Saturday, December 21, 2013

Death, taxes, and Santa Claus

I love Christmas music.

Silent Night.  Last Christmas.  Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Walkin' 'Round in Women's Underwear.  You name it, I'm all about it.  (Wait, what?)

But there is one Christmas song that absolutely terrified me as a child, one yuletide tale of doom that kept me up nights, and to be honest, still makes me a little uncomfortable today.

The creepy carol I'm speaking of: Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Maybe it's because when I was a kid, getting a bag of switches underneath the tree always seemed like a very real possibility to me.  That was the supposed consequence if you were deemed to have been naughty during the year.  And I was always quite confident I had NOT been nice.

(Yes, I'm aware many children were threatened with a lump of coal.  I would have given anything for a lump of coal instead!)

Today, let's examine just a few of the lyrics from this longtime holiday standard.  I think you'll see it's not all rooty-toot-toots and rummy-tum-tums.

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout 

What?!?!  I'm EIGHT.  I'm probably never gonna be a Congressman.  When else am I supposed to pout?

I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

It's so definite.  So final.  There's no chance he won't come.  All you can do is hope you survive it.

He's making a list
Checking it twice

See, if he only checked it once, maybe I could slide by.  This was the reasoning of my eight-year-old brain.  But he's checking it twice???  There's no way I make it.

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake

Um, in our neighborhood, we called that a Peeping Tom.  And he lived across the street and two houses down and all us kids were forbidden to go in his yard.  But seriously, a little stalkerish, Santa.

He knows if you've been bad or good 

Who is this guy?  God?!?!  What chance did I have?

So basically,  Santa Claus coming to town was like having judgment day every single year.  At a time in my life when I should have been dreaming of Larry Bird, the Dukes of Hazzard, and Smurfette, I was instead having cold sweats about a brown paper bag full of switches.  (I'm not sure why, but when I pictured them they were always in a brown paper bag, never anything nice like a book satchel or burlap sack.)

I would try to sleep, I would!  Close my eyes and pretend to sleep, but the words kept haunting me... He knows when you're awake.  Eventually, it all just got to be too much and I would get out of bed and run into the den in my Dallas Cowboy pajamas and tearfully confess all my sins to mom and dad.

"I'M the one who broke the window!  I'M the one who took the clothes off all the Barbie dolls!  And I'M the one who put the neighbor girl in the washing machine!"  (What?  I'm sure all of us have locked a child inside a large household appliance at some point in our lives.)

There was just so much pressure.  It's a wonder I didn't take up smoking.

Of course, there were toys under the tree again that year instead of switches.  And I would think to myself, "Wow, Santa must have made some mistake."

But somehow, I managed to squeak by every year.

And somehow, I still do.

"In the office there's a guy named Melvin / He'll pretend that I am Murphy Brown..."


  1. Tons of Christmas songs that are creepy/mean.

    Those reindeer were a bunch of Mean Girls to Rudolph.

    The chick singing Santa Baby is a materialistic bitch who is only nice because of the stuff she can get.

    Frosty the Snowman DIES.

    Sometimes, knowing the lyrics aren't the best idea.


  2. I'm glad that I never really learned all the words to that song.

  3. Well, when you put it that way...I'm glad I never thought that song through! Oh, the innocence of sounds like you were way too hard on yourself, Bone. Well, except for the washing machine incident. :)

    Have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

  4. And here I was just saying that if I ever owned or worked in a shop I was gonna put out "Santa's watching" signs all over the place.
    What is killing me is all the kids in the toy departments throwing fits right now. Seriously?!?!? When I was a kid that was a sure fire way to a bag of coal. But now it equals a play station. Yeah, Santa is so messed up.

  5. You can make stalkers funny. Something's wrong with that sentence.

    I can't imagine you ever getting swatches.

    And I want to know the rest of the song!

  6. Xinher ~ Yes, I've thought about how Frosty really is a sad song/story. I don't think I've ever really listened to the words of Santa Baby though. Somehow, I don't get the feeling I'm missing all that much.

    Heidi ~ I used to try and analyze the words to "Rudolph" because I thought it had some secret/hidden meaning, a la "American Pie." And by "used to" I mean, just last night I was.

    Sherri B ~ I think I've always had an unhealthy sense of self-guilt. It's part of what makes me so lovable..... hello?

    Happy Christmas and New Year to you!

    Renee ~ For some reason, your first line reminded me of Kramer going back to work. "Well, strike's over! I'm going back to work!" That was the Festivus episode, coincidentally.

    Pia ~ That's probably because something is wrong with me. Very wrong :) PM me for the lyrics. (Sorry, I've just always wanted to be able to tell someone to "PM me.")

  7. I feel like nearly every decision I've made in life has been aimed at avoiding the switch, so this post speaks to me. No one's ever threatened me with one, which is good evidence that I'm living right.

    Also: thanks for being a perfect nut.

  8. I just read this to Darly. She really enjoyed my dramatic reading of it...with scary voice for the lyrics.
    Tim Hawkins agrees with you about this song. (you can find him on Youtube)

  9. You've got to stick to the fun songs, like Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. What could possibly be disturbing about ... well, nevermind.

    Merry Christmas, Bone. I hope Santa delivers in a big way!

  10. I was putting something on my daughter's desk in her room when I noticed a piece of paper that said, "I think I am on Santa's naughty list." I think she is feeling the pressure too!

  11. Love Trans-Siberian...saw them in concert last year...and there are no words to describe it...

    I've never liked "Winter Wonderland", mostly because that and other winter-based Christmas carols NEVER make sense living in Florida. Plus all of the contrives rhyming...'later on we'll conspire as we dream by the fire', let's face it, 'frolic and play the Eskimo way...ugh...I can't go on...

  12. I prefer carols without singing, stick to instrumental. Although I am thrilled to have avoided the reindeer trampling grandma this year. Hope your season has been jolly and your 2014 is off to a great start.

  13. Jocelyn ~ You're welcome for being a perfect nut :)

    Renee ~ I really enjoyed his "Things You Don't Say To Your Wife."

    TC ~ Exactly. There are a handful of disturbing ones when you really listen to the words.

    Ed ~ Haha. That's great. And also brings back some painful memories.

    Jill ~ You're exactly right about TSO. They're a must-see-for-yourself.

    I was telling someone how even though I knew it probably wouldn't snow, I did at least like for it to be cold on Christmas Eve/Day. ("Cold" here being in the 30s or 40s.) It's definitely tough to get into "Winter Wonderland" when it's 65 and sunny.

    Happytchr ~ In that case, you should definitely go see Trans-Siberian Orchestra if you've never seen them.