Monday, December 20, 2010

They told me a fairy story

Variously described by its creators as a song bemoaning the commercialization of Christmas or the loss of innocence, I Believe In Father Christmas by Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield has been a popular entry of the holiday season since 1974. Careful compilers of packaged Christmas tunes for CDs and shopping mall background music may take pains not to include this song among the collections as it has been often received as having an anti-religion theme. I myself am usually surprised to hear it in a mall because of its reputation. Then again, stores seem to have no compunction against playing during all the other months of the year the song Turning Japanese, a racially insensitive tune some claim to be referencing masturbation.

The official video I Believe In Father Christmas contains Vietnam War era imagery and received criticism for including such topics. This lends credence to the proposal that most people really misunderstood the meaning of the song, even if it is open to some interpretation. I included the lyrics so one may judge for themselves.

I Believe In Father Christmas has been covered by a number of artists. Greg Lake brought it over from his solo effort to the band Emerson, Lake and Palmer with which he was a member of but its most recent success was the cover performed by the band U2.

They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on Earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin's birth

I remember one Christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas Tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a Silent Night
And they told me a fairy story
'Till I believed in the Israelite

And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
'Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear

They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah Noel be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas you get you deserve.

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