Singing A Different Christmas Song

There’s something inherently wrong with radio stations playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving. I suppose it’s because there really isn’t Thanksgiving music to play. In that regard, it makes sense. I don’t recall ever hearing the song “Grandma Got Run Over By a 22-Pound Butterball.”

So OK, pre-Thanksgiving Christmas music it is. But I can’t really get into the spirit of the music until after the Thanksgiving holiday has officially passed.

But once I do get in the spirit, it creates an entirely different challenge for me: For as many times as I’ve heard those standard Christmas classics, sometimes  I can’t remember the words to the songs.

At first, I thought this might be unusual, a product of older ears and an even older brain. But then I discovered that even the songwriters of those wonderful Christmas songs sometimes can’t remember the words.

How else to explain the abundance of pa rum pum-pum pums, thumpety thump-thumps, and fa la la la las strewn throughout our favorite Christmas songs? These songwriters were merrily writing along, lost the train of thought, and said, ‘Oh, well, pa rum pum-pum pum.”

There are five verses and 24 lines in the song “Deck the Halls.” Exactly 12 of those lines are “fa la la la la, la-la la la.” So right there, even if I forget the words, I know half the song if I can remember the fa la-las.

However, as an example of my holiday musical inadequacies, I offer this tidbit: I can get through the first few lines of “Jingle Bells”: “Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh. O’er the fields we go, laughing all the way.” (I am particularly good at the “ho-ho-ho” part at this point in the song.)

But then it begins to break down.

“Bells on bobtail ring, roody-toody-too, doody-doody fa-la-la and and a ho-ho scooby doo.”

Ohhhhhhhh . . .  crap. I don’t even know what a bobtail ring is, but that line I can remember. Go figure.

There is even a verse of “Jingle Bells” that I had never heard until I took the time to look up the lyrics of the song, which was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857.

Here is the unknown – at least to me – fourth verse:


“A day or two ago, the story I must tell. 

I went out in the snow, and on my back I fell. 

A gent was riding by,

in a one-horse open sleigh.

He laughed as there I sprawling lie,

but quickly drove away.”


How’s that for the old Christmas spirit? Here’s a guy who falls out of his sleigh and goes elbows over teakettle right into the snow. Along comes his neighbor in his own one-horse sleigh and instead of being a “gent” like he is described in the song and helping his fallen friend, this jamoke laughs at the unfortunate fellow who has fallen and then drives away without lifting a finger to help him.

Merry bleepin’ Christmas, pal.

Then there’s the classic “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen. But I start to stumble when I get to Comet and Happy, Sneezy, Dopey, Doc, Dick, Dave, Dirk, Duke, Dork, Shreck, Moe, Larry and Curly.

Apparently, not only can’t I keep track of the names, but I lose the ability to count to eight when it comes to tiny reindeer.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Santa Claus is Coming to Town, for two reasons, one of which is that I actually know all the words to that song. I suspect the “naughty or nice” line made quite an impression on my when I was a youngster to the point that I didn’t want to take any chance of getting on the naughty list by not knowing the words to the song.

The other reason I like the song is that one of the co-writers of this 1934 tune is named J. Fred Coots. And that’s just a fun name to say. I’d like to think that he may have lived in Hooterville at some point in his life.

And finally, I’ve always liked is “Winter Wonderland,” written by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith, also in 1934, a big year for Christmas songwriters it seems.

There is a second “in the meadow” verse that goes like this:


“In the meadow we can build a snowman,

and pretend that he’s a circus clown.

We’ll have lots of fun with mister snowman,

until the other kids knock him down.”


Must be the kids of the guy who left his neighbor lying in the “Jingle Bells” snowdrift.

With all due respect to the song “The Little Drummer Boy,” that is what’s called a Christmas rim shot.

Pa rum pum-pum pum indeed.

Michael Morsch

Michael Morsch

Mike Morsch is a freelance writer from suburban Philadelphia. His award-winning weekly "Outta Leftfield" humor column appeared in Montgomery Media's 15 newspapers and websites for 10 years. He is also the author of the book, "Dancing in My Underwear: The Soundtrack of My Life," which is about growing up with the music of the 1960s and 1970s.
Michael Morsch
Michael Morsch
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