It’s that time of year again. Where no matter where you go you’ll hear nothing but Xmas music. Shopping malls, grocery stores, restaurants and bars, etc. Bah humbug, right? Not for me. I love Xmas music. Now, granted, there’s some Xmas music I can stand better than other music. I have always tended towards more parody and novelty fun tunes and less with the overly serious religious fare. Xmas should be a celebration of life. Even back when I was a Believer, it felt like a month long party to me. That’s a concern that’s come up recently. I guess you could say it comes up every year about this time. I’ve found myself in “discussions” both online and offline about how being an atheist should automatically ban me from being able to celebrate Xmas. Christians say “don’t you even know what Christmas is?”
The first documented Christmas was celebrated in Rome, Italy in the year 336. One could argue people unofficially celebrated the birth of their alleged lord and savior before that, but we have no evidence before that date. If it was celebrated, nobody wrote it down in the calendars of any bishops or other religious leaders of the time. We do have evidence that before the alleged birth and death of Jesus of Nazareth, people did celebrate The Winter Solstice. This is the time of year when the days are the shortest and the nights are the longest, because of the way the planet Earth is aligned on its axis in relation to the Sun. This event predates any and all man made myths and legends about gods. In fact the earliest pagan gods were often fashioned around the sun and moon. So technically Christmas is really a pagan holiday, usurped by the Roman Catholic church a mere seventeen hundred or so years ago. Pagans could just as easily demand that Christians not celebrate their religious holy day.
There’s also no objectively valid or relevant evidence assuring that Jesus of Nazareth was born at all, much less on December 25th of The Year Of Our Lord 1 Anno Domini. The gospel attributed to Mark was not written by Mark, was heavily influenced by jewish dogma as well as The Odyssey by Homer and other myths before it, and there’s no proof the government of the time required people traverse to their place of birth in order to be counted in the Roman Census. So Jesus’ earthly dad Joseph had no motive for dragging Mary from Nazareth to Jerusalem just to give birth to their kid in a stable. Great myth. No proof. Some people argue that because of where the stars were in the sky, the boy must have been born closer to September, and other people have other interpretations and explanations. The bottom line is we can’t prove the authenticity of any of this. So even if your baby Jesus was born, he may not have been born on December 25th. You can’t prove any of it. So it doesn’t matter if you think this is a holy day only for you and people who feel as you do. You have absolutely no rational ground to stand on. I could make up as much malarkey to celebrate and it would be equally valid, just not as many people would believe in it.
Catholics and protestants don’t get to corner the market on the giving spirit of this time of year, is essentially my point.
“Peace on Earth, good will toward all” is something that is rather universal. Even though I don’t believe in it, I admit that’s a good idea. I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who can’t find that a reason to celebrate. It is, I hope, the one place where we can all agree. If you can’t agree to that, then maybe just accept it as an excuse to drink some spiced eggnog (soy milk if you’re lactose intolerant).
The following is a list of music that passes muster with me. You may or may not disagree. I’m just sharing what I like. Feel free to make your own list, or just use this to pretend I just made you a mixtape. Share and enjoy, and may whoever or whatever you believe in, believe in you as well. Keep warm, stay safe, and try to smile.
You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch by Whirling Dervishes
As a child I enjoyed the Filmation cartoon version featuring Thurl Ravenscroft at vocals, but I’m going for party and fun music here. This version has more kick behind it.
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer by Elmo and Patsy
Back when I was your age, and this song came out, we didn’t have digital music available at the touch of a button. Back in my day, you had to listen to a song on something called a radio, and if you liked the one song, the faceless man on the radio would tell you who recorded it. They called the man on the radio a “Disc Jockey.” Then you’d go out and buy a vinyl disc that had that song you liked on it as well as other songs by the same artist, so in theory you’d like them too. I bought this album solely cuz I heard this song. The rest of the album is just conventional Christmas fare. Learned a lesson that day. Then something called Napster happened. Ah. Those were the days.
Who Took The Merry Out of Christmas? by The Staple Singers
Now here is an example of the dichotomy of being an atheist yet appreciating gospel music. This song is heavily repetitive and the message is clearly thick with simplified preachiness, but it’s also just a lot of fun. Many other genres of music have gospel to thank for its roots, and here we can hear some jazz and funk influences too, so gospel is borrowing heavily back. It’s all cyclical.
I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus by Kip Addotta
This song has been covered many times since Saks Fifth Avenue hired Jimmy Boyd to record it for commercial purposes that ticked off the Roman Catholic Church. When I say “this song” I mean the original one which is titled “I saw MOMMY kidding Santa Claus.” Of course, Kip Adotta took a few liberties which this version. By this time this version came out, the RCC had pretty much given up enforcing respect. Ru Paul did a variant on this “Daddy” one that I don’t have an opinion on cuz I haven’t seen it. I like this version cuz it reminds me of the heady days of my youth when I’d be holed up in my room listening to The Doctor Demento Show on the radio.
Christmas In Harlem by Louis Armstrong
I haven’t yet seen or heard the more recent Kanye West version of this song, so I have no opinion of it pro or con. Perhaps that’s more your cup of tea, but I don’t want anything to spoil my memory of this great timeless classic. Among my favorite works ever recorded by the incomparable Satchmo.
Perfect Day by Lou Reed with a little help from some friends..
..what do you mean this isn’t a Christmas song? You reap what you sow. This is the kind of song that should remind us all that every day has the potential to be a day of celebration with family and friends and food and wine and good happy moments filled with joy and a giving spirit. More often than not it isn’t. I’m guilty of that, but then so was I when I believed. If you want to believe in something, believe in making the world a better place by doing something you can actually control. Do something nice for another who can appreciate it. Think globally but act locally. Make your community safer, cleaner, healthier, happier. That kinda stuff. I love how this version I chose has several welcome faces and voices sprinkled throughout, and at the very end we learn it’s a kind of PSA for the BBC. As I understand it, British taxes pay to keep the BBC going. The US used to use government money for PBS but that’s mostly been cut out by conservatives. The lion’s share of money that PBS gets now comes from corporate donors, and it’s beginning to affect the quality of the product, for better or for worse. Oh well.
Just six songs? Not much of a list you say? Well. This may not be the only installment of A Very Whacky Zachy Xmas. Tis the season. Between now and Xmas Eve I may have a few more musical presents for ya. Y’all come back now, y’hear?