Since the news broke that Father Christmas doesn’t exist (yeah, sorry about that…), the most anticipated holiday of the year has taken on a slightly different flavour. It remains a great time of celebration for families and businesses alike, but it’s lost some of its magic and mystery, everything that used to help draw the little ones into a fairy tale of sleighs, reindeer and elves. The discovery of the truth is the first of many steps on the stairway to adulthood, a brutal advance in the discovery of a world that has nothing to do with fairy tales. Many emerge deeply disappointed, some angry at having been deceived, even if the lie was for a good cause.
As time goes by, our goodwill towards Christmas continues to melt like chocolate left too close to the fireplace. The compulsory gathering, the stress of buying presents, the pressure of family, the frenzy of spending, the reminder of personal failures or of loneliness… For some, the period provokes only angst, or even moments of depression.
A rebellious genre by nature, rock has always had conflicting feelings towards Christmas, bending to it because of childhood nostalgia, but also rebelling against it to reject the rules imposed by one’s elders or by society at large. Thus, in the history of pop music in the broadest sense, there are as many calm Christmas albums to be listened to by the fire as there are songs that take an opposing view, sending Santa back to his lies and inviting his elves to play furious guitar riffs, as if in an attempt to get rid of all the ills that the approaching holiday brings. You’d swear that these rebels and their music are friends with the Grinch, the creature invented by Dr. Seuss to spoil Christmas.
With their unconventional Christmas songs, many artists also distinguish themselves by a desire not to attack the holiday, but rather to infuse it with great songs that come back year after year and offer an alternative to the more Santa-heavy offerings. In these songs, Christmas becomes the setting for one’s worst fantasies and the subject of score-settling – of which Father Christmas is often the target. It’s a more subtle way of opposing traditions and of fighting childhood trauma whilst also creating great music. It’s also an opportunity to call for Christmas to be a time of peace and love rather than unbridled consumption and individualism. Fortunately, music is still there to keep that dream alive.