The second group of Christmas-disenfranchised people isn’t due to religious beliefs; in fact, it’s not necessarily due to any beliefs at all. Rather, it’s due to various emotional states. I’m well-aware this is an awful time of year for a lot of people, some of whom follow this blog and/or my social media accounts, and therefore have likely been gritting their teeth over the past week’s worth of my posts.
This time of year is bad for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder, depression, loneliness, stress, grief, debt, and other afflictions. If you are one of them, I’m sorry and I’m here for you. Please know you’re not alone. I’ve been where you are, and likely will be again.
The season presents too many demons, triggers, and other hazards. Each of us deals with them in a different way; sometimes I get past the blues by fully embracing the dark side of the season. Apropos of that, the following songs are full of darkness, and I love them. I hope you will, too.
Let’s start off easy, with a song that’s more cynical than flat-out sad. A gang of young toughs beat up a department store Santa, demanding money rather than toys. If you think about it long enough, the sadness will come, but the Kinks present “Father Christmas” in an almost-humorous manner. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.
The next two songs tell stories of Irish families destroying Christmas — and each other. Dropkick Murphys sing a song of familial disdain in “The Season’s Upon Us,” and if the lyrics aren’t enough to explain why the narrator hates going home for Christmas, the music video justifies Ken Casey’s words amusingly. The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” however, isn’t funny at all. It spins a tale of the disenchantment and eventual derision between two long-time lovers who met on a Christmas Eve and who’ve been down on their luck for as long as they’ve been together.
Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” tells a story of ex-lovers who run into each other on Christmas Eve, and is a tragically beautiful tale of regret and the one that got away. I both anticipate and dread listening to it every year. I dare you not to get choked up when you do. But keep in mind, there’s a more optimistic way to interpret the ending, where the snow turns into rain — a ten-year-old girl sent him a letter to ask if that meant he felt warm inside from having reconnected with his ex. I’ve always interpreted it to mean nothing of beauty can last, the world sucks, and we can’t have nice things.
At least those two had a relationship, though. The narrator in Dido’s “Christmas Day” has only the promise of one from a passing stranger who professes his love for her and rides off with a vow to return on Christmas. As of the end of the song, he hasn’t fulfilled that vow. She says his it was the last words she ever heard him say, but does that mean she believes he won’t come back? His fate is unknown, as is the status of their relationship. Melancholy, at best.
Lastly, give a listen to Greg Lake’s sublime “I Believe in Father Christmas.” He allegedly wrote it in disgust at the commercialization of the holiday, but I’m pretty sure I detect a more poignantly dark theme. Ultimately, I find it to be about disillusionment and lost innocence. The line “Be it heaven or hell, the Christmas we get, we deserve” gets me every time, but I just can’t buy into that sentiment.
Too many people deserve better than they get at this time of year; to them, I’d like to stress Lake’s most optimistic lines from his song:
I wish you a hopeful Christmas;
I wish you a brave new year.
All anguish, pain, and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear.
White trash Christmas