The true meaning of Christmas songs

December 19, 2008 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Interesting research reported on BBC News tonight:

According to [Durham University’s] head of music Bennett Zon, O Come All Ye Faithful is actually a birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie…Prof Zon, said there was “far more” to the carol – also known as Adeste Fideles – than was originally thought.

He said: “Fideles is Faithful Catholic Jacobites. Bethlehem is a common Jacobite cipher for England, and Regem Angelorum is a well-known pun on Angelorum, angels and Anglorum, English.

“The meaning of the Christmas carol is clear: ‘Come and Behold Him, Born the King of Angels’ really means, ‘Come and Behold Him, Born the King of the English’ – Bonnie Prince Charlie.”

Well, dear reader, in the spirit of academic endeavour, shall we explore another seasonal ditty thusly? Yes, let’s.

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We’re happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Notice the subtle spin with which the writers present this midwinter scene. The grim reality of weather-related travel chaos (hence “walking”) is brushed aside. And there’s more than a hint of didacticism in the parenthetical “are you listening… we’re happy tonight”. Clearly this is a song aimed at telling us what to think. But who’s behind it, and where is it heading?

Gone away is the bluebird,
Here to stay is a new bird

Here the writers declare their hand. The blue is gone, the new is here. It’s Britain, 1st May 1997. Election Day. The Conservative party, with blue as its colour, is ousted from government. New Labour. New bird.

He sings a love song,
As we go along,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

And now the depiction of idyllic winter scenes begins to make sense. The last time Labour had been in power, the country endured the notorious Winter of Discontent – wage disputes in the private and public sectors, power cuts, uncollected rubbish, restricted hospital admissions. But now, in a heroically audacious piece of PR, the writers attempt to excise the memory of that winter in favour of an altogether more palatable hibernal mythos with which New Labour can associate itself.

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown.

Now, this is clever. A reference to Tony Blair in the song would have been just too obvious – but in any case, in May 97 His Blairness didn’t really need bigging up. Gordon Brown, on the other hand, was never the most media-friendly of faces or voices. So the writers create a nice jovial cameo for the incoming Chancellor, nicknaming him the Parson as a nod to his child-of-the-manse background.

He’ll say: Are you married? We’ll say: No man,
But you can do the job when you’re in town.

An extraordinary piece of perspicacity here, looking ahead a full 7 years from the 1997 Sitz im Leben. For in 2004 the Civil Partnership Act in the UK made available to same-sex couples a legal standing equivalent to marriage. New Labour would, indeed, do the job while they were in town.

Later on, we’ll conspire,
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid
The plans that we’ve made,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

The song finishes with a paean to the principles of media management. It’s your basic joined-up blue-sky thinking that sings from the same hymn sheet and knows a good day to bury bad news when it sees one.

So there we have it. Winter Wonderland is actually a song about the Labour victory in the 1997 UK general election.

Just don’t tell Perry Como.

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Entry filed under: culture, satire. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

But then, we knew this already. Today’s News in limerick form, #1

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