Have yourself a merry little everything

The best Christmas song out there is Brenda Lee’s I’m Gonna Lasso Santa Claus, and I know just why, because:

This song is a social justice anthem.

Think about: it’s pretty much impossible to escape Christmas music around the holidays, whether or not you celebrate. From old classics like The Christmas Song to newer ones—Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You came out 25 years ago, people!—we’re inundated with songs that present Christmas as some sort of romantic ideal (in every sense of the word romantic). At best, typical secular Christmas-songs tend to evoke nostalgia for a Victorian-inspired “perfect” holiday: roasted chestnuts, stockings, presents under the tree. Sleigh rides and jingle bells. A warm and loving home. Kids are taught that someone is always watching to see whether they’ve been “bad or good”—that is, whether deserve a little bit of comfort and joy this season. And let’s not forget about the presents.

And then we have Little Brenda Lee.

I’m gonna lasso Santa Claus
And the reason is because
I know a boy and girl he never goes see
He never brings ’em toys like he does for me

Underneath the twangy guitar riffs and the fake clip-clop of reindeer hooves, we are treated to the perspective of a kid who a) recognizes inequity when she sees it, b) examines and challenges the status quo, and c) uses her privilege to do something about it. And she still believes in Santa Claus.  It’s silly, whimsical, improbable—and perfect.

She knows she’s getting presents; she lives under a system that has always provided for her. And so she approaches this complex problem by starting from what is *right.* She has a plan, and she doesn’t give up on her idealism or her faith that everyone deserves to be happy. It’s this last point that really hits home for me: she looks at the unequal treatment and her conclusion is not that Santa Claus doesn’t exist; it’s that everyone deserves Santa Claus—he’s just not doing his job. She takes individual responsibility for a societal problem.

I’m gonna take his bag of toys and run
And give to all the kids who do’t have none

It’s a child’s solution, but it illustrates a deep-seated sense of fairness that children understand on a gut level, and that adults somehow grow out of. Sure, there are prettier songs out there, but the message embedded in this song is the one we should be proclaiming this time of year—and always: people shouldn’t have to earn the right to be happy (or fed or clothed or healthy or educated). Maybe the child’s solution is the right one.

5 thoughts on “Have yourself a merry little everything

  1. unfoldingfromthefog says:

    I didn’t know Brenda Lee until I read your post. I love that you brought a social justice lens to a discussion of Santa Claus. The whole idea of Santa only works in a vacuum of Christian privilege, and now they have the Elf on the Shelf to add to the insanity. (Sigh. So glad to be on break now.) Great post.


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