Nunc Scio Considers: Weird Holiday Songs

Entry the first: The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot You've heard them: the bizarro Christmas songs that get played on the radio in December because they feature 'Christmas', 'Holiday', 'Jesus' or 'Snow' somewhere in the chrous. They confuse. They anger. They make you feel bad and conflicted about something that should make you feel good. So, in honour of the Holiday Season, I've decided to take a closer look at some of these Yuletide oddities. [N.B. I was planning on doing a lot more of these, but the 'man' says I have to 'work' in order to get 'paid'. Ah, well. No pop culture snarkiness for the white collar salary monkey. Or, at least not as much.]

First under the microscope is Nat King Cole's The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot:

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Right away, this song is weird. Santa isn't supposed to forget anybody. He can actively deny presents to the poorly behaved, he can overlook entire religious denominations, but surely any man who can deliver presents to the entire Christian world in an evening has a fairly efficient logistics management system.

And it just gets weirder. Check out these lyrics:

He's the little boy that Santa Claus forgot, And goodness knows, he didn't want a lot.

He sent a note to Santa For some soldiers and a drum, It broke his little heart When he found Santa hadn't come.

In the street he envies all those lucky boys, Then wanders home to last year's broken toys. I'm so sorry for that laddie, He hasn't got a daddy, The little boy that Santa Claus forgot.

The hell? First of all, this is borderline tragic. Dude just wanted some toy soldiers and a drum, and Santa totally let him down. There's no mention of the kid being bad or undeserving. If anything, the kid is considerably less greedy than his peers. His neighbourhood chums, little more than a collection of simpering Little Lord Fauntleroys, now get to play with their shiny new gizmos while the titular 'boy' goes home to a busted Etch-A-Sketch and a pile of sticks he collected in th back yard. Lame, Santa. Lame. How did this scenario play out? Did Santa just 'miss' the kid's house while making his deliveries? If so, he should have realized his error when he got back to the North Pole with a couple of soldiers and drums left in his bag. If, as I've been led to believe, Santa has the ability to stop time, an extra trip to deliver the truant toys would be no problem.

I guess another explanation is, owing to some bizarre clerical error, the little boy was just left off the list. But I'm not sure this is much better. As children, we're taught to believe that Santa is an omnipotent present-bringing ninja. So now we're supposed to believe that Santa's operation has the bureacratic effectiveness of, say, the Department of Motor Vehicles? Either way, Santa is either incompetent or suffering from early-onset dementia. Not the image I like to hold of the jolly old elf.

And, to add to this symphony of misery, the poor kid is also fatherless. Charitably, we can assume that the songwriter's intent was to frame the tragedy of absent fathers with the added emotional weight of Christmas. 'Santa' [wink, wink] is really 'dad', and therefore a fatherless child gets no love from Kris Kringle. Very prescient. But we have to remember that the average (un-ironic) Christmas song-listener is probably 6-11 years old. The subtleties of the social commentary will be largely lost on them, and instead they get to be afraid that they, too, will be forgotten by a magical man they are supposed to love. Nothing like getting an early start on the whole 'unfeeling universe' ennui.

Despite these blazing contradictions, The Little Boy That Santa Claus forgot still gets substantial airplay this time of year, and crops up on all sorts of holiday collections. It's almost as if the DJs and producers haven't actually listened to the song. This is not a heart-warming tale of brotherly love, peace on earth, or childhood whimsy. It is a bleak story of loneliness, economic privation and the breakdown of the nuclear family in post-WWII America.

Thus, and for the additional weirdness of being covered by Pink Floyd, The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot can be rightfully ensconsed in the gallery of weird Christmas songs.