We all have heard "The Twelve Days of Christmas," right? Over the course of the song your true love gives to you:
11 Pipers piping
10 Lords a-leaping
9 Ladies dancing
8 Maids a-milking
7 Swans a-swimming
6 Geese a-laying
5 Gold rings
4 Calling birds
3 French hens
2 Turtle doves
1 Partridge in a pear tree
Regarding all the birds and persons given, I have a question: Do you actually keep them, or are they just temporary? Because if it were me, I must admit I don't have that much room. And don't we have laws against human trafficking, even if it's as a gift?
What's the return policy with all this stuff anyway?
But seriously: Six kinds of birds, five groups of people doing things of questionable entertainment value, and the only gift you don't have to feed is gold.
I suppose we're just supposed to be impressed by the number of gifts. In the 21st century I suppose the reason we still listen to the song is to be reminded "it's the thought that counts."
And we must enjoy the game of trying to remember all the items. That probably keeps our minds off of what we're actually singing.
Ho, ho, ho.
On the topic of old Christmas songs that may not have any pertinence to contemporary times, it does seem that's what we like in our holiday soundtrack: old songs. Even when it comes to new material, what we really want is current artists putting their spin on the canon. It's not that no one writes completely original Christmas songs (I presume); it's that those don't capture the same sentiment that the old songs do—even if those old songs were done by Wham in the '80s; that's "classic" by the standards in question.
A post-modern take on Christmas may capture the gestalt of our times, the appeal of Christmas music (like Christmas itself) is the unbridled nostalgia associated with it. There's no way to achieve that with something brand new.
So, for those songwriters who lament this aspect of holiday fickleness about new material, just remember this: What you compose today will someday be old, and then the opportunity for it to elicit some nostalgic feelings in listeners—even if they don't remember it—and catch on. The great incongruity of nostalgia is that we're always looking for a new way to experience it, as the exact same thing over and over loses its impact; we will need to find something old that is also new (to us).
No matter how non-sentimental you may write it today, you can count on society becoming even more jaded with each passing year; even a cynical critique of how jaded we are today will be quaint to future listeners. Our unending romanticism of the past will transform whatever you make today into a delightful take on these "good ol' days."
That's the real Christmas miracle.