Creepy Christmas Songs
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Decorations go up, mulled wine is on the boil and Christmas songs are playing on repeat from November 1st till just after New Years. Whether it’s Mariah Carey dashing through the snow in a red onesie or Frank Sinatra crooning White Christmas, there’s something for everyone.
We’ve heard these songs so many times, we feel as though we could sing them in our sleep. But listen a little closer, and you might be surprised by some of your favourite festive lyrics...
Baby It’s Cold Outside
The debate around Baby It’s Cold Outside has become as much of a tradition as the bad jokes in Christmas crackers. Is it harmless banter or humourless coercion? Is it anything more than the festive forefather of Blurred Lines?
Composer Frank Loesser wrote the song in 1944 for him and his wife Lynn to perform at parties. It was a fun way for them to signal to everyone that it was time to go home. What started as a private joke soon became a huge hit.
Once upon a time, Baby It’s Cold Outside was considered progressive. Women in the 1940’s were expected to reject all sexual advances from men, even if they fancied them, because women were not supposed to want sex. Like in black and white movies, where a broad might slap a man wearing a fedora for getting fresh: “not for me, I’m a lady!”
As the female part sings in Baby It’s Cold Outside the woman is worried about what “the neighbours might think”. She knows she’s not supposed to want to stay over, that she “ought to say no” to his advances... but she’s having a nice evening, so she agrees to “half a drink more”. The man in the song is doing his best to persuade her to spend the night with multiple arguments: from there being no cabs, to the more dramatic possibility of catching pneumonia and dying.
What was once thought of as liberal, now sounds pretty problematic. With greater awareness about the importance of consent, lyrics where a woman sings “say, what’s in this drink?” come off as predatory, not playful.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: on the original sheet music the two parts were listed as ‘wolf’ for the man, and ‘mouse’ for the woman. Creepy or what?
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Is it just us or is there definitely something gross about this one? Maybe it’s the high squeaky voice. Or maybe it’s the thought of Santa Claus, a man beloved by thousands of children, getting off with your mum. Shudder.
The song was commissioned by the department store Saks Fifth Avenue in 1952 to compliment a Christmas card featuring a picture of Santa Claus kissing a woman while holding a very surprised looking child. Isn’t that weird enough without a song to go with it?
The song is harmless enough – Mummy can do what she wants – but more than fifty years later there is no male equivalent. Her kid imagines “what a laugh it would have been...if Daddy had only seen” which is pretty weird to say the least, giggling at the thought of ol’ Saint Nick breaking up their parents’ marriage. Cool.
But for all we know ‘Santa Claus’ is just her husband, kindly indulging one of her festive fantasies as an early Christmas present. If you ever wanted to really laugh about sexist representations of Santa, just search ‘Men’s Santa Costumes’ and ‘Women’s Santa Costumes’…
Depending on your music taste, Santa Baby is a song that sorts people into two categories: those that will be swaying their hips to every jazzy note, and those that roll their eyes and groan within the first ‘ba-DUM’.
First recorded by Eartha Kitt in 1953, this sultry, suggestive song was a tongue-in-cheek challenge to the traditional Christmas songs available at the time. Eartha amped up the sexiness when she sang it in a film in 1954 wearing only a white fur stole and heels! Needless to say this song was revolutionary in the ‘50s for its depiction of female sexuality, but to a modern audience it raises eyebrows for different reasons....
What is it about putting on a baby voice that was ever thought to be sexy? Combine that with the sexual nature of the song and it’s straight up weird: an infantile woman offering Santa sexual favours in return for expensive gifts? No thanks, we would rather find a lump of coal in our stocking.
Bonus cringe points: listen to the Michael Buble version where masculinity is too fragile to sing Santa Baby, so swaps it out for Santa Buddy. Happy heteronormative Christmas everyone!
Let It Snow
Finally, to wash the bitter taste of sleazy song lyrics out of your mouth, here’s the story behind a considerate Christmas classic: Let It Snow.
Surprising fact: there’s no mention of Christmas in this song. The song was written on one of the hottest days of the year. In July 1945, songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne were melting in the sweltering heat of a Californian heatwave. To cool themselves off they fantasised about chillier conditions and came up with the wishful lyric, ‘let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’.
We’d like to think of Let It Snow as Baby It’s Cold Outside’s mature and respectful older brother. While Baby It’s Cold Outside tries to trick you and even slip things in your drink, Let it Snow simply encourages the snow to keep falling – “the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful – And since we've no place to go, Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”.
Let It Snow knows to take the hint and leave when you’re asked to. What a gentleman.
Carolling Carolling, Off We Go
So there you have it, a little insight into the lyrics of some of your favourite Christmas songs… Sorry if we ruined them for you. But what’s Christmas without a feminist killjoy?
At #MyMorningAfter we hope that, whether you love or hate Santa Baby, you have a merry Christmas. And if you don’t want to risk offending anyone, you can always play it safe with a bit of Deck the Halls.
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la.
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Words: Georgina Hoffman