Mark's Musings

A miscellany of thoughts and opinions from an unimportant small town politician and bit-part web developer

I Believe in Father Christmas

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Another classic Christmas song from my childhood. Here’s Greg Lake, with I Believe in Father Christmas.

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 winter’s 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 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

Like yesterday’s poem by Thomas Hardy, Greg Lake’s song is a critique of Christmas rather than a celebration of it. Like Hardy, Lake starts by telling the tale of a childhood Christmas, in this case with “the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell”, but then turns his back on that in the second verse where he laments the “fairy story” he was told about the “Israelite” and Father Christmas. The darkness of the lyrics contrasts with the the use of a motif taken from Prokofiev’s Troika, itself a quintessential Christmas melody. In the final verse, Lake recites a list of typical Christmas card sentiments – “I wish you a hopeful Christmas” – and then metaphorically shrugs his shoulders and tells his listeners “be it heaven or hell, the Christmas you get you deserve”. It’s probably the bleakest song ever to reach the Christmas charts.

Just in case you feel that Lake’s lyrics are too depressing, here’s the original source of his melodic riff. This is Troika, from Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with a selection of seasonal photos from my own collection.