I Don't Believe In The Little Drummer BoyErik Deckers
Rather than writing a new post, on Wednesdays I republish some of my old columns. Since it's 2 days before Christmas, I'm publishing one of my favorite Christmas columns, my complaint about the song, "The Little Drummer Boy."
Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. My birthday, my anniversary, and any other occasion where people give me presents are also big favorites.
To get myself into the Christmas spirit, I listen to Christmas music. I hit the department stores around August to hear "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bell Rock." But it's a wonder most sales clerks don't go postal on their customers by mid-November.
I love the classics -- "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night" or the Sex Pistols' "Have Yourself a Merry $%@&! Christmas." But the new songs are awful, and I've been known to run my radio through with a pitchfork whenever I hear them.
One of my least favorite Christmas songs ever is Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming To Town." It's nothing but 20 minutes of Bruce singing "Santa Claus is coming to town" over and over. And over. By the time Bruce has finished with his Yuletide droning, Santa is back home, slamming Upside-Down Margaritas with the elves.
But that's nothing compared to the worst Christmas song ever, the song that makes me want to sleep straight to Easter: "The Little Drummer Boy." Not only do they sing the same phrase over and over -- pa-rum pum pum pum -- but the song isn't that believable.
I realize songs about a fat guy sliding down chimneys or a flying reindeer with a halogen nose aren't so believable, but at least they're grounded in reality.
First of all, drums do not go "pa-rum pum pum pum." As any parent of a child with a toy drum knows, a drum is a loud percussive instrument. They do not make pleasant little melodies sung by children's choirs. They make headaches. Drums go "KA-WHAM WHAP WHAP WHAP!"
When the Little Drummer Boy asks Mary if he could play a song for the Baby Jesus -- pa-rum pum pum pum -- no one says, "Wait a minute! That kid is just going to pound a drum. Somebody stop him!"
Giving the gift of music is a very noble sentiment, because it comes from the heart. And most importantly, it's the thought that counts, unless you really wanted that big screen high-definition TV instead. But when your newborn baby has finally gone to sleep after screaming for 6 hours because his bed is made of straw and smells like cow poo, do you really want someone going "ka-wham whap whap whap!" at him?
And what about Mary? What did she do? According to the song, she just nodded -- pa-rum pum pum pum -- listened attentively, and smiled quietly to herself. Not being a mother, I can't speak for other mothers. But I'll wager your Christmas gifts that if you've been riding on a donkey for several days, and then spent the last 36 hours in labor, you wouldn't want some snot-nosed kid showing up to beat a drum at you. The song would be more accurate if it said "Mary leapt off her stool and chased the little brat away, pa-rum pum pum pum. "
Don't forget the ox and lambs that kept time -- pa-rum pum pum pum. Not likely. Oxen are tone deaf and lambs don't have a well-developed sense of rhythm. Besides, the drum in question was probably made out of oxen or lambskin, so they probably would not have appreciated the cosmic coincidence of the situation.
"Then He smiled at me" (pa-rum pum pum pum). I have an easier time believing the ox and lambs doffed top hats and did "Puttin' On the Ritz." How would you feel if you had been removed from a nice warm womb and stuck in a bed of itchy, smelly straw when some jerk beats a drum at you?
Here's a test. Go find a newborn baby and start pa-rum pum pum pumming on a pot with a couple of wooden spoons. If he smiles at that, he's colicky.
I'm all for the magic and wonder of Christmas. But I know mothers. And I know babies. And I know that mothers don't want anyone pounding drums around with their babies.
Gift of music or not, beating on a lambskin stretched over a hollow log is not something a new mother wants to deal with. I realize we're talking about Mary, the mother of the Messiah, but everyone has a limit to their patience. And little drummer boys are probably pushing that limit.
If the kid really wanted to be helpful, he should have given her something useful, like a set of earplugs or a gift certificate for the local day spa.
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