Four Christmas Songs That Make Me Want to Set Myself on Fire

This blog post is coming to you in mid-December, which means that most of you have been enduring non-stop Christmas carols for roughly six weeks now, at the hands of your local retailers' PA systems.

A moment of silence for our brothers and sisters in retail.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Christmas music. Love it. I have "All I Want for Christmas is You" on my Apple-issued listening device, and I rock out to that fucker all year round; December is the only month of the year that I don't have to feel weird about that. 

All I want for Christmas is more 1994 Mariah.

Most popular Christmas songs are all about the good times that the holiday brings; they tell us stories of decking the halls, awaiting Santa Claus' arrival, and celebrating the ability of a congenitally defective reindeer to secure gainful employment as a headlight. Some songs, however, choose to use Christmas as a chance to remind us that life is a meaningless, painful struggle that ends only with the cold oblivion of death. If you're looking for an excuse to douse yourself in kerosene and set yourself ablaze this holiday season, take a moment to listen to four of the most depressing Christmas songs in existence:

The Christmas Shoes (Newsong) - 2000

The Christmas Shoes starts with a man standing in line in a store, waiting to pay for a few last-minutes gifts and generally feeling a little bit grumpy. It's a classic holiday scene; maybe the man is just waiting for a Christmas miracle to come along and boost his holiday spirits until he sweats egg nog and shits tinsel. Or maybe this is a comedy song about the commercial hassle that Christmas has become, with all the shopping and standing in line and airplane food, what's up with that?

Turns out that no, this is not a comedy song.

The man finally pulls his head out of his well-fed, middle-class ass long enough to notice that the customer ahead of him in line is an antsy and thoroughly filthy little boy, clutching a pair of shoes. The boy gets up to the cashier, and because children have no idea how to protect themselves from child molesters by withholding personal information, he proceeds to blurt out his life story with no prompting whatsoever. It turns out that he needs the shoes because they're his sick mother's size and he wants her to look nice when she goes off to "meet Jesus" that night. 

Hint: "meeting Jesus" means she's either dying or she's got an appointment with a burly Mexican biker.

The boy tries to pay for the shoes with a fistful of pennies but comes up short, because he belongs to a special kind of poor family that values fancy new shoes over things like 'food', 'running water' and 'spending the last moments of your mother's life at her side, instead of haggling with a cashier over footwear'. The singer then heroically steps up to pay for the shoes and basks in his new-found Christmas spirit; he even muses that God probably murdered that child's mother just so he could reclaim the holiday joy of standing in line to buy his wife some mustache bleach for Christmas. This song isn't the only one to lean on the crutch of "kill off the maternal figure", however. After all, there's...

Mama Liked the Roses (Elvis Presley) - 1969

Until my mother pointed out to me that this song actually appears on Elvis' Christmas Album, I'd assumed this it was written for the sole purpose of being played at the funerals of dead mothers. The words "Christmas", "holiday", and "sweet, sweet baby Jesus" never actually appear in this song, but since it's wedged between "Blue Christmas" and "Silent Night", radio DJs force themselves to play it on the air every December.

This might not be the best choice for your Christmas caroling group.

Elvis recounts how Mama enjoyed tending a rose garden in her yard each year, but, tragically, she found it difficult to keep her roses growing properly in mid-winter. Plants don't grow well in the winter, you see. Whenever rose-growing got too hard, Mama would comfort her family by, uh, decorating the living room for them. And also, she liked to sing every Sunday until her son cried. And she always made sure that everyone prayed a lot. Wait, what is this song even about?

Apparently he was raised by a religious, interior-decorating rose fanatic. Huh. Explains a lot.

Some time later, Elvis comes across a dried rose tucked in the pages of the old family Bible. This really cements just how gosh darn much his mother loved roses, which is convenient, because that's what they put on her grave every Mother's Day. Wait, Mother's Day? Isn't this a Christmas song? If I knew you were going to throw dead parents at me without even having the courtesy to sing about the proper holiday, Elvis, I'd have declared Burning Love to be a Christmas song and saved myself a lot of misery. But as it turns out, not every Christmas song needs a dead mother to be depressing - just take a listen to...

Fairytale of New York (The Pogues) - 1987

Don't get me wrong here - I love Fairytale of New York. It's one of my favourite songs of all time, Christmas be damned. But take a listen to the lryics. This modern classic opens with a man rotting in a New York City drunk tank on Christmas Eve, listening to a wasted old man singing about how he plans to be dead by next Christmas, and bemoaning his unsalvageable, needy farce of a relationship. Gosh, I just feel so warm and fuzzy already, don't you?

I embedded the version with lyrics. You're gonna need 'em.

As the song progresses, we learn that the man's wife/girlfriend/personal harpy came to New York because the man promised her that she was destined for a successful Broadway career. When this didn't pan out - presumably because she has a voice like an eighty-year-old Irish horse - she spiraled into a hopeless and debilitating cycle of drug abuse. Her inability to sing, dance and act with New York's finest, and her inability to handle disappointment without re-enacting the plot of Requiem for a Dream are apparently completely the man's fault, because of course they are.

Maybe she's just getting ready to audition for RENT?

When the woman finishes her tirade, the man reveals that he has shaped his whole life around his lover, placing his entire chance at happiness and self-worth in her basket of Broadway dreams. Since it's too late for her to achieve any of those dreams, both of them are doomed to suffer together in obscurity, struggling with their unhealthily interdependent relationship. The woman mentions that she hopes this is their last Christmas together, but the man makes it clear that they're both so entrenched in this relationship that it's come to define both of them, as they endlessly replay the memory of the Christmas Eve when they met. Have I mentioned that in Ireland, this is considered the greatest Christmas song of all time? 

Ireland? Are you okay? Do you need to talk to someone?

All that aside, it's still an objectively great song. If you make it past the first one minute and twenty-three seconds without hanging yourself in your closet, it takes on a delightfully jaunty Irish tune. Plus, it's the only Christmas song in which you'll find the lyrics "Old slut on junk" and "Cheap, lousy faggot". In any case, it's certainly less gloomy than...

The Cat Carol (Bruce Evans and Meryn Cadell) - 1993

This is it, folks. Put away the razor blades and hide the ammunition, because if you aren't feeling manically suicidal by the end of this song, you need to see a cardiologist to re-start your cold, blackened heart. Emotionally charged, touching Christmas songs have been popular for years, but songwriter Bruce Evans decided to get behind the wheel of that bandwagon and steer it right over the embankment of animal abuse and dead pets.


The Cat Carol, which boasts the lyrical complexity of a six-year-old's garbled rendition of Jingle Bells, tells the story of a cat who gets shut outside in a blizzard on Christmas eve. Despite her anguished cries of pain and misery, the house's occupants refuse to let her inside, presumably because they're far too busy eating cold gruel and denying health insurance to orphans. This cat isn't bright enough to find any form of shelter whatsoever, as she apparently lives in a neighborhood completely devoid of decks, porches, cars, sheds and oversized lawn ornaments, so she hunkers down in the yard and prepares to die of exposure. Just then, a tiny, frozen mouse who's also too dumb to find shelter wanders by, and the cat proposes that they set their differences aside so they can cuddle up together and keep each other company through the storm.

Enjoy the heartwarming feeling, because this is the last time you will ever feel joy.

Up until this point, the song sounds like PETA's new winter jingle, but we're reminded that this is a Christmas song when Santa shows up! Hooray! They're saved! Santa discovers the little ball of fur nestled in the snow and quickly realizes that it's... the frozen corpse of the cat. He lifts her carcass into the sleigh and the mouse pops out, still alive and healthy. The little mouse is overjoyed to learn that the two of them have been rescued, until his cat friend fails to wake up and Santa is forced to explain that she froze to death in an attempt to save him. 

Ho ho holy shit, that's dark.

But not to worry, the song has a happy ending! It's too late for Santa to save the cat's life, but he lifts her into the sky and turns her into a constellation that will appear only on Christmas eve, so that the mouse and the cat can be reunited once a year. It's a beautiful ending, until you realize that the average life expectancy of a mouse in the wild is less than one year; he'll be dead by next Christmas, and the cat constellation will live on as a meaningless clump of stars, symbolizing a sacrifice that no one will be around to recognize.

Merry Christmas, kids.


  1. Hahaha. This is an amusing post.

  2. I love how Rob Lowe shows and is some angry, scary adult. Why the hell did he agree to star in this music video- isn't he successful or something?

  3. Oh my gawd, I could not agree with you more! The Cat Carol and Christmas Shoes are the most emotionally manipulative, maudlin, depressing piles of sludge I've ever heard in what is supposed to be a jolly season. Death, animal abuse and ugly crying? Hey give me some of that with my jingle bells.


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