By Susan Govern
I’ve been listening to the radio often since Thanksgiving which means I’ve been hearing a lot of Christmas songs. Cleveland has at least two stations that have made it a tradition to play round the clock holiday music up to Christmas. There’s one station I do like better and I keep my home and car radios tuned in; I’ve been doing that at Christmas time for years.
Some are sentimental oldies such as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, and even religious ones, like the duet from Bing Crosby’s last Christmas special when he sang “Peace on Earth-Little Drummer Boy” with David Bowie.
Every now and again the radio station I prefer has slipped in a Christmas song that can only be described as silly or stupid. Usually I would simply tune these songs out – stop paying attention or change the station then go back after several minutes, but one year I started actually paying attention to the words. Before I knew it, I was hooked. I find myself each year since looking forward to hearing those silly songs – for me it’s become a mini-tradition.
I know some of you are right about now rolling your eyes and saying “Oh no…those silly songs are just annoying”. That may be true, but if you take the time to think about it, they were written and performed for fun and this time of year we can all use a little fun in our lives.
After fighting crowds in the stores and the traffic jams, or dealing with sour attitudes of over-worked store clerks or co-workers just think about how Christmas music is supposed to be good for our own attitude adjustment. It can soothe or be uplifting but it can also let us have good old fashioned fun – the kind of silly fun we enjoyed as children this time of year.
Just some of my favorites that I look forward to hearing each holiday season include “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” (Thurl Ravenscroft) – I mean, who doesn’t have fun memories of sitting and watching the original cartoon?! Then there’s one I had on a record which I played over and over – “The Chipmunk Christmas Song – Christmas Don’t Be Late”.
Some real oldies get played this time of year too. There was a man called Spike Jones (And His City Slickers) who did “All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)” which has also been done by other singers. A more modern silly song is “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” from 1979.
And my recounting of funny Christmas songs brings me to two which are similar in theme but recorded many years apart. Back in 1953 when she was 10 years old a little girl singer by the name of Gayla Peevey (I Googled it and yes that’s her real name) performed “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”. According to Wikipedia “the song peaked at number 24 on Billboard magazine’s pop chart in December of 1953”. Obviously people listening to it back then realized it was done in good fun.
When I finally took the time to really listen to it some time back, I found myself laughing by the end of the song. In my mind I pictured this small child writing a letter to Santa and asking for the biggest (literally) gift she could think of. Part of the song states her mother saying the Hippo would eat her, but teacher says Hippos are vegetarian. As I listened I pictured this little girl as being sort of related to Ralphie in the movie “The Christmas Story”. Just as everyone told Ralphie “You’ll shoot your eye out kid” when he asked for that B-B Gun, she was told she’d be eaten by her Hippopotamus. Just as “The Christmas Story” was meant to be fun to watch, so is this song meant to be fun to listen to. It brings out the kid in us, after all, many of us as children wrote to Santa asking for something that maybe seemed a bit outrageous.
That brings me to the song that is so similar. I have a Disney Records cassette titled “Twelve Days of Christmas” with Mickey and the Gang. One of the songs is sung by the character Goofy. The title – “I’d like to have an ELEPHANT for Christmas”. Obviously the person or persons who wrote this song were inspired by the Hippo song. Same kind of funny idea of getting something so big, and the lyrics paint a picture in the mind of the listener of Santa trying to “fit it in his sleigh”.
Yep, traditional Christmas songs are beautiful and sentimental and bring peace and joy. But I also enjoy the fun of feeling like a kid again this time of year, even if it’s only for the time it takes one silly Christmas song to play.
So my wish for all of you who have been reading this is to listen – really listen – to one of those silly songs and let it transport you to your childhood when being silly and truly enjoying the fun of the season was a blessing.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and Happy Holidays to those who celebrate in other ways this time of year – may love, peace and FUN be yours now and in the coming year.