It’s that magic time when the malls and the stores and the elevators stop playing mind-numbing Kenny G. soprano saxophone pseudo-music and fill the air with mind-numbing Christmas songs. And there’s a difference between carols, many of which are tolerable by tradition alone, they are part of our DNA, but it’s the Christmas songs that drive you crazy.
It’s barely December and already some unfortunate retail sales people are running into the parking lots pulling their hair out by the roots, screaming: “I never want to hear Jingle Bell Rock ever again!”
I remember when Christmas carols were purely joyful.
Like when I learned to play the first eight notes of Joy To The World on the plastic recorder that they had us play in elementary school.
I tooted the first line of that familiar melody several thousand times that year, but sadly that’s all I ever learned to play on that thing. I was really aiming for the theme song from Friendly Giant.
And then there was the time my buddy John and I risked serious peer pressure, Grade 5 embarrassment and humiliation when we were talked into playing Little Drummer Boy at a Christmas pageant in the tiny gymnasium at South School.
With me banging away on a marching drum and John blatting away on the trumpet, let’s just say for the unfortunate listeners that day we may have completely ruined that song forever. In fact, we may very well have ruined Christmas itself.
Growing up, a perennial favourite was the classic We Three Kings, and I’ll bet you know why. How many of you wayward souls just now immediately started singing to yourself:
“We three kings of Orient are, trying to smoke a rubber cigar,
“It was loaded, it exploded, now we’re on yonder star …”
And even that chestnut has been updated. I’ll never forget that special Christmas moment when one of my very own children toddled home from school one day, bursting through the door, proudly singing a new classic:
“Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg.
The Bat-mobile lost a wheel, and the Joker got away.”
It brings festive joy to my heart, just thinking about it.
And, of course, who can forget The 12 Days of Christmas. Especially the version by Bob and Doug MacKenzie — the legendary Canadian “Hosers” from the SCTV comedy show. (OK everybody sing:)
Bob: “On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
“Fiiiive gooooolden tuques,”
Doug: “Four pounds of back-bacon”
Bob: “Three French toast
Doug: “Two turtle necks”
Bob: “And a beer . . .”
Doug and Bob: “In a tree.”
A true classic.
Still, the original lyrics of 12 Days remains a quaint reminder of days gone by. Days where 10 lords a leaping, and six maids a milking were part of a charming social landscape. Instead of today, where it might be, say, “10 Brittanys bouncing” or “Six teens a texting.”
Which reminds me of an item written by AP out of Pittsburgh this week, where apparently reporters don’t have enough to do, that listed a cost analysis of all the items mentioned in the original Christmas carol.
Apparently a company called PNC Wealth Management, which also obviously doesn’t have enough to do, has been calculating the value of the goods and services in The 12 Days of Christmas since 1984.
After adding up all the goodies mentioned in the song, they found that, quote: “Making one’s true love happy will cost a whopping $87,403 this year. The price is up a mere $794, or less than one per cent, from $86,609 last year.
They say this year the five gold rings are up $150 to $500, and that the costliest item is nine ladies dancing, at $5,473 per performance. No mention of what kind of dancing ladies, or what sort of dance they might perform for that kind of dough.
Similarly, 11 pipers piping was pegged at $2,285 per performance, and 12 drummers drumming would set you back $2,475. That sounds a lot like a full-blown, kilt-wearing, stick-swinging Scottish marching band to me, and an expensive one at that. Not on my Christmas list this year, that’s for sure — and I happen to like pipe bands.
One thing I’ve noticed, though, is a proliferation of fowl in that song. Twenty-four birds in all are mentioned as a matter of fact (I counted) ranging from one partridge to three French hens and eight swimming swans. If you’re wondering what the most expensive birds were, then you are as pathologically as curious as I am and my heart goes out to you. Turns out the research concluded that the seven swans a-swimming topped off at $5,250, but their cost is actually down 6.3 per cent from last year’s $5,600.
Even so, based on 750 bucks per bird, it’s a good thing that Christmas dinner is a traditional turkey rather than a swimming swan.
Call me a Hoser, but any given Christmas I’d definitely go with Bob and Doug on this one — the five tuques, the back bacon, the French toast, the turtlenecks and the beer in a tree.
Because nothing says “Christmas,” quite like a beer in a tree.
Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance writer.