Give Your Mom Some Cigarettes for Christmas

(I wrote this post for World’s Worst Songs over at Popdose, but then decided not to run it there. So it doesn’t go to waste, I’m editing it some and putting it here. You will probably find my drift to be familiar.) 

Christmas inspires many emotions. Boiling, murderous hatred should not be one of them, but the world does not always conform to our wishes. Of all the things there are to hate in this world, I hate “The Christmas Shoes” more than almost anything else.

“The Christmas Shoes,” for those amongst the readership fortunate enough to have avoided knowledge of it up to this point, was originally recorded by Newsong, a Christian rock outfit from Georgia that toiled in obscurity until “The Christmas Shoes” briefly busted them out of it. The song, about a ragged little boy who can’t afford new shoes for his dying mother and the department-store kibitzer who buys them for him, went to #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at the end of the year 2000. The next year it inspired a novelization, which was turned into a TV movie the year after that. In one of the most delightful pop-culture juxtapositions of all time, the movie starred Rob Lowe, then 14 years removed from pioneering the celebrity sex tape.

Christmas is a sentimental time of year, no doubt. But “The Christmas Shoes” is an especially rank bit of sentimentality built on a relentlessly stupid idea: “I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.” Shoes? The kid wants to buy shoes? What the hell? She ain’t walking anywhere. It won’t be long before her feet gonna be down in the damn casket where nobody can see them. Don’t you know anything about dead, boy?

It would be a lesser waste of the narrator’s money if he bought the kid a carton of cigarettes.

Despite its utter lack of redeeming value, “The Christmas Shoes” remains remarkably popular. People don’t run from the room when it comes on, and they sometimes call radio stations to request it.

Maybe it’s just me who runs from the room. Because I do. Every time.

I’d rather listen to “Same Old Lang Syne.”

On The Subject of Good Holiday Music: I hope you saw the AV Club essay on A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is loaded with solid observations: that the Peanuts perennial represents the last stronghold for two prominent 20th century American art forms now in decline, the comic strip and jazz, and that Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack permits viewers and listeners to improvise their own meanings, of the show and of Christmas itself. It’s the sort of essay I aspire to write, but can’t.

On The Subject of Holidays Past: It’s About TV is a website that shares a mission similar to the one at this blog. Each week, Mitchell Hadley uses past issues of TV Guide as his looking glass, much as we use record charts around these parts, to learn what we can about the way we used to be, and the way we are now. The most recent of these essays looks back to the issue of December 9, 1967. That series of essays in particular and It’s About TV in general are highly recommended.

2 responses

  1. barelyawakeinfrogpajamas | Reply

    I saw the title and knew this was going to be good.

    I don’t believe I’ve heard this seasonal sonic assault, but I do think that “Don’t you know anything about dead, boy?” has a nifty Zevon-like vibe.

  2. Fear that Guaraldi may become lost to us – unless, of course, Charlie Brown survives through Boomer’s sharing him with their Millenial kids – as I did – which allowed me to then share Guaraldi’s music, too….

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