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Each Christmas, starting days after Thanksgiving, local radio stations in stores start playing Christmas carols to put us in the Christmas spirit.

Unfortunately, underneath the cheerful music and positive associations with the songs are sometimes very disturbing or confusing lyrics. We’d like to help you understand and cope with the most bewildering Christmas carols.

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

While some of the Christmas carols slip in sly lines or confusing lyrics somewhere in a long-forgotten verse, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer hits you with the bad news right up front. It starts bad and gets worse. Sure she got run over by a reindeer, but the details are worse yet:

She’d been drinking too much eggnog

And we begged her not to go

But she forgot her medication

And she stumbled out the door into the snow.

It’s all there: alcoholism, elder abuse, a drunken walk into the path of Santa’s sleigh.

Fortunately the song offers a little bit of redemption and Christmas spirit. The unlikely and tragic meeting of sleigh and grandmother lead to a permanent belief in the existence of Santa Claus for the author and his grandfather.

Santa Baby

Sure some of us prefer baby Santa just like we prefer little baby Jesus as featured in Talladega Nights. But the Santa Baby in this holiday classic is not a baby at all. Instead, this Santa may well be holding a pair of devils horns in his back pocket, because the singer wants to get naughty.

The song is primarily just a list of what the singer wants from Santa. But then they throw in this reminder of what they have given up to deserve these gifts:

Think of all the fun I’ve missed

Think of all the fellas I haven’t kissed

Next year I could be just as good

If you check off my Christmas list.

So it works sort of as a love song, and sort of as a ransom note for the relationship. “Give me all the things I want or else I will cheat on you.” As Christmas songs ago, this isn’t the most spiritually resonant theme.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

Perhaps no Christmas song has caused as much anger, confusion, and discussion as Baby It’s Cold Outside. Conceived as a harmless flirtation between two consenting adults on a cold winter’s evening, the lyrics of taking on new meaning in the Me Too era.

Is it a song about the blossoming of true love in an era where repressive rules meant that adults had to make up an excuse when spending the night at each others’ house? Is it a song about a man refusing to take “no” as an answer, over and over again?

In this verse the woman is asking the questions, with the man’s comments in parenthesis.

The neighbors might think (Baby it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell) (Why thank you)
I ought to say no, no, no sir (Mind if move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)

Was she drugged? Or are they laying a plan for describing how they will talk to their neighbors and friends about breaking standard norms?

Like the visual of the vase or the two faces, it all depends on how you choose to look at it.

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