Christmas is here. All around the world, friends and family are gathering to celebrate love and being together. It really is a magical time of year. There is something intangible in the air and even the biggest Scrooge can feel the spirit of Christmas. That unified bond amongst all people and the shared love is the true meaning of Christmas.
Although, it is easy to be cynical about Christmas and the feeling is not entirely unjustifiable. With each new year, it does appear that the true meaning of Christmas is diminishing. In its place, there is rampant commercialization, debt, and a manufactured holiday that is merely a husk of what Christmas really is. I try not to subscribe to this point of view, but it does get increasingly difficult.
One of my favorite aspects of Christmas, other than being with family, is the music. I absolutely love Christmas music. Everything from the traditional carols to the contemporary pop songs, there is very little I do not like. Recently, I was invited to a friend’s Christmas party where we were set to record a Christmas album. Everyone brought an instrument and a song that they wanted to perform. The idea was that people could perform individually, or have the song turn into one festive jam session.
The song I came prepared with was “I Believe in Father Christmas” by Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I’ve known this song for years and I truly appreciate the composition and meaning behind the song. I thought it would’ve been an appropriate choice for a crowd of alternative, indie, and punk loving millennials. However, when it was my turn to propose a song, no one at the party knew the song. Not a single person.
I was a bit surprised by that, but I guess I shouldn’t have been. Emerson, Lake & Palmer doesn’t have a strong presence in the U.S., the Americans refer to the jolly gift-giving figure as Santa Claus as opposed to Father Christmas, and the song doesn’t fit in with the Christmas narrative that is so popular in the U.S.
“I Believe in Father Christmas” is the ultimate song about the cynicism one could feel about the holiday season. It is a song about being disillusioned by the idolization of Father Christmas and the lies surrounding the myth of the holidays. In it, Lake has fully realized everything he was told about Christmas wasn’t true and that these lies were manufactured by the department stores and advertising agencies. Lake was told there would be snow on Christmas and peace on earth, but all he see when he looks out his window is rain. This Christmas, there would be no silent night. He was sold a fairy story that he believed to be true. Where was the Christmas he had read about in story books and had seen in the department store windows?
Despite his cynicism and being disillusioned by Christmas, Lake still wants the listener to get the Christmas they deserve. He tosses away the distracting elements of Christmas and wishes you a hopeful Christmas and a brave new year. Those sentiments are what Christmas is really about, but they are ideas that seem to have been lost in time.
“I Believe in Father Christmas” was never meant to be a Christmas classic. Lake had no intention to write a Christmas song. He wanted to write a song about the loss of innocence and the childlike belief we have during the holiday season. However, it has now entered the Christmas music lexicon. I don’t find this ironic, but rather quite appropriate. As much as I love Christmas, the commercialization and phony nostalgia has gotten out of hand.
I think the reason why Lake’s song has continued to be popular is that the song is more relevant now than ever before. We need more songs like “I Believe in Father Christmas.” Songs that remind us the true meaning of Christmas and that we must stay grounded. Christmas is not about how much you can spend on someone, it is about how much time and love you can spend with the people close to you.
I hope “I Believe in Father Christmas” becomes more popular in America. It seems Americans are the ones most vocal about the deadening spirit of Christmas while also simultaneously contributing to the death of it. Beyond the meaning the song, it is an incredibly beautiful song with an elegant guitar. It continues to be one of my favorites along with the grand cover by U2. Most of my friends love putting together Christmas mixes for the holidays. I hope they will consider this one because it is the one song that perfectly encapsulates what Christmas is and what it will continue to be.