Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Religious Santa songs



"Perhaps the thing about Christmas that bothers Christians more than anything else," says the Christian Research Institute, "is Santa Claus. Is Santa a hopelessly pagan idea, or can Santa Claus be saved?"

Some songwriters have tried to "save" Santa by writing songs that place Santa in a Christian context. These songwriters, whether or not they viewed Santa as a secular rival of Jesus, usually tried to mend the rift between the two by grafting religion onto Santa or grafting Santa onto religion. 

But some attempts to mix Santa and religion seem to confuse rather than clarify. For example, is the vintage greeting card pictured above suggesting that Santa hears your prayers? 

Today on Music Weird, we'll listen to some of the efforts to combine Santa and religion. A few are earnest and a few are jokes, but all are pretty weird. In these songs, you'll hear a number of offbeat revisions to the Santa and God stories: God is Santa, Santa is God, Santa is immortal, Santa is guided by prayers, etc. 



Pat Boone – "I Saw Santa Prayin'"

I never saw Santa prayin', but I saw Pat Boone perform this song in concert years ago, and he introduced it by saying that he wrote it as an attempt to reconcile, for kids, the two main figureheads of the Christmas season. How did he do that? By depicting Santa as a prayerful Christian man and a servant of the Lord. The chorus is "I saw Santa prayin'/I saw Santa kneel before the Lord." In 2007, Boone recorded the song for his album The True Spirit of Christmas. No video exists, but you can hear an audio sample here.






Hank Snow – "God Is My Santa Claus"

In this 1966 song by Canadian country star Hank Snow, a young schoolboy teaches us that God is Santa and Santa is God. The lyrics not only state that "God is my Santa Claus" but also that the "real Santa" is God.





Restless Heart – "Santa's Prayer"

In the 2013 Restless Heart song "Santa's Prayer," Santa himself decries the commercialization of Christmas and hopes that people will remember its true meaning. A reviewer on Amazon calls this "One of the Best Christmas Songs ever written." 




Jimmy Boyd – "I Said a Prayer for Santa Claus"

Boyd, who recorded the original version of the perennial hit "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," recorded this religious Santa song in 1953. In it, Boyd prays to keep Santa safe, healthy, and warm as Santa goes about his business at the North Pole and delivers presents to the kids. I particularly like the part where he expresses concern that Santa might run into a television antenna.




Jerry House – "Will There Be a Santa Claus in Heaven?" 

This tearjerker is about a dying child who asks if Heaven has a Santa Claus. Although the text that accompanies the video says that Jerry House wrote the words and music, the song was actually written by Carson Robison and appeared in his 1936 songbook Tip Top Album of Carson J. Robison Songs


 

 

Red Sovine – "Faith in Santa"

Another Christmas song, like "Will There Be a Santa Claus in Heaven," about a dying child. In this dreary recitation from 1978, a homeless boy tells Santa that his father is in prison for shooting his mother's boyfriend, that he prays for Santa, and that he'd like to go to Heaven for Christmas. The boy gets his wish and passes away at the end of the song. It's unclear whether Santa has the power to send souls to Heaven if that's their Christmas wish.

 

James Brown – "Santa Claus Is Definitely Here to Stay"

This weird, rambling song asserts that Santa Claus is here to stay and also urges people to keep the season strong with faith. You could interpret that as faith in Santa, but I don't think that's the intended meaning. Even though the relationship between Santa and faith is murky, this song is included here because most Santa songs don't mention religious themes such as faith at all.



The Penguins – "A Christmas Prayer"

The Penguins' "A Christmas Prayer" from 1955 features an odd mixture of prayer and gifts as the Penguins pray that their girl comes home for Christmas and puts her presents under their Christmas tree. (Is that a euphemism?) The song doesn't mention Santa by name, but Christmas gifts fall within Santa's dominion, so I think it counts. 

 

Jimmy Martin – "Daddy Will Santa Claus Ever Have to Die?"

In addition to having one of the cheesiest music videos ever committed to VHS tape, this 1980 song by the King of Bluegrass, Jimmy Martin, informs us that Santa is an immortal being like God. 

 

Pearl Jam "Santa God"

This song by Pearl Jam, from a limited-edition Christmas single released in 2007, is the mirror image of Hank Snow's "God Is My Santa Claus." Hank said that God is Santa, but Pearl Jam says that Santa is God. For kids who are greedy for presents, that's probably true.



The Santa and Jesus duet from South Park

This duet between a cartoon Santa and a cartoon Jesus pits a number of Christmas carols, including "Joy to the World" and "Away in the Manger," against "Up on the House Top." Santa becomes angry that Jesus has more songs than Santa, but Jesus smooths things over, and the spirit of Christmas prevails. 

 

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