I’m convinced that Christmas music carries much of the blame for mistakes like the one that occurred last Sunday at church, when a little girl extolled the virtues of the “Surgeon Mary.”
The error went uncorrected.
As a kid, I didn’t think Mary was medically trained, but I was confused by a lot of holiday songs.
Take “Holly, Jolly Christmas,” for instance. “Somebody waits for you — kiss her once for me?” What’s that supposed to mean? Who’s waiting for me? And why would I want to kiss her? Aren’t we supposed to avoid people who are lying in wait?
My wife had her own set of questions regarding “Away in a Manger.” Specifically, she always wondered about the cattle who were lowing the night Jesus was born. Why were they lowing? And, really, what does “lowing” mean? She assumed it had something to do with them getting milked, and that this correlated with the poor baby waking, because it was feeding time.
Others have gotten around the problem of lowing cattle by claiming the lyrics are “the catalog glowing,” which adds an angelic twist to Sears & Roebuck while assuming Judea had a thriving mail-order business. Chronological anachronisms aren’t as obvious to the pre-pubescent.
For instance, back in the day, I always thought of Bethlehem as a sort of 18th century Dickensian Christmas village. After all, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” tells us that “in the dark streets shineth the everlasting light.” That’s an obvious reference to the Savior’s mission, but I still imagined Bethlehem’s old lamplighter with a top hat and an ascot coming out to light everlasting candles in the gently falling snow after the horses and buggies shuttled into a barn. It didn’t occur to me that the imagery of Victorian England and ancient Palestine are separated by a millennium or two.
Most of the mistakes we make listening to songs like these are innocent enough. Who’s to say the wise men from “We, Three Kings” didn’t come from a country called Orientar? Get dressed, ye merry gentlemen! Deck the halls with Buddy Holly! Joy to the world; the Lord has gum! And he probably has enough for the whole class!
According to ABC News, the Christmas lyrics most often misheard come from “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” where recipients can expect anything from seven warts on women to six geezers laying to 10 lawyers leaving. These make perfect sense. Nothing brings the Christmas spirit like 10 lawyers on their way out.
But some lyrical mistakes are downright creepy. Case in point: There is the couple in “Winter Wonderland” singing “later on, we’ll count spiders.” “Jingle Bells” seems to be talking about how fun it is to sing “a slaying song to knives.” The kid who saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus was supposedly “tucked” up in his bedroom fast asleep, but it sounds like he was “locked” up, and, really, if Mommy’s kissing guys who sneak in through the chimney, she probably wants the kids under lock and key.
And never fail to heed the warning of “Feliz Navidad!” Sure, they’re supposedly wishing you Merry Christmas in Spanish, but smart kids know they’re really saying “Fleas on your dad! There’s fleas on your dad!”
Even if there are, have a Merry Christmas anyway. Enjoy your gum.