As Christmas carolers stroll down the streets and shopping mall speakers pump out seasonal standards, you'll likely be lulled into a nostalgic state of holiday wonderment as you recall your childhood where you spent hours listening to these very same songs.
But have you ever given them any real, critical thought? When you dive into the lyrics, some of these old holiday standbys seem downright terrifying. Here are six Christmas classics that are secretly horrifying.
1. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus": As adults, we all get that the "Santa" in this song is really the narrator's dad getting a peck from his wife. But if you think about it from the child's point of view, his mother is cheating on his dad and potentially tearing the family apart. What's more, Santa seems to be cheating on Mrs. Claus as well. Santa, the paradigm of virtue, the man who decides the difference between "naughty" and "nice" is flaunting his total disregard for conventional morality. That little kid's entire moral compass is going to be skewed irreparably, and he's likely to grow up to be a criminal or a philanderer, if not a full-blown lunatic.
2. "The Twelve Days of Christmas": Where is this "True Love" person getting all these birds, trees and rings? Hundreds of them are given just in the first seven days. How does True Love afford these exorbitant luxuries? Well, perhaps by using the profits from a vast empire of human trafficking. By the eighth day, True Love starts giving the song's narrator maids, dancers, presumably-kidnapped royalty (lords) and two different kinds of musicians. Nowhere does it say True Love hired these people. No - he "sent them." And the narrator apparently just keeps them, as if owning someone is totally appropriate wherever this song is supposed to be set.
3. "Baby It's Cold Outside": This is the most beloved and socially accepted song about date rape, ever. When you hear crooners sing this classic, it's easy to gloss over the terrifying lyrics, but let's take a look: "I really can't stay/But, baby, it's cold outside/I've got to go away/But, baby, it's cold outside." From the first lines of the song, it's already off to a creepy start.
"But maybe just half a drink more/ Put some records on while I pour." Why would he not want her to watch him pour her cocktail? Maybe because of her lyric three lines later, "Say what's in this drink?" After which, Mr. Mystery-booze tells her, "Your eyes are like starlight now." Yeah, that’s a real line. Actually, just read the lyrics here, and the song ruins itself. For good measure, here are a few more choice words from the creep: "Gosh your lips look delicious," and, "I thrill when you touch my hand."
4. "Santa Clause Is Coming To Town": All fairy tales, folk stories and gift-based family holidays have one goal in mind: to terrify children into behaving like decent human beings - instead of the feral monsters they naturally are – for, like, two weeks so their parents don't go crazy. With this song, children learn that Santa is omnipotent and watches them every minute of every day, silently reviewing their actions, hopes and deepest desires, waiting for the chance to come to town and pass wrathful judgment. The song works like gangbusters, too, because Santa is still terrifying… to some people… not us, of course.
5. "Jingle Bells": I know it's hard to believe, but this song has more than one verse. And the second verse is very, very different than the first. Later in the song, the kid and some lady named Miss Fanny Bright are riding in the sleigh when the bobtail horse drifts into a snow bank and the two passengers are thrown violently from the carriage. After which, some jerk rides by in his own sleigh and just laughs. Finally, at the end of the song, it seems as though the narrator is an old man giving sleigh riding pointers to some young hot shot, thus promoting reckless behavior and dangerous driving to youths. Also, Fanny Bright is never mentioned again – is it because she died in the crash? Probably.
6. "Walking In a Winter Wonderland": Proceed with caution: This one is actually kind of a bummer. If you pay close attention, it's clear that the lovers in this song have active imaginations. They wander blissfully through some magical frost-covered paradise and build snowmen that they then pretend are real people – first a priest that marries them and then a clown that plays with them. While it all sounds sweet, the song's background context is important.
The song was written by Richard B. Smith in 1934, during the height of the great depression, while Smith was in a sanitarium dying from a case of tuberculosis that would claim his life the following year. The eponymous Winter Wonderland is a dream world that he desperately wanted to escape to with his beloved wife Jean - whom he married only one year before getting diagnosed with his terrible illness. How soul-crushingly sad is that?
Well, now you may never see those songs in the same light again. But in the case of some of them – specifically "Walking In A Winter Wonderland" – maybe this new take on an old classic will make you appreciate it even more this holiday season.
For a Christmas list that isn't totally depressing, check out the video below for our guide to the seven most murderous holiday horror flicks to watch this yuletide!
For more childhood-ruining theories you can follow Zach Seemayer on Twitter @ZachSeemayer.