Even the most hardened horror fan loves a Christmas song. Whenever wrapping presents, prepping food or decorating the tree, the cheerful little tunes play on repeat in the background. They’re designed to get us into the festive spirit – but how many classic jingles have you really listened to? Sure there’s jolly old St. Nicholas and goodwill cheer, but often these songs touch on issues such as death, poverty and abuse. Yikes!
Here’s a few Christmas songs with disturbing origins, or which contain worrying themes and messages. We promise you’ll never listen to these disturbing Christmas songs them the same way again.
Coventry Carol is an English carol dating back to the fifteenth century. It was traditionally performed in Coventry in England as part of a mystery play which depicted the murder of the innocents by King Herod from the Bible. Even more unsettling – the song takes the form of a lullaby sung by the mothers of the doomed children. The Old English text might be a little odd to us, but intention of the songs is totally clear with the lyrics “Herod the king, in his raging, Chargèd he hath this day, His men of might in his own sight, All young children to slay”
Thought Krampus was creepy? The Alpine folklore character may have even more terrifying competition with Jólakötturinn, payed tribute to in the song The Icelandic Christmas Cat. The song is extremely popular in Iceland, and describes monster from Icelandic folklore – a huge and vicious cat said to lurk about the snowy countryside during Christmas time and eat people who have not received any new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve. Because clothes were given as payment for finishing the Autumn harvest, those without new clothes were deemed ‘lazy’.
Something of a modern classic, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer does kinda make you pause and thing ‘who thought this was a good idea’. Sure, it’s played for laughs and probably supposed to come across as charming and whimsical. But the description of finding Grandma’s corpse following her hit-and-run accident is a little less than cheery – “When they found her Christmas mornin’, At the scene of the attack, There were hoof prints on her forehead, And incriminating’ Claus marks on her back”
Baby It’s Cold Outside has an interesting history. Generally sung as a duet, it was originally viewed as presenting a liberating stand for women, because the female guest decides to stay despite what the neighbors might say about her reputation. However, a modern analysis of the song finds some lines that don’t sound quite right, including the infamous “What’s in this drink?” and “The answer is no!”. The original score for the piece named the two characters as ‘mouse’ and ‘wolf’, which really isn’t helping it’s predatory image.
As adults, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus probably seems okay. Presumably Daddy dressed as Santa and the kid walked in at the wrong moment on Christmas Eve. A little unsettling, but think about it from the child’s point of view. He actually believes his mother is cheating, and what’s worse is his reaction. Apparently mommy and daddy have an…open relationship, as his first thought when he spots her embracing a bearded stranger is ‘I bet Daddy would like to watch’.
You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch was created for the 1966 cartoon version of Dr. Seuss’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas, with the lyrics written by Seuss himself. On closer listening however, it’s less of a Christmas song and more of a string of creative insults. So the next time someone is getting on your nerves, you can dismiss them creatively with such lines as “You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch. You have termites in your smile, You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr Grinch. Given the choice between the two of you, I’d take the seasick crocodile.”