All I want for Christmas is for everything to just stop

Every year, the arrival of Christmas music season is equally jarring and unwelcome for me. While I’ve heard the songs over and over for decades at this point, I am somehow unable to allow them to fall into the background. Instead, every word and every note functions somewhere along the spectrum ranging from “object of bemused overanalysis” to “personal insult.” This is especially the case for the newer Christmas songs, which are not only much more inane on average but also grow increasingly insistent on a rather puzzling Christmas theme: romance.

If we look back at the Christmas story, there does not seem to be much room for romantic love. Certainly there is a family theme to be discerned, but the entire point of Mary and Joseph’s relationship is that they are not romantically involved. And the most successful Christian contemporary songs of recent decades — Mark Lowry’s “Mary Did You Know” and Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven” — actually have the virtue of highlighting the strangeness of Mary’s situation.

By contrast, new secular hits — above all Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” but also the various also-rans that can be represented by “Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart” or whatever it’s called — completely ignore that aspect and go straight for the jugular. Indeed, there is one canonical Christmas song that actually renders Christmas a site of transgressive sexuality for the mother figure, namely “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” (The song is particularly poignant in the Jackson Five’s rendition, which has Michael plaintively testifying to sexual misconduct as the rest of his family mocks and dismisses him.) And let’s not even talk about the abomination that is “Santa Baby” — much less the creepy scenario of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

What is going on here? Is this an attempt to shore up the ideology of family by guilting people for being single? Did romantic love simply get drawn into the general miasma of cloying sentimentality that surrounds the holiday? Is a significant other the ultimate Black Friday deal?

I’m joking in part, but when I was a young adult, the flood of messages mandating romantic attachments for the holidays was actually very difficult to deal with in a season that already made me feel isolated and depressed. Being called upon to summon up “spontaneous” emotions of gratitude and familial warmth was difficult enough, and the implicit requirement to have a romantic partner just felt exhorbitant. Perhaps this is my own personal neurosis, but I doubt I’m the only one who has felt that way during the holidays.

What about you, readers? Did you see mommy kissing Santa Claus?

9 Responses to “All I want for Christmas is for everything to just stop”

  1. Hill Says:

    Always the hardest time of year for me, even though I’m happily married with a nearly one year old son.

  2. James Haus Says:

    I never had an emotional attachment to christmas other than “yay, toys!” I just kind of got through the christmas hathos and made it to January. Years later, I’ve left the church, come out of the closet and bring my boyfriend home to hang out with my still very conservative (but cordial if a little uncomfortable) christian parents. Where’s the christmas song for that?

  3. Lauri Says:

    Well, Christmas is about shutting yourself in with your family. There are only so many ways to make that prospect attractive to grownups. Decorations, the opportunity to read books without interruption, rich foods with copious alcohol, and the possibility of sex, the children being distracted by toys, videos, or grandparents. These are the attractions one sees in the catalogues: lights and candles; thick novels; chocolates, cheeses, and wine; and lingerie. Obviously, you can’t make Christmas songs too overtly sexy or there will be no airplay. So at most, it’s “cold outside”, and so forth. Usefully, as long as you don’t read the lyrics too carefully, such songs also play to the after-ski comfort aspect of fireplaces and alcohol (without sex). Witness the music video for “Last Christmas”.

    Another thing is that Christmas being a family holiday, spending Christmas together is presented as a milestone in romantic coupling and thus is a fantasy that sells stuff. Sort of like a mini-honeymoon, perhaps.

  4. Marika Rose Says:

    Maybe it’s also to do with the weird ritual of the office Christmas party?

  5. Kim Fabricius Says:

    “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” was first recorded in 1952 by the 13-year old Jimmy Boyd. Given Boyd’s age as well as the 1950s American zeitgeist, I presume that the eponymous kissee is the boy’s father incognito — though, yes, not to the boy’s gaze. Enter the Catholic Church in Boston: it condemns the song for its portrayal of an act of “transgressive sexuality”. But “transgressive” in the sense of adulterous, or rather not simply in the sense that even family-values osculation (under the mistletoe) is inappropriate on a night that (modestly) celebrates the virgin birth of the Saviour? In any case, the Jackson Five cover version — now that’s 18 years (1970) and the swinging sixties later. I suppose a teenies cover version should add a few elves and make it a group-sex scene, or perhaps have Daddy kissing Santa Claus.

  6. Kirk Says:

    Um, everything you see, including romantic CHRISTmas Adam, glorifies God. By romantic, I of course mean like kissing your sexually confused Aunt in a coffee shop after dropping the kids off at youth group. Being all, ‘this isn’t what Christmas is really about’ just brings people down Adam. And that’s just bad for the economy as a whole. Black Friday IS in the Bible and if you weren’t such a creepy cheapskate, you would take the girlfriend to the movie that explains it. Yea, put that in your master signifier and smoke it. I’m kidding as I would never endorse you ingesting potentially toxic fumes Adam. Seriously, get some mistletoe, turn up One Direction and bask in what few Christmas’s you have left before you are left behind.

    And yes, as a kid I once saw Santa kiss my mom. Who, I might add, just happened to be in a Star Trek outfit at the time. When they realized I was looking, they told me to count the grahams in my Golden Graham cereal while they went upstairs and ‘fine tuned’ the sleigh. It must have been pretty out of tune. Anyway, my belabored point though Adam is that I turned out just fine!
    As for your looming book, well Stryper sang a rebuttal back in 86′. To hell with the Devil! Superego that perversive core for a bit.

    Unstoppably sincere,
    Kirk Cameron

  7. OTL Says:

    Christmas seems to basically encompass everything to do with hedonism (food, presents, sex, alcohol, spending time with family and friends) beyond that all bets seem to be off. I guess that’s why on tv you sometimes hear the joke “I guess we learnt the true meaning of christmas is…” whatever you want it to be.

  8. Charles R Says:

    Love Actually:

    “All I want for Christmas is you, and you, and you, and you . . . “

  9. Amos S Says:

    :) … the feeling seems to be the same for me these days for every song sung in the Church..

    Over romanticising everything (love of God, Sin and Punishment, .. etc)
    regardless of Hymns or Popular ..


Comments are closed.