12.09.2005

Do we really wish you a Merry Christmas?

Christmas is almost upon us now. As I type this, I have a radio tuned on an AM station at my place of business playing Christmas Music 24 hours a day. That sounds really cool – and it is . . . until you realize that they have a limited music selection and that the play list consists of 24 different versions of only seven songs.
But hey, it’s Christmas, almost!
However, upon listening to this music for five days in a row, I have a problem with the traditional carol of “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” This is a fun carol that is very jolly – at least the first verse:

We wish you a Merry Christmas (repeat 3 times)
. . .and a happy new year!

Then there is the chorus:
Good tidings to you and all your friends*
Good tidings for Christmas and a happy new year

This is what everybody sings, but there are traditionalists out there that demand all verses be sung. I thought only Baptists did that, but there are some hard-core Christmas police out there who lead choir members into this land of unfamiliarity. Without these people, we would have never found the evil feeling that this song generates as a whole.
This “fun” carol takes a dark and twisted turn. The writer was obviously distracted by either hunger or a selfish lust for sweets, because the second verse goes:

Now bring out the figgy pudding! (repeat 3 times)
And bring it right here!

Some later renderings of this verse are “We’d like some figgy pudding” or “We want some Figgy Pudding And we’ll wait right here.” This obviously was an attempt to tone down the abruptness of the second verse, but all versions still depict a need for pudding. The original work is still intact and sung around America today. The rest of this article will dissect the original intent of this dastardly song.

On a historical note, pudding was once a traditional food at Christmas** – it was difficult to make and yielded a taste that was far duller than the sweets we have now.*** This pudding apparently was a fig pudding, that is - a pudding made with figs – maybe a lot of figs therefore rendering it “figgy.” I will admit that it is a funny word, much too funny to sing formally yet people still do it anyway. In my five days of continuous listening of Christmas music, one version stated “Christmas pudding” in place of “Figgy pudding.” This singer was obviously very much embarrassed at the thought of using his professional talent to say the word “figgy.” Yet he was the only one that did not say “figgy” while the six other versions kept the word “figgy” and because of their bravery, he is now rendered a wuss in my mind. But my argument does not lie here in the figgieness of the pudding.

The writer of this carol is very driven to get this pudding. Her/His tone is very adamant at the maker of the pudding. “Now bring out the Figgy Pudding!” almost sounds like “I’m tired of this holiday junk! Now give me pudding!” This could be from the perspective of a child rebelling against his/her mother’s suggestions to wish the visiting guests a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – that would be the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that the singer is a guest invited into the warmth of a host’s home and demands the pudding he/she thinks they are hiding. This could be the playful ruse that some friends put on to lighten the mood, but we have no clues to indicate this type of relationship.

If that wasn’t enough, there is a third verse that is more extreme that sucks all the holiday cheer out of the room that the host would desperately try to perpetuate. The third verse is as follows:

We won’t go until we get some! (repeat 3 times)
. . .so bring it right here!

We can only infer that the host did not respond to the guest’s initial request to bring out pudding. Perhaps the host was so offended that they refused to listen to this guest. The arrogance of the guest is apparent now as he holds the party hostage until said pudding is revealed. This guest is indeed extremely selfish because not only do they want immediate pudding, but they are not wanting this pudding placed at the table, or the buffet, for all to partake in; the guest says “bring it right here!” which we can only interpret as “my lap.” I must point out that this verse also uses the pronoun “we” which leads to two possibilities as to the identity of the caroler(s):
1. A couple. A very rude and selfish couple OR
2. The entire party in attendance.
I’m assuming it’s the entire party since this song is traditionally sung by choirs. Imagine with me the poor hosts of this party; their home being held hostage by a ruthless mob that demands pudding. Not just any pudding! Figgy Pudding! Aren’t figs rare in this part of the world? The whole situation probably started with one guest, right after the 2nd round of Pictionary, and the number of participants grew until the whole party started chanting in unison “We won’t go until we get some [pudding].” To state such a phrase would indicate that it is getting pretty late in the evening. If that is true, then the only reason the pudding hasn’t been brought out yet is that the host doesn’t have ANY pudding to give! Whether the host tried to explain this rationally to the mob or not; we’ll never know. We can only imagine the horror as the hosts are hiding in the kitchen, huddled over their children, as the mob tears apart the living room and starts to chant in unison. The promise that the guests won’t leave until they get pudding, along with the absence of pudding in the home of the host creates an embarrassing situation for both groups. In fact, in Miss Manners Party Etiquette Manual, both Host and Guest have met all conditions that the only inevitable conclusion is a violent outburst of anger.****

After the third verse, the first verse is repeated, but at this point, we know it is only a taunt. Their Christmas will not be merry, because the tree and all the family’s presents were IN the living room when the thrashing riot began. Little Billy’s toy horse is now dismembered from a hefty guest’s booted foot. Susan’s Barbie phone will be found broken on the lawn next morning. The tragedy that this carol conjures is evil and in poor taste for such a holy holiday. I, for one, wish you a Merry Christmas, and I mean that.

*or kin; presumably if you had no friends. According to this carol, it already seems that if you have neither then it is not their wish for you to have good tidings despite your loneliness. This is due to the condition of the greeting being for both parties exclusivley.
** After all, it’s mentioned in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, isn’t it? I only saw the movie and they had some there – they made a big deal out of it.
*** C’mon, why do you think we don’t eat it anymore here in the U.S.A.?
****Don’t bother looking it up, just trust me.

No comments: