Casaubon's Book

I realize this has nothing to do with energy, food or environment, but it amuses me, so a brief hiatus from relevance will be taken. As y’all know (or don’t) Chanukah starts this weekend, and the household is awash in preparations, many of them involving glue sticks and song.

During the course of my life, I’ve had several candidates for the “Most nauseating holiday song award” – before my conversion to Judaism, I was an avid advocate of “The Little Drummer Boy” whose sicky sweet rumpapumpumming went on an awfully long time and seemed to be a favorite for covers by artists I already couldn’t stand. Later on, I came to feel that “O Christmas Tree/O Tannenbaum” narrowly edged out the little drummer on the grounds that bad in two languages got extra points.

Once I converted, however, and had children, I realized that all my prior distastes had been a small thing to the song most people do not officially know as “I had a little fucking dreidel” (kudos to my friend Alexandra for properly and permanently renaming it for us one afternoon.) The thing is, most people know 30 or 40 Christmas songs, and some of them are lovely, so you can reasonably hope that in an afternoon at the mall, or watching your kids sing in some holiday concert, you will get some beautiful Christmas music. But the evil Dreidel song is the *only* Chanukah song that most non-Jews know, (except perhaps now Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song, which they do not sing at children’s concerts – pity that) and is probably the only Chanukah song many secular Jews ever heard more than once (a friend of mine observed that during his childhood they always sang Chanukah songs at school – but songs *no one* had ever heard of, certainly none of the Jewish kids.) Moreover, it is on every Chanukah album, even the good ones, and it sucks. Oh, how deeply it sucks.

But there is a new candidate for worst Chanukah song ever – and funniest Chanukah video. Apparently Mormon senator Orrin Hatch wrote a deeply sincere Chanukah song as a gift to the Jewish people. It is horrifyingly bad, and the video of him actually singing is pretty unbelievably funny.

Eight Days of Hanukkah from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

Because I am an official representative of the Jewish people, I should express my gratitude to Hatch. And in a sense, I am grateful – because now I will go back to my kids singing the dreidel song and stop begging them to “please, sing some other Chanukah song, any other Chanukah song, please, for the sake of your mother’s sanity.” I will now be much more careful and add more caveats to my pleas.

I appreciate Hatch’s kind intentions, and on behalf of the Jewish people, I express my gratitude, while hoping that he has also enclosed a gift receipt somewhere. But I’m sure we’ll find a use for it somehow.

Ok, what’s your nominee for absolute worst holiday song?

And to prove further that the Dreidel song isn’t as bad as the Hatch video, here’s Erran Baron Cohen’s also very funny (but intentionally) and musically interesting version. I still don’t like the song though (I can’t embed the video, since embedding is disabled).

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife
    December 9, 2009

    Without a doubt, I hate “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” more than any other Christmas song, not least because it is too often sung by shrill voiced children who sound like they’re half-way through methadone treatment. But the sappy lyrics, which parsed out, are all about conditional love and acceptance, suck pretty badly too. And if shrill children aren’t bad enough, adults singing such an idiotic song sound even worse.

    For reasons that are entirely opaque to me, The Little Drummer Boy often makes me tear up. No other song does this, and I’m not even a believer. Can’t explain it.

  2. #2 jimspice
    December 9, 2009

    I was kind of expecting Hatch to break out an old school rap on that biz-atch.

  3. #3 John E. - Agn Stoic
    December 9, 2009

    Oh Senator Hatch – haven’t the Jews suffered enough?

  4. #4 jon
    December 9, 2009

    Have to disagree. Hatch’s song is nowhere near as bad as Dreidle. Hatch’s song is anonymous pap. Dreidle pisses me off, sort of like “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland. Funny about the description at the end of the video of the song as ‘hip-hop’. I’m a Jew who loves Christmas music, from classical to traditional to the jazz and pop standards. There’s no holiday music of any sort that compares with the beauty, fun, and variety of Christmas music.

  5. #5 Ben
    December 9, 2009

    Hate, hate, hate Little Drummer Boy! Go away or your drumsticks will be going where the sun don’t shine.

  6. #6 Scicurious
    December 9, 2009

    True story: I knew a rabbi once who had to be taken to the ER. She’s in the ambulance, and they’re trying to get her to stay coherent and all, and the conversation went like this:

    EMT: What’s your name?
    Rabbi: _________
    EMT: And where do you work?
    Rabbi: I’m a rabbi.
    EMT: A rabbi!? HEY! I know a Jewish song!
    And he sang the Driedel song ALL THE WAY TO THE HOSPITAL.

    Following this episode, the rabbi firmly requested that the driedel song NEVER be sung in her synagogue again.

    Personally, though, I vote for “Little Drummer Boy”. That thing gets in your HEAD. In all it’s many, horrid, electronicized versions…

  7. #7 Lorna
    December 9, 2009

    We discussed it over supper, Little Drummer Boy is definitely the worst holdiay song. Especially because so many music artists seem compelled to include it on their Christmas albums. Even the great Emmy Lou Harris sings it and even HER version stinks. We also agreed with Sharon that Dreidl was dreadful. Runners up: anything sung by those godawful chipmunks, All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, and Feliz Navidad (which I loath and despise, maybe even more than LDB). That said, Happy Holidays everyone,
    Lorna

  8. #8 Tamara
    December 9, 2009

    Holly Jolly Christmas is at the top of my blech list at present, and such tepid “winter holiday” hits as Susie Snowflake and Frosty the Snowman, the latter of which my son insists should be, given the logic of magical objects, Frosty the Possessed Hat.

  9. #9 Consumer
    December 9, 2009

    I have heard some really shitty Chanukkah songs in my day, and I have to say, this one ain’t so bad. I actually thought MC Hatch did a pretty good job.

    As far as X-Mas music goes, the alpha and omega is Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC.

  10. #10 Kerrick
    December 10, 2009

    Clearly you need to suffer through Komar and Melamid’s epic composition “The Most Unwanted Song”. They identified the elements of musical compositions most hated by the greatest number of people, which include things like opera, rap, sad cowboy songs, children singing tunelessly, sappy r&b duets, commercial jingles, and holiday songs, and combined them ALL in to one 25-minute piece, in some really interesting (but not interesting for 25 minutes) ways. for instance, rap sections are delivered by a classical soprano in operatic style (really) interspersed with children singing tuneless holiday jingles for every possible holiday that all sound the same and all end with the same commercial plug. So that every High Holidays, now, I cannot get out of my head:

    “Yom Kippur, Yom Kippur
    Self-reflection and atonement
    Yom Kippur, Yom Kippur
    Do all your shopping… at WALMART!”

    Although I sometimes get lines mixed in from:

    “Ramadan, Ramadan
    Lots of praying and no breakfast
    Ramadan, Ramadan
    Do all your shopping… at WALMART!”

    It’s so painfully wrong it’s fascinating.
    There’s a link to where you can actually, if you wish to, hear this amazing work of violence at the bottom of the following article: http://boingboing.net/2008/04/17/25-minute-compositio.html

  11. #11 Anon
    December 10, 2009

    Actually besides Sandler’s the only one I knew was Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Light One Candle.”

    And I hope you’re not alluding to/hating on the awesome Bing/Bowie rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy”/”Peace on Earth.”

    FYI, “O Christmas Tree”‘s even worse in French (like most of the thankfully few xmas carols in French I’ve been subjected to)!

  12. #12 Quatrefoil
    December 10, 2009

    My all-time ‘unfavourite’ is “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus’ for it’s sheer nasty knowingness and sacharine tune, but I have to say, here in Australia, when Christmas shopping is frequently done in 40 degree Celcius heat, there’s something particularly irritating about hearing about sleigh-bells, snow, deep midwinters, and white Christmases, particularly sung in the accents of people who’ve never had the experience of having the Christmas confectionary melt before you get it home. It doesn’t make me feel love towards my fellow human of any creed.

  13. #13 The Raven
    December 10, 2009

    Dreidel is exactly like Small World! Brilliant comment, Jon. Awful, truly evil songs!

    At this very moment, my son is practicing Dreidel on his violin. (He is also learning Maoz Tzur and Hanukkah, O Hanukkah–as well as a really beautiful niggun from the _Eight Tales for Eight Nights_ book.) My husband will not let our son play it when he is home….

  14. #14 greenpa
    December 10, 2009

    Yike. I do find the Hatch production pretty icky-slick.

    For any not aware- the Mormons refer to non-Mormons as- Gentiles. And they did go looking for a nice desert to wander in. There are some interesting fantasies there.

  15. #15 Green Assassin Brigade
    December 10, 2009

    The drummer is bad (my wife calls it the “little f#@%$@ot drummer boy) but my absolute most hated has got to be 12 days of Christmas, will it never end!!!!… its like a Christmas version of 100 bottle of beer on the wall.

    My favorite that I post to my blog every Christmas eve is The Christians and the Pagans by Dar Williams

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_KiHRHwaAs

  16. #16 Shamba
    December 10, 2009

    I like Drummer Boy but not too often. I get really tired of all the zillion versions of the same 3, not 4, christmas songs, “Let it Snow”, “Sleighride” and “Jingle Bell Rock”
    “Baby it’s cold outside” I really dislike that last one.

    As for channukah songs, I learned a couple in school chorus but “Dreidel” is not one of them.

    Peace to All,
    Shamba

  17. #17 safira
    December 10, 2009

    My personal unfavorites are “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” or whatever the bitter little ditty is called (“The first thing at Christmas that’s such a pain to me/Is finding a Christmas tree”) and “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” I’d be happy to avoid them for the rest of my life.

  18. #18 B. Minich
    December 10, 2009

    Winter Wonderland. The story is just so annoying. I can’t stand the line about the snowman and Parson Brown. I mean, the snowman IS in town, dag nab it!!!

    Little Drummer Boy is annoying when done with tons of percussion (as it is asking for). I’ve heard some very warm accoustic versions done that have made me rethink that one.

    Baby Its Cold Outside also gets on my nerves. NO, lady, leave the creepy guy trying to get you to stay in his house!!!!!

  19. #19 K.B.
    December 10, 2009

    Oh, no no no no no.

    The WORST holiday song EVER??

    “Honky the Christmas Goose”, by Canadian hockey star Johnny Bower.

    “Honky, Honky the Christmas goose was so fat that he was no use…”

    Seriously – YouTube it.

    Runner-up for the worst one is “The Cat Carol” – song about a cat dying outside on Christmas Eve because no one let her into the house. Just gets one right into the holiday spirit!!

  20. #20 TheNormalMiddle
    December 10, 2009

    Ah yes. My 9 year old came home from her school’s “Holidays around the World” celebrations (public school at its best right there) singing the dreidel song over and over and over and over.

  21. #21 Comrade PhysioProf
    December 10, 2009

    The dreidel song kicks total motherfucking ass!! You dreidel-haters are all fucking meshugga.

  22. #22 Laurie in MN
    December 11, 2009

    Hands down, for me anyway: Blue Christmas as sung by Elvis Presley. *SHUDDER!!!*

    Frighteningly enough, I can usually deal with the original twangy, semi-country style version. Not Elvis’ version, though. The only cure for it is “Carol of the Bells” as done by Trans Siberian Orchestra. *grin*

  23. #23 Sharon Astyk
    December 11, 2009

    Ok, when I came to science blogs, they told me that I would be one of the few theists, and that I would be one of a comparatively small number of women and and folks who training was in some field outside the sciences. I definitely felt I could deal with this. But if PhysioProf represents the larger Science blogs writership, I may have to leave…I’m sorry, I can’t hang around with a bunch of driedel song lovers. That’s too much to ask.

    ;-).

    Sharon

  24. #24 Greenpa
    December 11, 2009

    Ok, took me a while to dig this out, but HERE, Sharon, and all- is THE holiday song you’ve been craving.

    http://www.sixteenfeet.com/music/audio/holiday-schmedley

  25. #25 Sarah
    December 11, 2009

    The only cure for it is “Carol of the Bells” as done by Trans Siberian Orchestra. *grin*

    I love that one!

    And wow, I hadn’t expected to see Sixteen Feet referenced outside of Swarthmore…

    I actually kind of like Little Drummer Boy when it’s sung straight. What annoys me is anything that’s been pop/sexy-ified. “Sleigh Ride” played normally is a rather pleasant tune, though it gets old fast. “Sleigh Ride” crooned love-song-style is just weird.

  26. #26 mbm
    December 11, 2009

    When I worked retail one Christmas season, corporate mandated that we play *one* CD, on repeat, for 12 hours a day, Thanksgiving to New Year’s. For whatever reason, “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney was on it *twice*.

    That was 15 years ago and I never ever want to hear that song again.

  27. #27 Greenpa
    December 11, 2009

    Hey, Swatties get around. :-)

    Actually Sharon; I think the top song for Chanukah really truly should be “White Christmas”.

    No, not kidding. Grinning, but not kidding. It was written by – Irving Berlin, for crying out loud, who was, of course Jewish.

    Actually that’s been given as a reason for the song’s slow take-off; there were a few folks out there who thought Berlin had no business writing a Christmas song- or understanding the non-religious aspects of Christmas so well. So some singers/ radio stations/bands wouldn’t play it- until it became so outrageously popular.

    Why not!? :-) Or alternatively someone could write “all I want for Chanukah is my two front teeth.” Your choice!

  28. #28 NM
    December 11, 2009

    I really can’t stand “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus,” for same the reasons listed by quatrefoil. Also dislike “All I want for Christmas.” And the lyrics of Rudolph, which praise some appalling values, although I do find the turn catchy. But I love most Christmas music — including Oh Christmas Tree and The Little Drummer Boy, when sung straight, even though it doesn’t make any sense and is saccharine. Makes me teary, too — rather in the way of those damn McDonald’s Christmas ads on TV. Drives me nuts that I’m so susceptible to being emotionally jerked around. For which reason I’m deeply grateful never to have heard the cat carol mentioned above. I wonder if ear plug sales go up this time of year?

  29. #29 Laurie in MN
    December 11, 2009

    Oh, gee… thanks. The mention of retail corp. mandated Christmas music reminded me of something that I’ve obviously tried HARRRRRD to repress: Mannheim Steamroller’s truly god(s)-forsaken renditions of pretty much every Christmas song ever. *shudder!!* The first Christmas I worked retail was at a bead store, and that was the ONLY disk they had. Over and over, for the ENITRE MONTH. For those of you unfamiliar, it is over-produced electronic …. well, anything else would be truly judgmental and I know people who actually like the stuff. Suffice to say that it was enough to drive me nearly to drink. On the job. I will seriously leave the room/store/wherever if I hear it again.

    I too am glad that I never heard that cat carol — how awful! It’s bad enough that the Peter, Paul, and Mary song about the old woman and the little boy sharing their tiny resources (Christmas Dinner) makes me bawl every single time. Every. Time.

  30. #30 llewelly
    December 11, 2009

    I don’t have any unfavorites (though for years I hated nearly all holiday music), but the best holiday songs EVAR are Christmas at Ground Zero and The Night Santa Went Crazy, both by Weird Al Yankovic.

  31. #31 becca
    December 14, 2009

    I am suprised CPP does not advocate the South Park version of the drediel song.

  32. #32 Don
    December 14, 2009

    I heard the dreidel song for, I believe, the first time last night. Yes. I can see why you hate it. :-)

    Worst holiday song ever? Well, I usually turn out the Muzak kitsch that flows through the department store speakers, so I’m not up on the latest nominees for worst Christmas song. I dislike secular Christmas music as a whole; in fact, I find that the local classical music station is a better source for religious Christmas music than just about anywhere else, since they tend to play the best of the western music tradition.

    So I don’t have a particular candidate for worst, although many of the secular tunes the other comments here have mentioned, like “holly jolly Christmas” are pretty good choices.

    At any rate, have a blessed holiday season, whatever holiday(s) you’re celebrating.

  33. #33 Carla
    December 16, 2009

    I taught I have a Little Driedle to my son’s public school grade 3 class this year, but I brought about 15 more verses that I found here: http://ot006.urj.net/dreidl.htm. My favourite verse is:

    I have a little dreidel, I made it from cement And now our lovely hardwood floor has a nasty dent

    Lots of laughs in class.

  34. #34 David
    May 16, 2010

    The variations in the song are as numerous as the variations, it seems, in the dreidel itself, but often more numerous than the spellings, though not as numerous as the amusing unfortunates who cannot get the song out of their heads. We are awaiting a rumored Hollywood movie — “Attack of the Dreidels”, but have yet to track down the source.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.