The Bad, Boring Politics of Christmas Music

It’s not that politics has no place in Christmas music. The problem is that the politics included in Christmas music is vague, bland — and sometimes, quite literally disastrous.

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Outside of the month of December, the protest song has been a mainstay in American pop culture since the country’s foundation. With its most frequent topics ranging from poverty to nuclear warfare, working-class hardships, and the Civil Rights movement, protest music was created to point fingers at corruption and injustice, and rally its listeners around a cause. When discussing the importance of this kind of music in America, famous 20th century folk musician Woody Guthrie was quoted as follows:


Although modern, secular Christmas music is mostly made up of pretty tame lyrics about Santa Claus, mistletoe, and magical snowmen, there are still many popular Christmas songs that deviate from these norms and address political topics the way a protest song would.


The most infamous member of the political Christmas music sub-genre is, of course, Band Aid’s charity hit, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” from 1984. The song was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, two late-70’s-early-80’s rockers from Ireland and Scotland, respectively. After watching a BBC documentary on the famine that had been devastating Ethiopia in the early ’80’s, Geldof was deeply moved, and wanted to write a song that could generate money to donate towards the relief efforts. A little less than a year after “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was released, Geldof and Ure also helped to organize the LiveAid benefit concert, which also raised millions of dollars internationally.

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