Tag Archives: history

Christmas songs that aren’t

19 Dec

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when songs from 50-odd years ago get dusted off and Noddy Holder informs us all once again that “It’s Chriiiiiiiiiistmas!” But among these festive hits and Christmas carols, there are some that aren’t actually about Christmas at all. This is mostly because here in the northern hemisphere we associate Christmas with snow and ice and wintry pursuits, even though the chances of it snowing on any given Christmas Day are about as high as Lapwing getting to number one (although they are currently number 13 in the UK iTunes chart, which is respectable). So here are a few songs that you perhaps believed were Christmas songs, but aren’t.

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert from FreeImages

Jingle Bells

What, Jingle Bells not a Christmas song?? But find me any reference to Christmas in the lyrics. Go on, I’ll wait.

The reason you won’t find any is that this is just a song about winter frolics. Yes, it does mention a sleigh, but it’s only now that a sleigh automatically brings Santa Claus to mind. Back in the 1850s, when it was written, a sleigh was a fun way to travel in winter – with a horse, rather than nine reindeer.

Let it Snow!

Again, nothing Christmas-related in the lyrics. This song was written during a heatwave in Los Angeles as a pleasant fantasy of cooler conditions.

Baby it’s Cold Outside

You’re getting the idea now, aren’t you? This mildly creepy song is just about a cold evening, which could be anytime between November and March. It was written for a housewarming party, apparently, and was subsequently used by hosts as a hint to guests that it was time to go.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Yes, it mentions sleigh bells, but probably just the kind of sleigh from Jingle Bells, not the reindeer- propelled variety. This is (yet) another in the “it’s not Christmas, it’s just cold” category.

Ode to Joy

I’d never thought of this movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as being Christmassy at all, but apparently many people do – particularly in Japan, for some reason. My brother-in-law referred to it as Christmas music when it appeared in the soundtrack of Die Hard, but conceded that he may consider it Christmassy because it’s in his favourite Christmas-adjacent film*, rather than because there’s anything Christmassy about it in itself.

I considered including When a Child Is Born in this list, but decided against. It’s borderline. It doesn’t mention Christmas, and reading the lyrics the ‘child’ is either every child that is born (most of the verses) or a saviour who has not yet been born (the talky bridge and the last verse) rather than explicitly being the baby Jesus. But it does mention a star and says “this comes to pass”, which is very biblical sounding, so I’ll allow it.

I’d be happy to tell you which are my favourite (actual) Christmas songs. If you would like that in another post, leave a comment to that effect. Mariah Carey doesn’t make it in, I’m afraid.


* Christmas-adjacent because it is not a Christmas film. Yes, it happens at Christmas, there’s the odd Christmas-related quip and some Christmas music, but the events of the film are not contingent upon it being Christmas. John McClane could have been attending his wife’s office shindig in July and things would have panned out just the same.

Robin Hood on the Other Side

20 Nov

I recently had a cross-timezone Skype chat with Mike Huberty, a rock musician who also runs a podcast called See You on the Other Side. The podcast deals with pop culture and the paranormal (fairly interesting, right?) and I was talking to him, naturally enough, about Robin Hood in connection with my new book, Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong.

If you want to listen into to our conversation, and find out my fun facts about Will Scarlett and the dodginess of medieval May Games, you can listen to the podcast on Mike’s site, or on Podbean, or iTunes.

Happy listening!