In The Bleak Midwinter

The Christmas season is in full swing all around us, and this means an incessant dose of holiday music everywhere you turn.  On the radio…in the grocery store…in the background of your favorite sitcom.  We are being implored to deck the halls and haul out the holly left and right.  But did you ever stop and really listen to a lot of these songs?  I had an epiphany a couple of years ago when I realized that many Christmas songs are actually sad and depressing.

True, I was in the midst of relationship turmoil that year, but now that the dust has settled in 2009, I’m still hearing a lot of sadness and mourning in those lyrics.

Take, for instance, Christmas Bells.  I’ve only ever heard John Gorka’s version, but man, talk about cynical.  “And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”  Definitely not a feel-good paean to peace and joy.

Have you heard that song called Christmas Shoes?  Talk about a depressing little ditty.  There’s this little kid, see, and his mom is dying, so he wants to buy her a pair of shoes…whenever that one comes up on the radio, I switch the dial.  It’s too hard to drive with tears streaming down your face.

Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg is another one.  First off, I don’t consider this a “Christmas” song per se, but you only ever hear it during the holidays.  The lyrics tell of a chance encounter between former lovers on Christmas Eve, and is full of melancholy and regret.  It’s a double whammy for me, because it happened to be playing on the radio while I was driving to court to have my marriage dissolved…five days before Christmas.  It would be depressing enough even without that association.

Long live The King, but Blue Christmas is another song full of morose and longing.  It’s hard enough when the person you love packs up and moves on, but combine that with the Christmas season and you have a recipe for an aching heart.  “You’ll be doing alright with your Christmas of white, but I’ll have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas.”  Emphasis on “blue.”  Got it, Elvis.

How about Please Come Home For Christmas?  I don’t think any other song smacks of desperation like that one.  “My baby’s gone, I have no friends, to wish me greetings once again.”  Yikes.  Somebody contact the nearest suicide hotline.  “Cries will be singing Silent Night.”  Better hurry!  “There’ll be no more sorrow, no grief and pain, and I’ll be happy, happy once again.”  Man, I hope so, Glenn Frey – you’re bringing me down!

The tune that probably earns the title Saddest Christmas Song Ever – the one that takes the (fruit)cake, for sure – has got to be Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.  Cheery title aside, the lyrics were so depressing, they had to be changed!  Originally, it went, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last, next year we all may be living in the past.”  Wow.  How dark is that?  Even when it tries to aim for the upbeat – next year we might be together, if the Fates allow – it falls short: “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”   Sheesh.  Makes you think the person singing the song is secretly wishing for a Remington shotgun wrapped up in a bright, shiny bow, and a carton of ammo in his stocking.

Give me Frosty The Snowman any day!  Only wait…don’t…because that’s nothing more than one long near death experience for the ol’ snowman, who is in grave danger because “the sun was hot that day.”

Merry Christmas, kids!


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

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