Fairytale of New York

Fairytale of New York December 24, 2011

We’re watching Die Hard right now, a Christmas tradition, and I’m supposed to be wrapping presents but I’m worried I won’t have time to write my post tomorrow so I’m writing it now.

Oh, and speaking of Die Hard, guess who the Ogre struck up a friendship with during his long months of solitude in Las Vegas?

Theo, my favorite character aside from Alan Rickman’s phenomenal Hans Gruber
also known as…

Jimmy Trivette

These days, he’s better known as Professor Gilyard. He teaches at UNLV and he and the Ogre became friends at the early morning daily Mass they both attended. The Ogre was left bereft of a car, since I took ours, so Clarence would drive him to UNLV after Mass so he didn’t have to walk. Neat, huh? Anyway, it makes me love Die Hard even more, which I thought was impossible.

I’m so digressing. This post is supposed to be about my absolute favorite Christmas song of all time, ever.

Here it is.

I know what you’re thinking. Or what you might be thinking. Christmas is about Christ, His birth, what He means to us, redemption, hope, and love. Not about Irish kids chasing the American dream. It’s probably disgraceful for a Catholic blogger to admit that her favorite Christmas song includes the words “happy Christmas your arse” and doesn’t mention Christ, God, Mary, angels, saints, wise men or even a freaking star.

Well, then I’m disgraced. But as a good little English major, allow me to pontificate about the song for you, which I can do with the best, seeing as how I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time pondering this song and why I love it so much.

The first half of the first verse is the intro. It sets the stage for the history of the couple whom the song is about. You are told so much in this first half-verse; that the man’s a drunk, that he dreams of his girl, that he loves her, that he hopes for the future, that he wants their future to be better. The song gives a three-year history of this couple. Three Christmases.

The second verse talks about how they ended up in New York, how they were both young and smitten with each other, how they dreamed of New York the way children dream of impossibly perfect candy shops. That was the night they fell in love, the night they decided to go to New York. Their first Christmas.

The second Christmas, in the third verse, the two have obviously become lost in the hard living of New York. He’s a drunk; she’s a heroin addict. The whole verse is a fight between the two. You can hear their despair, their frustration, their hopelessness. When the girl says, “I pray God it’s our last,” I don’t think she means that she hopes they will no longer be together next Christmas. I think she means that she hopes they’ll no longer be alive.

The last verse is my favorite. It’s their third Christmas together, and they seem calmer. Not happy, but not hating each other either. They’re talking, and what’s really plaguing them comes to the surface. They both blame the other for their failed lives. The man is despairing because he’s wasted his life. He could have been someone. The woman accuses him of taking her dreams from her.

The next few lines are the ones that make this my favorite song. It’s so beautiful, what he says to her. “I kept them with me babe / I put them with my own / can’t make it all alone / I’ve built my dreams around you.”

And throughout the whole song, the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day, symbolizing what bells always symbolize. Joy and sorrow. Beginnings and endings. Hope.

Yeah, I know, I’m probably reading way too much into a simple song. The Ogre certainly thinks so.

So why is this my favorite Christmas song?

It’s my favorite because I understand the people in it. They make sense to me. I recognize them. They are people I used to know, used to be friends with. They are me. They are the Ogre. They are all of us, in some way, before we had something greater to live for. They are still me sometimes, when I let despair get the better of me. When I put my own selfish desires above what is good.

And yet, in spite of it all, they are good. They are essentially, deep down, good people. Just like all of us. Certainly they are deeply wounded and utterly flawed, but they love each other. They really, truly love each other. They’re just so lost.

I can’t identify with Our Lady, nor with St. Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, or the wise men. In so many ways they are abstract for me. In other ways, they just seem so removed from our world today. But I identify with the people in this song. People searching for a better way to live. A better time. And I think to myself, this is why Christmas is such a miracle. This is who Christ came to save. Them. Me. All of us. He came because he loves us, in spite of our drunkenness and drug addictions and mean-spirited pettiness.

That’s why this is my favorite Christmas song. Because what we celebrate tomorrow is the answer to the song. What we celebrate tomorrow is the possibility of redemption. the birth of hope, and the staggering sacrifice of love.

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