is going to be done during the Christmas season, and it is waiting for those joyful things to happen.

 

What do you think? Can low-brow pop music be used to create a sense of Advent?

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6 comments

  1. This is sheer nonsense. None of these songs have anything to do with either of Christ’s comings. They are mainly about Santa Claus and the other trivialities associated with the Xmas season: snow, bells, reindeer, mistletoe, etc.

  2. I’ll add “Blue Christmas” as a personal guilty pleasure. (Postmodern Jukebox put out a good version a couple years ago: https://youtu.be/F47GKeoRo_s)

    In my personal music collection I classify these songs as “Pre-Christmas” to signify their anticipatory nature while distinguishing them from Advent hymns and chants. Most of my Advent playlists include a mix of some of these songs, as well as more generic winter songs (Jingle Bells, etc).

  3. “Grandma got run over by a Reindeer coming home from our house Christmas Eve….

    Some say there’s no such thing as Santa, but as for me and Grandpa, we believe.”

    The tension of a possible ruined Christmas, catechesis carried through and results in a statement of faith.

    Thanks for the smile.

  4. I’m also thinking of the Vince Guaraldi tune that includes these Lee Mendelson lyrics from the end of the song:

    Christmas time is here
    We’ll be drawing near
    Oh, that we could always see
    Such spirit through the year

    There’s a wistulness in the tune and accompaniment that suggests that life is not quite fulfilled. Maybe it captures the Charlie Brown ethic accurately, but the appeal of Peanuts is in how close all the characters in that comic touch on the human condition.

    I might suggest that “Christmastime is Here” touches on the hopes we Christians have for a world set right, a world in which a certain virtuous and noble “spirit” is eternal, not just seasonal or inspired by being not-naughty so as to maximize one’s profit/booty.

    I confess my guilty pleasure these days are Nat King Cole’s “Chestnuts.”

    I will also comment that in my last several Advents, I’ve sampled Christmas music programming in my last three locales, and I find that songs explicitly about Jesus and Christmas have dropped from 28% in 2004 to only 10% last year. Maybe that’s just my moving to the godless Northwest, but even in Iowa (2008-15) the Christmas percentages were steadily falling each year. Or possibly Mariah and Jay-Z have eclipsed Crosby and Cole and Williams.

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