My visa officially expires with the coming of the new year, but I’m flying home just over a week early on December 23rd. My family celebrates Christmas with the rigor one would expect for the birth of a child, not just the anniversary of the birth of the Christ child, who is in all honestly bared mentioned. I went home for Christmas last year, so I’ve never gotten to experience the glory of a real Christmas day in the U.K.–ALL THE TELEVISION PROGRAM(ME)S!–but I have now twice experienced the Christmas season. Especially this year that I’m working part-time at a clothes store to afford my lengthy European vacation, I feel like I have a good grasp on how Christmas is done over here.
Most everything about a U.K. Christmas falls into the uncanny valley: It’s very close to American Christmas with little tinges of differences. The ugly Christmas sweater trend has gotten out of control: You can buy light-up ugly sweaters that sing at any hip clothing store this time of year. Christmas dinner is a huge thing, which is pretty much the same food as you would have at Thanksgiving, except for dessert, wherein you can have a sugary mini pie called a mince pie, or just a “pudding”, which doesn’t actually mean pudding, and seems to apply to literally any dessert. Don’t ask me. I don’t understand.
One of my main enjoyments out of the U.K. Christmas season is all of the terrible Christmas music that has not made it over the Atlantic. As the blog well documents, I have a high tolerance for terrible music, and cheesy Britpop is no exception. Here are a few of my faves . . .
Slade, “Merry Xmas, Everybody”
According to Wikipedia, Slade is an English glam rock band from the 70s I have never heard of. Wikipedia also tells me that they were an influence on: Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Runaways, the Clash, Kiss, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Poison, Def Leppard, the Replacements, Cheap Trick and Oasis. And yet they are not available on US Spotify at all. What the hell, Slade? (They are on iTunes.)
Elton John, “Step Into Christmas”
It’s not like in the U.S. we don’t have Elton John, but we do not have this song! Why is this? It is so great. It is so peppy and irritating. I love it.
Wizzard, “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”
I promise this will be the last song from the seventies. What the hell was up during the seventies in the U.K. though? Christmas explosion! This song is great because it starts out with some weird Muppet voice saying, “Are you ready, children?” even though the children’s choir only comes in at the end. Also, it centers around the nightmarish proposition that it be Christmas every day. What a horribly scary idea that is.
The Wombats, “Is This Christmas?”
I don’t know how I feel about it. The Wombats are actually a good band, and “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” is a great song, but I don’t know if indie bands should be writing Christmas songs. (I’m not counting indie artists because obviously Sufjan Stevens is perfect and infallible and I quite enjoy listening to Bright Eyes sing “Blue Christmas” because my musical taste is stuck in 2005.) I guess this song is enjoyable and I like that he wants to turn Back to the Future off. It’s Christmas, you should be watching something more seasonal! I also like that this is part of that British shout-y genre of music. Okay, I lied. This song is great. Any song that ends with someone shouting at you, “Everyone, it’s Christmas!” wins.
Shakin’ Stevens, “Merry Christmas, Everyone”
Let’s be honest: If your name is Shakin’ Stevens, you should write a Christmas song. This is just the way the world works. I don’t know what this song accomplishes the other ones don’t. It’s just in-your-face, jumpy, seasonal good-times. Also this video is bananas, but so are the other ones. Whatever, it’s great. MERRY CHRISTMAS.