If anyone was surprised or a little put-off by my "I hate Christmas" rant a few days ago, I apologize. I now know why I was in a particularly bah-humbug mood; I was coming down with the atrocious infection my daughter had. I have felt pretty physically rotten the last 36 hours, and when I feel sick, I get grumpy and blue. Being sick around Christmas is even worse; I get bogged down in the stress of getting behind on shopping, decorating, wrapping, etc. This is the second year in a row I've been out for the count the week after Thanksgiving, and it's making me view the holidays in a bad light. Perhaps things will get better once I get better.
But you know what I will always have ill will towards? The worst, most exploitative Christmas pop song ever. The song that makes me holler out, "Nooooo!" and change channels immediately. Any guesses?
Before I give it up, let's review. I did a post a while ago about those songs that you hate so much they immediately make you change the channel. I am shocked that I left this one off; I think this cheerful little holiday ditty might be my least favorite song in the history of ever. Nothing makes me hit a preset button faster than the opening notes of this song. Not even Nickelback.
It is..."The Christmas Shoes"! Oh, yeah. We all know this one, right? It gets heavy airplay on those radio stations that start playing non-stop Christmas "hits" in November, and if you listen to those stations longer than 30 minutes a day, you are guaranteed to hear the tinkly, saccharine opening of the "Christmas Shoes" at least once.
Some of you may be thinking, "Awww! I love that song! It's so sad!" Yes, it is. Which is why I hate hearing it at Christmas.
And not just sad. It brings out every weepy lyrical device ever conjured for the sole effect of making people cry into their Christmas stockings. Its purpose is to say, "Hey! I know this is supposed to be a joyous time of celebration, hope, and light, but let's all stop for a minute to think about how tragic the holidays can be! Everyone just seems too happy this year!"
In one short song, here's what you get:
You've got the old tear-jerker standby of the dying young mother (and though not stated, the lingering nature of her death sounds like cancer). It's like listening to Debra Winger die in Terms of Endearment. But wait! There's more! Then you've got the impoverished, ill-kempt child running around without adult supervision on Christmas Eve. Like Tiny Tim, said poor kid is heart-wrenching in his concern for others. He's saved all his change to buy his dying mom a pair of Christmas slippers. And that's not all! You've got impatient, selfish shoppers and sales people who get annoyed that the kid doesn't have enough money and who treat him badly. As if that's not enough, then you've got the religious overtones. The kid isn't just getting the mom a pair of shoes; he's buying the shoes she'll wear at her imminent death and that she will meet Jesus in. And just in case you haven't caused a car accident yet by crying while this is playing in your car, they make sure that one chorus is sung by a children's choir so you can literally hear a child's grief coming through your speakers. Gah! The cherry on top of this big old mound of profound hopelessness is that the narrator saves the day (as though it can possibly be saved at this point) by digging into his own pockets to buy the shoes. Love and selflessness prevail, right? It's hopeful at the end, isn't it?
Wrong! Think about it. That poor kid still has to go home and face the dying mom. Yes, some stranger tossed a few bucks his way, but is the stranger also walking him home? Comforting him? Contacting social services to try to get the family some financial help (and to help make sure the kid isn't always running loose on the streets?) It just ends with the narrator feeling all heart-warmed about this big, generous thing he's done. He's really congratulating himself on his own Christmas spirit; he says,
I knew I caught a glimpse of heaven's love as he thanked me and ran out.
I know that God had sent that little boy to remind me
What Christmas is all about.
So, God sent a pitiful, grieving little kid your way with the sole purpose of redeeming your misguided idea of Christmas? Really? Is it all about you?
Of course, some martketing genius turned this 4-minute song into a 2-hour TV movie several years ago and made the narrator more involved and tried to make the final picture a little more hopeful and complete. And they even came out with a sequel. Because if there's one thing we need more of at the holidays, it's stories about kids who have lost their moms.
Maybe I'm so sensitive to this song because of my own backstory. Maybe it hits a little too close to home; as a cancer survivor, one of my worst fears is that I will die a horrible, prolonged cancer death while Ainsley is still young, leaving her lonely and scarred. I don't want to think about my little girl searching the couch cushions for spare change some future Christmas Eve, catching a bus to Macy's to get me a pair of shoes to die in. There are so many things wrong with that scenario. It doesn't exactly put me in the Christmas spirit to listen to this put to song for the sole effect of making people cry at Christmas.
Do I think everything about the holidays should be cheerful? No! Some of my favorite carols (the Coventry Carol, for instance) explore the sadder, more reverent side of the birth narrative. And I love me a good Hallmark commercial. The difference with those types of Christmas weepies is that they don't try so hard to be sad just for the sake of being sad; they just tell good stories. Don't you feel all warm and fuzzy inside after watching a Christmas Hallmark commercial? Don't they just reinforce that holidays ar all about love and family, even if they do make you cry a little? Now imagine if someone took the plot of The Christmas Shoes and made that a greeting card commercial. Do you still feel warm and fuzzy, or are you more in a mood to drink your sorrows away for the remainder of the season?
For me, it's the latter. And that's why I hate this song.
What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Is there a redeeming quality there that I'm missing? Is there a worse holiday song?