I Don't Believe in the Little Drummer Boy - 2008
I Don't Believe in the Little Drummer BoyErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Christmas is a time of traditions. One of Erik's Christmas traditions is to reprint the Little Drummer Boy column because he's usually on the couch, sleeping off too much egg nog again.
Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. My birthday, my anniversary, and any other time people give me presents are also big favorites.
To get myself into the Christmas spirit, I like to listen to Christmas music. So I hit the department stores around mid-August to hear "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bell Rock." But while I appreciate the Christmas cheer, I'm amazed the sales clerks haven't killed anyone by the middle of November.
I'm a big fan of the classics, "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night" and the Sex Pistols' "Have Yourself a Merry $%@! Christmas." But there are a few songs that, given a choice, I'd attack my radio with a pick axe before listening to them again.
One of my least favorites is Bruce Springsteen's live version of "Santa Claus is Coming To Town." It's nothing but Bruce singing "Santa Claus is coming to town" over and over and over for 20 minutes. By the time Bruce finishes his Yuletide droning, Santa is already back home, slamming Upside-Down Margaritas with the elves.
The worst Christmas song ever, the song that makes me want to sleep straight through to Easter is "The Little Drummer Boy." Not only does it repeat the same annoying phrase over and over -- pa-rum pum pum pum -- but the song is too unbelievable to begin with.
I realize songs about a fat guy sliding down chimneys or a flying reindeer with a 300-watt halogen schnoz aren't believable either, but at least they're grounded in reality.
What's wrong with the song? you're wondering.
First, drums do not go "pa-rum pum pum pum." They do not make pleasant little melodies sung by children's choirs. They make headaches. Drums go "KA-WHAP WHAP WHAP WHAP!"
Second, 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! He's just going to pound a drum. Somebody stop him!"
I believe the gift of music is one of the greatest gifts you can give, because it comes from the heart. (But I'll accept a big screen high-definition TV as a substitute.) But when your newborn baby has finally gone to sleep after screaming for 6 hours because his bed smells like cow poop, do you really want someone going "ka-whap whap whap whap!" at him?
So what did Mary do? She just nodded, -- pa-rum pum pum pum -- listened appreciatively, and smiled quietly to herself.
Not being a mother myself, 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 spent the last 36 hours in labor, the last thing you want is some snot-nosed kid beating a drum at you. The song should say "Mary leaped from her stool and chased the little brat away, pa-rum pum pum pum. "
Third, did the ox and lambs really keep time -- pa-rum pum pum pum? Not hardly. Oxen are tone deaf and lambs have a poorly-developed sense of rhythm. Besides, the drum in question was made out of ox or lambskin, so they would not have appreciated the irony.
Then He smiled at me -- pa-rum pum pum pum? Uh-uh. It's more likely that the ox and lambs doffed top hats and sang "Puttin' On the Ritz." How would you feel if you had been removed from a nice warm womb, stuck in a bed of itchy, smelly straw, and some jerk started beating a drum at you?
Try it for yourself. Find a newborn baby and start pa-rum pum pum pumming on a pot with a couple of wooden spoons. I guarantee he won't smile, he'll shriek. If he smiles, he's colicky.
Now, I'm all for the magic and wonder of Christmas. But I know mothers. And I know babies. And I know new mothers don't even want people speaking in conversational tones around their babies, let alone pounding drums at them.
Gift of music or not, banging 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 whose love of rhythm outweighs his common sense is way past that limit.
So if you're ever in the mood to serenade a newborn baby and his mother with anything noisier than a single blade of grass, don't. Trust me on this. If you really want to be helpful, give the mom something useful, like a set of ear plugs and a weekend's free babysitting.
Pa-rum pum pum pum
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