Of all the cultural battles we fight during the Christmas season, one stands above all. It’s not whether we relent and say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” because, let’s be real, only a handful of people actually care. What people do care about, though, is of much more importance. It’s a bloody, knock-down, drag-out fight about what actually matters. Of course, we’re talking Christmas songs.
It’s an objective truth that the best of the genre is “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC. Second place goes to “Carol of the Bells,” assuming it’s an instrumental version. Third place, or first depending on who you ask, is “Santa Claus and His Old Lady,” because Cheech and Chong.
Fourth place is where we start getting into territory marked by bad, worse, and worst. Rather than dedicating the full holiday season to an exhaustive list of every horrible Christmas song, we at The Federalist have pared the list down to ten.
So pour a cup of holiday cheer, hop on the sleigh, and join us as we dash through a list of songs that are half the reason we drink during the season. (The other half is because we’re just having too much fun. Also our families are usually around.)
10. ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’
Let’s get things going right or, rather, wrong as it were. This beloved and lighthearted song features mommy under the mistletoe while daddy was in the other room, which isn’t exactly cool for most couples. There are exceptions, but it seems like Christmas would be an exception to those exceptions.
But mommy didn’t stop there. No, mommy was enjoying herself and really going for the gusto with the right jolly old elf. In addition to kissing him (remember she is painted as the aggressor in the scenario), she also “tickled him” under his beard. (“Beard?”) Guess what, kiddo? Your mom is definitely not on the “nice” list, though Santa doesn’t seem to mind.
9. ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’
This song could scrape the bottom of the barrel, but Mariah Carey offers some saving grace in that at least the video and live performances provide something for the deaf. Then again, that’s really not enough. Also, maybe Mariah should rethink her assertion that Santa Claus won’t make her happy. If we’re to believe the previous song, he has a thing for bad girls and would be willing to make her quite happy.
8. ‘Santa Baby’
Similar to No. 9, “Santa Baby” occasionally offers something redeeming, assuming the person being subjected to it cannot actually hear. It departs from “All I Want for Christmas is You” because the person in the song wants a whole lot of things besides you. Seriously, there’s a long list and not one item is attainable for one who lives on a budget. Eartha Kitt, and those after her, would do well to listen to Ice Cube’s classic “I Ain’t The One.”
Platinum mines, jewelry from Tiffany’s, new cars—girl, maybe you need to consider kissing Santa Claus. You’re thinking lobster when perhaps you should be thinking Burger King.
7. ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’
Paul McCartney’s career since the Beatles has been mixed at best, even if he never succumbed to Yoko and the horror that is “Imagine.” “Wonderful Christmas Time,” though no “Imagine,” is still not an example of him at his best, but a horrible synth-laden garbage pile that could have used more LSD. At least the various permutations of “Santa Baby” are less obtuse than McCartney’s ode to “they’ll pay me for anything.”
6. ‘Dominick the Donkey’
The person who wrote this song really thought to himself, “You know what would get me in the spirit? A singer who keeps making donkey noises! Everybody loves donkey noises!”
No, we do not. And don’t even pretend there’s some biblical manger angle going on here, because there’s not. All I want for Christmas is to know that the people who thought this was a good idea lived the rest of their days in exile on the Island of Misfit toys where they were shunned by the much-more-useful broken playthings. (By “plaything,” I’m not referring to your Santa-groping mother.)
5. ‘The Christmas Shoes’
This song has it all—it’s horrible and comes from a book and a movie of the same name. In other words, it’s the only item on this list to pull a hat trick, to cover the trifecta. (I’ll admit I’m guessing about the quality of the book and the movie. I can only take so much punishment, but it aired on the Hallmark Channel, so we can safely assume.)
I mean, I guess it’s bittersweet and about sacrifice and other noble Christmas impulses, but “Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas” already exists and isn’t a musical tire fire. Watch and listen to that and save your remake takes for “Independence Day: Resurgence.”
4. Tie: ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas’ and ‘All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth’
Very strong arguments were made for both these songs. From the faux children faux whining about all their wants and needs in a grating voice that penetrates to the very center of the brain to the resulting insanity, it was hard to choose which was worse, so we’re going with “yes.” (The Chipmunks—the singers and not the ones I try to run over when I see them crossing the street just in case they’re contemplating a singing career—also fall into this category.)
Regardless, these songs and all the others from the genre are soul-crushing bits of saccharine vapidity. No amount of holiday cheer, emotional or liquid, can overcome their weight. One point I will give to “Two Front Teeth,” though, is that teeth are at least useful. A pet hippo would destroy your house and then kill you and everyone you love, not necessarily in that order.
Moreover, parents, teachers, retail workers, and anyone not living in some bizarre “Logan’s Run” area get to hear enough whining during Christmas. For the love of all that is good, don’t set that shit to music.
3. ‘Last Christmas’
From the same oeuvre as McCartney’s abomination, this song is about getting paid, but not in a good way. At least catch Santa under the mistletoe or get “Paid in Full” Eric B. and Rakim-style. I guess George Michael’s heart was in the right place, or maybe the wrong place since he gave it to someone who didn’t want it and regifted it, but this is worse than “Santa Baby.” At least that one isn’t about whining.
Also, if you give someone your heart one Christmas and you’re still moaning about it a Christmas later, you’re probably in need of a restraining order. That is, you probably should be placed under one. To the object of his affection—Run! Why are you riding up a ski lift with him? Do you not hear what he’s saying?
Anyway, George, it’s time to stocking up and move on. Rumor is there’s a woman who will soon be divorced and who is hanging out underneath the mistletoe. You can knock her out of the way for Santa since he’s more your speed.
2. ‘Feliz Navidad’
If this song had existed in Dante’s time, he would have devoted a circle of hell to it. Seriously. Sisyphus, if given the choice, would gladly continue pushing that rock up the hill every day rather than listen to this song on repeat. Prometheus would invite the eagle to come nosh on his liver instead of enduring Jose Feliciano’s admonition that it is, indeed, “Feliz Navidad” over and over and over and over again.
This entire “song,” to use the term loosely, consists of 19 words. That’s if you are generous and count the translation in the third verse as a new set of words. It’s a testament to insanity, if not a precursor. It is aural terror masquerading as good cheer.
Maybe it was Feliciano’s wife who was underneath the mistletoe with Santa. If so, well played, Jose. Your revenge was served ice cold, though given she was able to warm Santa, your efforts may have been wasted.
1. ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
No, dummy—excuse me, I mean Sir Bob Geldof: none of the continent’s 500 million Christians have any idea when the major holidays are. They’re too busy remembering the children are the future. Okay, they were the future and their particular future was to become “recruiters” for Kony 2012.
But please subject us to more guilt from Thatcher-era rockstar Labour Party supporters so personally conflicted about economics and the United Kingdom’s colonial history that they have no idea why people in Africa are starving or what to do about it. If they did have a clue, they would’ve done that instead of writing this atrocity. Regardless, #Kony2016—this time it’s vintage.
This list is not exhaustive. We skipped right past “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and the hackey-sack tournament that is “Little Drummer Boy.” (By the way, little Make Loud Noises for Baby person, the Magi offered frankincense, not patchouli, pa rum pum pum pummmmmm. Kind of an important distinction.)
In any case, please remember that tastes are subjective and if you vehemently disagree with me, there’s a community stocking located somewhere on this fine website. Much like Santa, I can’t promise that I will personally reach into it and retrieve whatever you leave for me. Nor can I promise I’ll personally read every thoughtful critique, but I have taken time to construct a generic message to address all your complaints. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the bottom of my heart.