The Sound Of Carols vs. The Sound Of Cash Registers

By Dotcom Doctor on Monday, January 01, 2007

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Christmas has long been subject to claims of being crashly commercial.  The old-fashioned snow-covered tree has been increasingly covered up by glitter and tinsel and baubles bought with compare credit card deals.  

Back in  1958, 'Green Chri$tma$' by Stan Freberg rejiggers the most famous Charles Dickens holiday classic into a tale of boardroom greed, with Scrooge as a Madison Avenue executive.  Against Bob Cratchit's objections, the traditional sounds of Christmas end up being perverted: "Deck the halls with advertising / What's the use of compromising".

But, in general, the Christmas carol has remained an untainted image of the season, a clarion call to yuletide revellers reminding them of the purest origins of Christmas.   Dating back to the 4th Century AD, Christmas hymns are associated with very earliest days of the holiday.  Not only do they have authority due to their age, their link to church services make it incredibly easy for the listeners to be reminded of the origins of the season as a celebration of Christ's birth.  And while the presents have changed from spinning tops to video games, Christmas carols have been a constant unchanging sound...most of the time.

While most are willing to sit through the archaic language, others have been offended by the potentially "offensive" nature of these dated songs.  

To avoid 'Once In Royal David’s City' being accidentally mistaken for a racist anthem, the line referring to children “all in white” is often changed to “bright like stars” by nervous organizations.

For those who find 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen' a bit too racy will be pleased to know that the titillating comment about a “pure virgin bright” is sometimes substituted with “David’s town tonight”. 

The Bowdlerisation of these inoffensive songs is obviously an easy target for mockery and almost everyone would disagree with the practice.  But perhaps even ignoring the incredibly reactionary nature of these actions, it is worth thinking about how worrying it is that children are being treated as unable or unwilling to recognize the context of the songs.  If it is impossible for the word "virgin" to be used without sniggering and dirty connotations, isn't this just admitting defeat?

There isn't any way to get around the inevitable credit card spending that goes on during the holiday - but while you're paying off these enormous bills, you can at least listen to a few Christmas carols and convince yourself that it's all worthwhile

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