One year, my brother, sister and I were driving to my mom's house for Christmas. My sister, Jessie, and I insisted on listening to Christmas songs the whole ride over - much to my brother Matt's dismay.
To display his intense displeasure with Christmas songs, he would yell the lyrics loudly over each song, making it less enjoyable for the others in the car to listen to.
When an instrumental version of "Sleigh Ride" came on, I thought he'd temporarily shut his merry lil' trap until the next song came on, since he couldn't possibly belt out orchestral sounds with his mouth.
I was wrong. Sort of.
He continued his singing, but since he didn't know many of the lyrics to "Sleigh Ride" other than "Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you," he chose to hum in tune to the rest of the song, while still singing the one line he knew, even louder than before. Matt's rendition went something like this:
Hmm Hmm Hmm Hmm Hmm Hmm Hm HMMMMCOME ON IT'S LOVELY WEATHER FOR A SLEIGH RIDE TOGETHER WITH YOU!Hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm HMMMMCOME ON IT'S LOVELY WEATHER FOR A SLEIGH RIDE TOGETHER WITH YOU!
Print doesn't quite do his "singing" justice, but use your imagination. While blocking my ears, I tried to play the song in my head to drown out Matt. However, I soon realized I didn't know the lyrics either. Granted, I knew more than Matt . . . but past "giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up it's grand, just holding your hand," I was clueless. Where would this couple go on their sleigh ride? Would they have fun? Would they get into some trouble? Would one of their horses run away? I didn't know, and this irked me more than Matt's singing.
I began to think of all the other songs I didn't know the lyrics to past the first couple of lines. Perhaps some lyrics are forgotten for a reason. According to Carolyn Parrott at the Concord Community Music School, it's because people don't go around singing as much as they used to. I agree with her, but I also think other lyrics are forgotten because, well, nowadays they just don't make a whole lot of sense. For example, Kevin Trottier, inspired by "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," wrote about his quest for figgy pudding in last week's issue. It's a dessert that was so delicious it made people demand for it via song, yet Kevin couldn't find any recipe for the figgy treat or a restaurant willing to serve it.
Blame it on the lack of carolers. Blame it on the "youth these days" or the internet. Whatever the reason, here are a few favorite lyrics I found that time forgot. I know some of you Christmas-song aficionados already know the lyrics, but I wanted to share my discoveries with those who are just like me, and completely in the dark when it comes to certain holiday tunes.
Since I did all this research for you, readers, I ask just one favor in return. Please, please don't show this article to my brother. I don't know if I could take another car ride with him singing along.
I felt it appropriate to start with this song, since I'm sure those who aren't familiar with the rest of the lyrics are dying to know what happens to our sleigh-riding couple. Well, apparently after their cheeks get "nice and rosy," they head over to a birthday party fit for a farmer. Hmm, who knew?
Here's the part I bet you already know:
Our cheeks are nice and rosy and comfy cozy are we.
We're snuggled up together like two birds of a feather would be.
Let's take the road before us and sing a chorus or two.
Come on it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.
Now, here's what I didn't know:
There's a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray
It'll be the perfect ending of a perfect day.
We'll be singing the songs we love to sing without a single stop
at the fireplace while we watch the chestnuts pop.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
when they pass around the coffee and pumpkin pie.
It'll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives.
These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives.
I don't know who Farmer Gray is, but apparently he prefers to stray from typical birthday traditions, and, instead of having a birthday cake, he would really rather have some pumpkin pie and coffee. That's fair. I applaud your decision, Farmer Gray, for I like pumpkin pie, too.
However, I can't help but feel the ending of this song is really a Currier and Ives marketing ploy. Currier and Ives produced art during the 19th century and according to currierandives.net, was "some of the most iconic and popular American art."
The few pieces I recognized on the website I have seen duplicated on Christmas cards. Since Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives, the company's founders, died in the late 1800s, now Hallmark can use the song as a clever marketing ploy . . . if the company hasn't already.
Now, I thought I knew this one, but man, oh man, was I wrong.
Here's the part we all know:
Dashing through the snow
on a one horse open sleigh,
over the fields we go,
laughing all the way.
Bells on bobtail ring,
making spirits bright,
What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight.
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!
Oh what fun it is to ride
in a one horse open sleigh.
Here's what I have never, ever heard. Ever:
A day or two ago,
I thought I'd take a ride,
and soon Miss Fanny Bright
was seated by my side,
The horse was lean and lank,
misfortune seemed his loft,
he got into a drifted bank,
and then we got upsot.
Nothing says holiday cheer, like singing about a horse crash! Let's also note the word "upsot," which is no longer used by us present-day folk. I did some research online, and there are a few differing opinions on what this word means. One person suggested that if you look up the word "sot" in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, you'll find that the definition is "a habitual drunkard," so that must mean that after Miss Fanny Bright and the narrator toppled over, they were so distressed that they started hitting the bottle.
I find this doubtful. Amusing, but doubtful.
Another person suggested that it means "turned over," and made reference to "upsot" being used in two 19th century poems, where that definition would make perfect sense. I think I'll side with this person and go with "turned over" as the forgotten definition for a forgotten word in some forgotten lyrics.
The song continues:
A day or two ago,
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow
and on my back I fell,
A gent was riding by
in a one-horse open sleigh,
he laughed as there
I sprawling lie, but quickly drove away.
Wow, this narrator is really quite misfortunate. Not only did he get into an "upsotting" horse accident the other day, but now he fell and possibly damaged his back. And as if this weren't bad enough, he got laughed at by some "gent" passing by! Gent?! More like . . . jerk! The song goes on, but I'm too upsot to bother with it.
My guess is that people choose to forget the lyrics mentioned above, because, well . . . they're kind of depressing. No one wants to hear that stuff on Christmas.
Oddly enough, the song wasn't even meant for Christmas. New Englander James S. Pierpont wrote "The One Horse Open Sleigh" (aka "Jingle Bells") approximately 100 years ago for a Sunday school class during Thanksgiving.
According to americanmusicpreservation.com, Mr. Jingle Bells' entire family was against slavery. All, except himself. Besides penning one of America's favorite Christmas songs, he also wrote "Strike for the South" and "We Conquer or Die." I have to admit, I'm glad "Jingle Bells" was the only song he wrote that became popular.
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
I hear this song the most in department stores or commercials for department stores, so I've never paid too much attention to the lyrics. Until now.
Here are a few nice, pleasant gems from the song:
It's the most wonderful time of the year!
There'll be much mistletoeing
and hearts will be flowing
when loved ones are near.
It's the most wonderful time of the year!
There'll be parties for hosting
marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow.
There'll be scary ghost stories
and tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago.
Sounds like a lovely Christmas to me! Parties, kissing under the mistletoe and caroling all sound like a blast. But, wait, what's that about scary ghost stories? Where are there scary ghost stories on Christmas? The only acceptable Christmas "ghost story" I can think of is "A Christmas Carol," when Scrooge gets visited by the three ghosts. That, though, is only one story - the lyrics clearly denote more than one story.
Father: Kids! Gather around, it's story time!
Kids: Yay! Are you going to tell us about Frosty the Snowman?
Father: Nope! Better!
Kids: Oh! About Rudolph?
Father: No! Guess again.
Kids: Hmm. Are you going to tell us about the horrific tale of the headless horseman or some other scary ghost story, that will leave us up all night and not able to sleep?
Father: You bet'cha!
Kids: Hooray!! Nightmares for all!
The lyrics I found for this song that were "forgotten" were actually the song's first few lines:
Christmas makes you feel emotional
It may bring parties or thoughts devotional
Whatever happens or what may be
Here is what Christmas time means to me
Then, it bursts into the part I do recognize:
City sidewalk, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style.
In the air there's a feeling of Christmas.
Perhaps I just never paid enough attention to the beginning of the song, but I've never heard those first four lines. Personally, I think those lyrics should be forgotten, if they haven't been already, as they are just a little too cutesy and rhymey-rhymey for my tastes. Bah-humbug!
I'm quite sure there are several other Christmas songs with lyrics that have also been forgotten. I'm also certain some of the lyrics above may have never been forgotten at all for some Christmas song lovers. These are just the lyrics that I have never heard, or the ones I think don't quite belong. And I would like to think that I know a thing or two about Christmas lyrics since I thoroughly enjoyed singing these songs back in my elementary-school chorus heyday.
Whether or not your holidays include scary ghost stories or horse collisions, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a fantastically happy holiday!