“Simply having a wonderful Christmas time. Simply having a wonderful Christmas time.”
If you hear these lyrics less than a thousand times this Christmas season I’ll be surprised. They’re played ad nauseum on the radio, over retail store muzak, in elevators, at the gas pump, and probably in more than a few churches, though thankfully I haven’t heard that yet. Trouble is, the song isn’t worthy of the attention it gets.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas music—my wife plays it non-stop from mid-November on—and we go in for Christmas big-time: huge, real tree (sometimes two) we’ve cut ourselves each of 37 years running, mucho decorations, presents for the kids and now grandkids, good food, family, friends, fellowship, fun, and, via social media, fans and followers. So please, hear me out. Though you may think I protest too much, I am not a Scrooge by a long shot. (I’m even a guy who likes to go to the mall with his wife.)
But Sir Paul McCartney’s ubiquitous “Wonderful Christmastime” is just too much.
Why do I dislike it so? Well, for one, it’s poor music; the tune, texture, form, rhythm, melody, none of it is uplifting, just drive-you-bananas abominable.
Another reason this is my least favorite Christmas song is the over-the-top repetition involved. I know nearly all song lyrics involve repetition, and for good musical reason, but this song is run-you-in-the-ground repetitive. The lyrics repeat “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time” fourteen times as written. Some renditions repeat the phrase more often than that.
Then there’s the song’s claim to “Christmas” status. Other than using the phrase “Christmas time” in the lyrics and “Christmas” in the title and last line, there’s nothing distinctively Christmas, from a Christian point of view, about this song. No manger, no baby Jesus, no three kings, no silent night, no star or Good News. Just “Ding dong, ding dong.”
On this theme I’d even go further and say the song, perhaps intentionally perhaps not, is a wholesale secularization of the season. The song’s been sanitized of all Christmas story content—nothing to “offend” anyone here, just a party for one and all. This is another reason retailers in an increasingly secularized Western society find the song acceptable. “Wonderful Christmastime” becomes a “safe” (in our religiously privatized culture) replacement for “Silent Night” or “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
Read the lyrics yourself. Here’re verses 1-4:
“The moon is right, The spirit’s up, We’re here tonight, And that’s enough”
“The party’s on, the feelin’s here, That only comes, This time of year”
“The choir of children sing their song, Ding dong, ding dong, Ding dong, ding, oh, oh”
“The word is out, About the town, To lift a glass, Ah, don’t look down”
These verses are interspersed by the chorus “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time,” then repeated. Pretty stirring isn’t it?
If there is religious content in this song it’s in the line “And that’s enough,” which makes the subtle statement that we’re the end-all be-all and nothing is needed for fulfillment other than our own happiness at “This time of year.”
Maybe Paul McCartney just wanted to write a little jingle and thought no more about it than any of hundreds of other songs he’s written. But I doubt it. This one was meant to profile him and his work prominently for the general public at least once per year. If he didn’t intend this I’ve no doubt his managers and marketers did. I'm not against Paul McCartney or his music, per se; he's obviously a musical genius and I like some of his songs. But he missed it on this one. Even he reputedly knows this; though he makes about $400,000 per year in royalties from this song, he has said for years that it embarrasses him.
I know I’m making a lot out of a pop song. One could just ignore it and go on, which I try to do. But it’s hard to ignore because “Wonderful Christmastime” gets more airtime every year. When this song is played there’s an opportunity cost in the sense that better Christmas songs are not given airtime.
I’m not against all non-Christian or non-religious Christmas music. I like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “White Christmas,” for example. I like these and other “secular” songs because they’re good music. “Wonderful Christmastime” isn’t wonderful, isn’t Christmas, and isn’t good music.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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