Subversive Carols: Wonderful Christmastime

This series will interpret our beloved Christmas and Advent carols not as sentimental songs, but as a challenge to the status quo. Many of these subversive themes are already found in the lyrics, yet are often not pointed out. Enjoy the 12 days of Subversive Carols!

“Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney

The moon is right
The spirit’s up
We’re here tonight
And that’s enough

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime
Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

The party’s on
The feelin’s here
That only comes
This time of year

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime
Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

The choir of children sing their song
Ding dong, ding dong
Ding dong, ding, oh, oh

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime
Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

The word is out
About the town
To lift a glass
Ah, don’t look down

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime
Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

In 1979, “Wonderful Christmastime” was released. Paul McCartney, then an ex-Beatle and the lead singer of Wings wrote it. On the radio, this song gets such an absurd amount of  airtime that McCartney receives $400,000-$600,000 a year in royalties. Honestly, this is a huge brick wall for me attempting to interpret this carol as subversive. If with only one song, McCartney is making more money than 80% of US workers without actually doing anything, but writing and copyrighting a song, we have a serious problem on our hands. Much more can be said about income disparity and inequality among the working class and the ruling class, but I will save that for another post. For now, I want to construct new subversive meanings behind these lyrics.

The line “Simply having a wonderful Christmastime” repeats fourteen times throughout the song. This is done for two reasons. First, it demonstrates the simplicity of Christmas. The chorus is not concerned with presents, mistletoe, candles, angels, or even the baby Jesus. Instead, it sheds light on the simplicity of the Christmas season. In addition, it denotes Christmas as a time in space. For “Wonderful Christmastime,” Christmas is more than just a holiday, it is a presence. Although, Christmastime is mostly found in winter, it could possibly be located all year round. The simplicity and the presence help us not to be distracted by the holiday and celebrate Christmastime.

Moving onto the verses, there are only three verses found in this song if they are not repeated. Two of them speak of a friendly gathering and the third takes the gathering into the streets. In the first verse, friends are gathered for a fun time with the singer. Everything about this gathering is perfect: the weather, the friends surrounding her/him, and the spirit. The spirit is no ghost of Christmas past or a haunting figure. The spirit actually is that which is situated among the peoples, and without the peoples, there is no spirit. Thus in the first verse, the spirit moves the people and keeps them joyful during their time together.

In the second verse, which mirrors the first in rhythm and lyrics, the spirit is removed. In its place are “the feelin’s.” These feelings can only be found during Christmastime. Furthermore, “the feelin’s” do not negate the spirit; instead, they grant the spirit flesh. It is the fleshy feeling that we find in this song: the touching of bodies through hugs, kisses, and handshakes. Indeed, through these acts of incarnation do we see the spirit move and transform the world!

Finally, in the last verse, the party enters the streets expressing their fellin’ spirit. They raise a glass to new possibilities, to a just world, never looking down. This is a hope for a better future. They are pushing the boundaries of love and hope. Christmastime transcends holidays and seasons. It cannot be domesticated and set on a shelf until next year. Catching the Christmas-spirit changes us and the world. Let’s celebrate!


Published by brother timothie

I am a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. My interests include constructive theologies, liberation theologies, documentaries, far-left politics, homelessness ministries, creative liturgies, poetry, and pop culture.

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