08 December 2009

3 for 1 day- Christmas Song Overload!

Been remiss, so enjoy a three-for-one post about Christmas Songs for Peace.

Obviously "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by John and Yoko comes to mind first when I think of Chirstmas songs written to celebrate or beg for peace.  Featuring the infamous Phil Spector 'wall of sound', it was recorded in October 1971, and the kids singing in the background are the Harlem Community Choir.  Apparently the recording starts with a quiet little whisper from John and Yoko to their children, "merry christmas, Kyoko...merry christmas, Julian" which alone makes me want to cry. 
1971 sucked, despite a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough in China.  The war in Vietnam was a bloodbath.  In April of that year, American deaths in Vietnam passed 45,000.  The Pentagon Papers, the secret archive of the shocking White House administrations' movements towards the war, began to be published in the New York Times.  The captain responsible for the massacre of civilians at My Lai was acqutted of all charges.  What a song to write in the midst of this time in America!  The name of the song comes from John and Yoko's billboard campaign in 1969.  The billboards read, War Is Over (If You Want It)- Happy Christmas from John and Yoko and were installed in eleven cities around the world. 
The song rates on some people's worst Christmas songs ever lists, which is pretty Grinch-like if you ask me.  Yoko's whole schtick annoys me as much as anybody, but come on.  How can you remove a song so completely from its context and find much to gripe about here?  Its a charming melody, even if the words get a little insipid here and there.  My favorite version is by Sarah McLachlan, believe it or not.
By the way, let me inject here a note about the abbreviation "Xmas".  It is not, as some paranoid evangelicals have claimed, "crossing out Christ".  X happens to be a traditional abbreviation for the Saviour, as in the Chi-Rho symbol the emperor Constantine saw in the sky:

representing the first two letters of Christos, Christ, in the Greek, or in the letters inscribed on the cross in the Eastern Orthodox church, the so-called Christogram: 

It stands for, roughly transliterated, without the Greek alphabet, cuz I'm lazy, Iesous Christos.  NIKA, btw, means "conquers".  Jesus Christ Conquers is what this ancient symbol means.
All that to say, the X in Xmas stands for Christ, it doesn't "cross him out".  
Oh dear, I seem to have gone on.