Christmas Jukebox: Fairytale of New York

The year 1987
The band The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl
The song Fairytale of New York

This song perhaps doesn’t scream Christmas in the same way that some other songs do. By which I mean it isn’t in your face about Christmas. It only references it a few times. Nevertheless, it’s the type of song that you hear and cannot think of anything else. The rising wintry introduction just positions it right at the start of the season. It’s time for decorations to go up, wine to be mulled, and to dust off the well-worn records of yesteryear.

Hi, my name’s Fraser. I like Christmas and writing about things. This month I’ll be writing about Christmas songs. Because, to me, they are more than just background in a shop or a soundtrack for a work party. They are part of the ritual of Christmas, the tradition of seasonal love.

I am definitely the person to write this. I have worked in shops and I have served as a waiter throughout multiple festive seasons. I have listened to the same album day after day, sometimes twice. As a result, I plan to shake things up a bit and have enlisted the help of my friends in finding more songs, not just the staples. I’ll do what I can to include these. But first things first….

Fairytale of New York is an absolute classic of the genre. There’s something in its Irish roots that makes it fit the season. It’s a danceable tune, as long as the dance is a ceilidh.

It’s nourishing and it really warms the cockles, but it’s also a bit subversive since it’s basically about these alcoholics with a love hate relationship. They trade some classic insults.

On that subject, and especially for my Yank readers, there was a whole controversy around this song. Understandable when he calls her an “old slut on junk” (heroin, by the way) and she calls him a “faggot” (contrary to popular belief, still a slur). The BBC decided to remove the offensive parts in 2007, but had to back down after mere hours because of some vociferous feedback. From then on, the song has been untouched.

A very good call, if you ask me. While I understand that putting slurs in songs could lead to to them being used more, I’m pretty sure the incidences of “faggot” caused by this song are rare. It’s sung as a dialogue, and that’s how people sometimes talked. It is permitted because it is a piece of history.

And this is what Christmas songs are about. They are the intersection between traditions and rituals as well as a celebration of love and goodwill towards all.

Thank you for reading, and come back tomorrow for more!

The writer of this piece is not sure on a good follow up song but will surely manage.


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