Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Santa Claus is Coming to Town": A shining example of good timing

There are enough Christmas songs (and versions of them) to fill the month leading up to the day. We've heard them every year since our childhood; they've been drilled into our heads to the point where we can sing along with many of them without having to think about what the words are.

It is in that embedded-without-consideration light that "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" remains a holiday staple, because if one pauses to actually give even a rudimentary analysis of the lyrics that eight-decade-old chestnut seems rather inappropriate.

Let's face it: If someone wrote a new song today that featured the couplet "He sees you when you're sleeping / He knows when you're awake" and it was clearly directed at children there would be such an outrage that no radio station or store muzak would dare touch it. But because of the story of jolly ol' Saint Nick delivering toys to the world's children (and coming from an era when there wouldn't be such creepy overtones from such lines) it is considered a classic that is suitable for all.


Imagine the meeting if "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" were a new song being pitched today.

Executive: "So, it just admonishes children against misbehaving with the suggestion there's a man who tracks the 'naughty' from the 'nice' by watching them when they're sleeping and awake?"

Songwriter: "Well, that is the legend of Santa."

E: "And it doesn't strike you as a bit creepy, with implications of pedophilia?"

S: "Um, that's not the intention, no. But what about the verse that mentions building a toyland town all around the Christmas tree?"

E: "But you're sticking with the 'Better watch out...' for the chorus?"

S: "Yes, I think it works."

E: "We'll pass. Let us know if you come up with new lyrics. It is a catchy tune."


The other aspect of it that is odd these days is how archaic the admonishment seems. The opening verse ("You better watch out / You better not cry / You better not pout…") isn't encouraging good behavior, per se; it's merely advising children to not to misbehave… sort of.

The thing is: If children are only crying and pouting then I imagine most parents would take that in a heartbeat over contemporary misbehavior.

Speaking of which...

Parents of America: When was the last time Santa brought a "naughty" child a lump of coal as punishment?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Santa is a hollow threat.


All I want for Christmas is a brain that doesn't notice such things.

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