Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bark, the feral angels sing

So, Christmas carols, then. I like them as much as the next weirdo, but what do they actually mean? The bloody things are full of paradoxes: 'Hark the herald angels sing' is all well and good, but are we meant to hark to what the herald angels are singing, or are the herald angels just singing hark for the hell of it? And just what is all this harking business, anyway? It sounds like an onomatopeaic rendering of a common bodily function. Again, it's easy enough to understand what 'Fa la la la la la la la la' means (even if you don't agree with it), but how does one 'troll the ancient yuletide carol'?

Some carols are so full of 'Joy' and 'Merry' and what-not that you actually feel slightly ill after listening to the words. You'd think that only a chronic optimist could come up with the words of 'Merry Christmas':

We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year.

Enough with the merry! It's basically like the 'Happy happy joy joy song' gone bad, but it gets worse:

Good tidings we bring
To you and our king...

Those good tidings being -

We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year!

Clearly, we are dealing with a monomaniac of some intensity. This psychopathology, as disturbing as it is, pales in insignificance when it is compared to the mother-of-all stalker songs, 'The 12 days of Christmas', when the obsessive - tagged with the somewhat ironic soubriquet of 'My true love' - sends to his victim, in quick succession:

A partridge in a pear tree
Two turtle doves
Three French hens
Four calling birds
Five gold rings.

Not to be outdone with five gold rings, he follows this up with -

Six geese a-laying
Seven swans a-swimming

And then, hoisting caution to the wind, concludes with

Eight maids a-milking
(Presumably with complementary cows, as the maids have to be milking something)
Nine ladies dancing
Ten lords a-leaping
Eleven pipers piping
Twelve drummers drumming.

Though, from the words of the song, it's not entirely clear whether he is content with sending her one partridge, two turtle doves (etc) for the whole period of the twelve days of Christmas, or whether he sends her one partidge on the first day, one on the second day, two turtle doves on the second day, two on the third day (etc, and the same for all the other gifts - which would, in the end, number in the hundreds). Either way, he's clearly insane, and hopefully the police have got him now.

Personally, I like to steer clear of the later Christmas carols, where Santa Claus, that bearded old loon with a beard and a 'list' that he's 'checking twice' to see whether you've been 'naughty or nice'. What the hell is he, the hallway monitor? Anyway, he's not the only one with a list.

So, reader, what's your favourite Christmas carol - or, to put it another way, your least unfavourite? Mine is possibly 'I Saw Three Ships' or 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'.


Shelley said...

As you can imagine, Christmas is really not my thing (which is a pity 'cause my friend's family runs the best Christmas shop [and the most imaginatively named one] in Sydney) however, and feel free to laugh at my feebleness, The Little Drummer Boy gets me every time.

Oh man, I can feel the lameness oozing out.

Anonymous said...

Best- "Silent Night".

Worst- "I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus" (And I'm sure they'll start playing it at the party over the back fence in just a tick).

The latter must be the hands down winner in the worst category, although it's when they break out the Neil Diamond Christmas album or anything with a drum machine behind it that I really start climbing up the walls. My uncle had a splendid tape one year- "Jingle Bells" with panpipes and a drum machine getting faster and faster and faster. Mercifully, the tape machine broke on about the tenth hearing.

TimT said...

And here is the most evil man in the world.

Anonymous said...

Yes, he is an evil man. Last year my sister dragged me into Lincraft to look for friperies for her table and he subjected me to children who can't sing singing "Simply having a wonderful Christmas time". My deep trauma manifested itself in an hysterical laughing fit which almost knocked over two shelves.

Of course, on the day itself, as you get near the end, it's best simply to opt for the damn weird.

Maria said...

I like "The 12 Days of Christmas"

I am not usually a huge fan of those Australian Christmas Carol adaptations where some writer attempts to stick to a well-known tune but sing about BBQs, kegs of beer, kangaroos and somesuch, with gumtrees instead of firs and beaches instead of snow. Often sung badly, done with an Aussie drawl and played on AM radio. Some are not bad but often they are not very original and rather poorly patched attempts at humour, and an Aussie stand-in DJ will laugh heartily afterwards.

TimT said...

I'll listen to those at work on the morrow, on a computer that actually works at close to the proper speed - thanks!

Maria, yes, the 12 Days is excellent, despite its stalkerish theme. I once heard an awful Aussified version of it,

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me
An icy cold pack of VB.

There may be an Aussiefied carol worth hearing. Doesn't spring to mind though.

Anonymous said...

A tragically hip Christmas to keep you entertained at work.

Steve said...

Um, how come no one else has pointed out that the correct lyric in "we wish you a merry christmas" is "good tidings we bring, to you and your kin". Tim, have you mis-heard that line for 25 years or so, or was it a deliberate mistake or witticism that has gone over my head?

TimT said...

I didn't know that Steve, but I'm happy for you to add it in as a witticism-by-proxy. In fact, I think you told it to me before (last Christmas?) and I forgot!

Maria said...

My father was trying to remember The 12 Days of Christmas. He asked me what came first, then second, then third. The partridge, the turtledoves, the French hens. When I told him, he said, "So he sends all edible stuff, eh?"

I'm not sure I'm so comfortable thinking what my dad would do with five gold rings, not to mention lords a-leaping and ladies dancing, but so be it. Maybe a nice feast of twelve drummers drumming will be called for this Christmas dinner.

Maria said...

As I said, TimT, not a big fan of the Aussified versions, but I heard a modern American version of a carol on radio recently and thought it worth a post. See here

The carol is called "Osama Got Run Over By A Reindeer". I've heard a few requests.

Steve said...

I actually find the Irish comic take on the 12 days of Christmas, where he begs his girlfriend to stop sending gifts, quite funny.

I see the words are here, just in case you young'uns have not heard it:

Steve said...

By the way, Tim, are you in Melbourne next week? Send me an email (see my blog) if you wish to discuss further, although it will involve my having to explain you to my wife.

Shelley said...

Am I alone in loving the idea of Tim as Steve's dirty little secret?

Steve said...

Nails, I was trying to be wryly amusing, you know. But it is true, my wife does not know much about blogging, and while I don't keep it secret from her, she may well be a little surprised that I would like to meet someone who I have only communicated with via blog comments.

Shelley said...

Oh Steve, but I am terribly amused!

I'm almost totally not very anonymous and have entire groups of people who don't know about my blog. It is quite hard to explain how you know people sometimes. Especially when they don't know about that other bit of your life - or even don'tknow much about it.

TimT said...

I'll send you a mail today Steve!

Usually when I meet blog friends or whatever I mumble something incoherent to friends or family who ask where I'm going. You know, mumblemumblemumblemumbleGETDRUNKmumblemumbleINTERNETkthksbye!

TimT said...

The 12 Days of Christmas goes all right, actually - one of the best known examples of list songs and games that you get from time to time. I suppose the only other list/memory song I can really think of is 'I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly'.

It's easy of course to substitute different words for the original ones - hence the huge number of variations on 'The 12 Days' you get. The joke's frankly been done to death and isn't that original - so I expect you'll see me using it one of these days...

Maria said...

Eight maids a-milking
(Presumably with complementary cows, as the maids have to be milking something)

Could be, or could be reference to breast-feeding time for some maids' children. Which could mean that Eight maidENs a-milking would be quite politically incorrect.

TimT said...

And all a-milking, in a politically correct manner, in time with the song.

What with the maidens and the cows, it would be a very moo-ving experience.

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