Sunday, December 27, 2015

But is it Christmas?

As we draw to a close on Christmas weekend---unless you're staying over with Uncle Lou until New Year's, in which case, good luck---I hope you've been able to get through the holiday without any ugly squabbles with friends and families.

I speak not of those disagreements caused by matters of faith, denomination, sect, politics, or the like. I am speaking of pop culture, and whether ______ is actually a Christmas ______.

We've become familiar with the question of whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie, because it takes place at Christmas and because killing evil guys makes it a feel-good movie. Certainly the survival of hero John McClane in this film is some kind of Christmas miracle.

Now we're also fighting over whether "My Favorite Things" is a Christmas song. It has no mention of Christmas. It does mention some winter stuff (sleigh bells, snowflakes), but is that enough?

Just because TV stations have long shown The Sound of Music around Christmastime does not automatically give it a pass. Auntie Mame was shown on Turner Classic on Christmas Eve this year, and only one short section of this movie takes place at Christmas. (The song "We Need a Little Christmas" comes from the later musical version, not the Roz Russell film.) Lots of movies have some Christmas scenes but otherwise have no mention of the holiday. Do they count?

For that matter, why does the addition of snow automatically make something Christmassy? "Marshmallow World" and "Let It Snow" and "Baby It's Cold Outside" are easily rejected as Christmas songs when you examine them, because they're just about freezing temperatures and precipitation. But you see how quickly we can go down the snowshoe hare hole: The song "Frosty the Snowman" was always intended as a Christmas number, but the original lyrics have no mention of Christmas. Should it be shunned as just a winter song? And let's face it: Most of America doesn't even have snow by Christmas Day, including places like New York where it gets plenty snowy later in the winter. Christmas is only four days past the end of autumn, anyway. Meanwhile, in Australia, it's summer. Many, perhaps most, of our coreligionists live in places that never or hardly ever see a flake.

I was not intending to start another fight about what qualifies and what doesn't. I'd be more inclined to go by taste rather than logic in determining the appropriateness of secular seasonal numbers anyway. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"? "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)"? "Wonderful Christmastime"? "Do They Know It's Christmas"? Not Christmas songs because they should not be songs at all. And don't even get me started on the movies.

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