Well, it’s the day after Christmas, and if your local adult contemporary radio station is anything like mine, they abruptly ditched their 24-hour “holiday” music format at 12:01 a.m. today. Wonder what changed. Anyway, just because the Christmas music has been packed away until next Labor Day or whenever it starts back up again these days, that doesn’t mean it’s too late for a half-in-the-bag rant about some songs that are about snow and have no connection whatsoever to any December holiday but are somehow considered Christmas songs nonetheless.
First of all, snow is not a prerequisite for Christmas. Christmas is (most commonly) celebrated on December 25th, which is 2-4 days after the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. That means that basically the entire run-up to Christmas actually takes place in the fall, and the holiday itself is only a handful of days into winter. Not exactly the part of the calendar where you’re most likely to find snow. In addition, check out this average temperature map for the continental U.S. in December:
The pink and white areas actually have an average daily temperature of freezing or below. By contrast, the other half or so of the map spends the majority of the time in a temperature regime that turns potential snow into rain and actual snow into puddles. What about that yellow 60-70 degree part of Florida? Do they know it’s Christmas? If they own calendars and are not high on flakka, yes, they normally figure it out somehow despite the lack of snow.
Of course, we have two people to blame for the romanticization of snow on Christmas: Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby, who collaborated to unleash “White Christmas” on the world. Basically, Berlin was somewhere warm for Christmas one year, God forbid, and so he wrote a song about how much it sucked that the weather wasn’t totally shitty on Christmas like he was used to in New York. Crosby ran with the song, and 75 years later radio stations are still making us feel like it’s not really Christmas without tire chains and discussions with your great uncle about why they have to use brine now and what was ever so wrong with good old rock salt.
But let’s say Irv and Bing were right (they weren’t, but let’s just say), and Christmas really is better with snow. That’s fine. It still doesn’t mean that snow is in any way unique to Christmas, or that songs whose primary theme is “it’s snowing” somehow become Christmas songs by proxy. I don’t ask much of my Christmas songs, but mentioning the word “Christmas” or something else specific to the holiday is usually a good start. While doing my research [stifles laughter] for this post, I uncovered at least five snow-related songs that are commonly played during the pre-Christmas season despite an utter lack of Christmas references:
Let It Snow - Come on. Nothing even close to a Christmas reference here. Also, the title is technically “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” which, goddammit.
Baby It’s Cold Outside - Not a Christmas song, and also probably a song about date rape. Unless you believe the answer to “What’s in this drink?” is “Nutmeg and eggs,” in which case, maybe it is a Christmas song after all.
Winter Wonderland - Winter is anything but a wonderland, so basically this song can fuck right off. Although its premise at least checks out; the first line is “Sleigh bells ring,” signifying that the speaker is a sleigh owner and is probably just happy to be able to finally get their comically antiquated mode of transportation out of the driveway.
Sleigh Ride - Like me, you might be thinking, “But it even says, ‘There’s a Christmas party at the home of Farmer Gray.’” And you’d be wrong. It’s a damned birthday party, and unless it’s for Jesus or Rickey Henderson, neither of whom are specifically mentioned, it’s back to just being a winter song. Although they’re passing around pumpkin pie, so is it actually just a late-fall-in-cold-locale song? The closest thing to a Christmas reference is watching the chestnuts pop, but you don’t get to grab one buzzword and ride Nat King Cole’s coattails to being a Christmas song. Disqualified.
Frosty the Snowman - I know. I’m as surprised as you are. Almost certainly even more so. The sad fact is, this song contains no Christmas tie-in whatsoever. One could argue that the song now retroactively references the Rankin/Bass special that it begat, which itself leans heavily on Christmas, and so “Frosty” could be considered a sort of recursive Christmas song. But making cases for inclusion is not why we’re here, so until Jackie Vernon proclaiming, “I’ll be back on Christmas Day!” becomes a canonical lyric, Frosty’s out.
BONUS #6: Jingle Bells - Fuck me, I just realized this has nothing to do with Christmas either. Although it did inspire the brilliant “Jingle Bell Rock,” written and performed by (to my knowledge) Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
I’m sure there’s more, but I’ll wrap it up on the off chance that you actually made it all the way down here. The point of all of this is twofold. Number one, Christmas music is by its very nature repetitive. There just aren’t that many damn Christmas songs to begin with. If we further shrink the playlist by removing all of the non-Christmas snow songs, we can move one step closer to fulfilling Christmas music’s primary objective of achieving maximum repetitiveness, which I imagine would consist of just playing Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas” on an infinite loop.
And speaking of which, number two, fuck “White Christmas.” I live right near the border of the pink and purple regions on the map way up there above all my bullshit, so snow on Christmas is just realistic enough to exist as a tantalizing possibility for those of us who have been indoctrinated into the thinking that white Christmases are somehow better, and yet it almost never happens, leading to disappointment over nothing. As an adult, even with young children who get pretty jazzed about Santa and presents and stuff, I have a tough time getting myself excited about Christmas. My lack of excitement over something I used to get pumped up about then leads to further disappointment, which viciously cycles back to me being even less excited about Christmas. Point is, it’s hard enough to get myself into the Christmas spirit without Bing Crosby’s ghost crooning about how my Christmas will be a waste of time in the nine out of ten years that there’s no snow on the ground. The temperature here hasn’t been below freezing in two weeks. I should have been able to enjoy that. Fuck snow, and fuck Bing Crosby. Merry Christmas.