It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... earlier and earlier every year. Christmas music starts blasting from every department store speaker from November 1, and you can practically hear the faint voices of carolers singing "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" no matter where you are shortly afterward. But while these classic holiday songs spread Christmas cheer for all to hear, you might be surprised to learn that they're not all about jingling bells and sugar plums. In fact, many holiday songs have meanings that will knock your Christmas stockings right off.
"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
What meaning could possibly be hidden in this one? It's a wholesome holiday song about a portly, generous man named Santa Claus. But the song was written at a particularly dark time in the life of songwriter Haven Gillespie. In fact, Gillespie was asked to write a jolly Christmas tune for children directly after attending his brother's funeral.
Gillespie reluctantly began writing the song on his subway ride home from the meeting with his publisher, Leo Feist, Inc. The publishers thought he'd do a great job because he had a "good vocabulary..." and they were right. The song, which was first recorded by Eddie Canto, was a total hit — selling 25,000 records per day at its peak. But Gillespie could never enjoy it as it always reminded him of his late brother, Irwin.
"Do You Hear What I Hear?"
"Do You Hear What I Hear?" has solidified itself as a classic since its initial release in 1962 — with artists such as Whitney Houston and Andy Williams having covered it. But the lyrics, which on the surface retell the tale from the Nativity, conceal a dark meaning. Gloria Shayne Baker revealed it in an interview some years after it became a hit.
Tail as big as a kite
When Baker and her husband, Noel Regney, wrote the track in 1962, their fear of the Cuban Missile Crisis inspired the tune. They just wanted peace, and the song details that. “Noel wrote a beautiful song,” Baker said, “and I wrote the music. We couldn’t sing it, though... Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of nuclear war at the time.”