This Christmas Song Makes Me Furious Every Time I Hear It [RANT]

We’re in the thick of the holiday season, and plenty of atheists like me still celebrate Christmas, but in a non-religious way (like most Christians actually).  My wife and I still acknowledge all of the secular traditions that come with Christmas — the tree, decorations, gift giving, Santa Claus, cookies, and of course, the music (some of it).  This past weekend, we loaded our two boys into the car and headed to breakfast with Santa at our local firehouse, and then by some insane magic, saw the fat bastard again later in the day for the obligatory pictures with Mall Santa.  Dude gets around.

Image credit: YouTube screen capture
Image credit: YouTube screen capture

Anywho, since we were in the holiday spirit and doing “Christmas-y” stuff all day, we had the Holly station from Sirius XM playing in the car.  Every once in a while, this station plays a certain Christmas song that makes me seriously angry.  And it’s not just because I hate Bono.

In 1984, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was recorded by Band Aid, featuring a collection of singers who were popular at the time.  The song is essentially about raising awareness that not everyone is having a great Christmas, and while you’re whooping it up in your cozy winter home, there are starving people in Africa.  If you’re unfamiliar with the lyrics, check them out here.

While art is always subject to individual interpretation, I think the lyrics of this song are dripping with privilege and it makes me want to punch Bono in the face even more than normal.  Here’s where I’m coming from:

But say a prayer to pray for the other ones
At Christmastime
It’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears

First of all, bravo on the shit poetry.  But I digress.  So they’re basically raising awareness to the Christmas celebrators in the West that there are people in other places who are suffering. Ok, fine.  At this point, I’m expecting the song to shift to how we can help them (since prayer doesn’t do a thing).  But alas…

And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom

Yeah, we get it. It sucks in Africa (which is apparently a small continent with the same circumstances no matter what nation or region we’re talking about.  Don’t worry, Americans won’t know the difference.)  And then comes the line that causes me to imagine that right cross straight to Bono’s mouth…

Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you

What the actual fuck??  So your God doesn’t do a damn thing for starving people in Africa, and you’re supposed to thank him?  What kind of selfish narcissistic nonsense is that?  It’s almost as bad as thanking God for surviving an accident that 100 other people died in.  How about you donate to a charity to send them food, or support their refuge in another region, or something actually productive instead of praising your Western-privilege-awarding deity for feeding your gullet at the expense of others?  Or if you think your magic man in the sky is listening, how about you have a come-to-Jesus meeting with him (pun intended), letting him know how disgusting it is that he’s letting his precious children die horrible deaths by the thousands?

All of these things would be a million percent better than praising a morally corrupt creator for forcing those made in his image to suffer inescapable conditions, while you pound spiked egg nog at your corporate holiday party, culminating in making some really bad decisions.

While we’re at it, let’s just toss in the last verse here to cap it off.

Here’s to you, raise a glass for everyone
Here’s to them, underneath that burning sun
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?

Yeah, cheers, starving people in the desert who don’t give a damn about our Christmas traditions. We know you don’t have any potable water, but raise your cup of bacteria-ridden water anyway. Just don’t drink it.  Damn this nog is good.  You should see how much food we threw out at this party.

Fuck you, Bono. And whoever wrote this travesty of a song.

Merry Christmas, everyone else.

EDIT:  For those who are going to respond with “this song raised money for famine in Africa,” I contest that any song with this ensemble would have. The money raised was not due to the inspiring message of the lyrics. Just because the song raised money back in 1984 doesn’t make the lyrics less of a pile of shit. How much is it raising right now? Maybe if it had a more inspiring message, it would continue to compel listeners to donate to worthy causes instead of give thanks to a genocidal maniac.


Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

View all posts by Kevin Davis →

66 thoughts on “This Christmas Song Makes Me Furious Every Time I Hear It [RANT]

  1. Thank You! I heard that song again last night and really listened to the lyrics thinking I HAD to have misheard them on previous occasions. Nope. They are just horrible. Would even the most fervent Christian thank God that someone else was suffering instead of them?! What a horrible thought.

  2. Gads. I am glad that the only Christmas songs that I listen to are the ones that I have bought to play on my computer. Probably why I have never ran into this one.

  3. The “thank God it’s them instead of you” lyric stood out to me too. Okay, I get that they probably meant “appreciate YOUR good fortune…” but the “thanks for starving the other guy and not me” thing is still creepy.

    1. But that’s the whole point of the line, to force the listener to realize that this is exactly what the West does, glorifies in their own good luck for simply being born in the right place, and too bad for everybody else. It’s akin to “Eve of Destruction” when Barry McQuire sings about the hypocrisy of Christianity with “Hate your nextdoor neighbor, but don’t forget to say Grace.” A perfect bit pf the coming Trump America.

  4. Wow, I’m glad I never listened to the actual words of any of those “feel-good music for charity” songs. That one’s even worse than “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” even though it tries so hard to be better.

  5. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” really is a horrendous piece of dreck. #2 on my holiday song hate list. Though, awful as it is, even it cannot come close to the #1 POS, “The Christmas Shoes”.

    1. O Christmas shoes
      O Christmas shoes,
      You don’t support my ankles.

      I could go on, but I won’t as it is the season for not imposing bad poetry on people.

      1. No, that’s, “The Lament of the Tired Yuletide Retailer,” you’re singing, dagobarbz.

        O Christmas shoes
        O Christmas shoes,
        You don’t support my ankles.

        O Christmas shoes
        O Christmas shoes,
        I’ll surely end up with cankles.

        My pounding feet are flat; I’m fading fast
        Customers screech like winter’s blast

        O Christmas shoes
        O Christmas shoes,
        You don’t support my ankles.

      1. They’re not even in my top ten most hated. I do have a special side hate though, for the recent trend of pop artists who noodle around with Christmas songs and get all pitchy and almost yodel-y, up and down the register with them. HATE!!! Just sing it straight, dammit. This is why I have to listen to older versions.

        Also, just because the word ‘Christmas’ is in the lyrics somewhere does not a Christmas song make. Wham’s, “Last Christmas,” I’m looking at YOU!

      2. The Little Drummer Boy definately is on my list – do you think the parents of ANY newborn really want some kid banging on drums when they’re trying to get their baby to sleep?

    2. Christmas Shoes is the WORST song, holiday or otherwise. Well, maybe the Pina Colada Song is worse. But for holiday music, “Shoes”, “Drummer Boy”, Wham’s “Last Christmas”, and “12 Days” are at the top–or bottom, however you look at it. Ugh!

      1. Lol. My local soft rock/love song station goes to all Christmas music all the time from around Thanksgiving until New Years. I remember listening one year and “Last Christmas” came up. Neither love song, nor Christmas song. Not festive or jolly or sacred…just bitterness and whining. I was just boggled (and not in the laugh my butt off way I was when I heard “Before He Cheats” play its orgy of revenge all over that same love song station.)

        1. You know what turned me on to Last Christmas? When Taylor Swift did it. Not because I am a big TS fan or anything (I don’t listen to anything modern), but I know enough about TS to realize that this is the perfect song for her.

          Consequently, I have a new appreciation for it.

  6. “And the Christmas bells that ring there
    Are the clanging chimes of doom”

    Clanging chimes of doom?
    Hell, if I’d written those lyrics I would have round-filed them after severe crumpling.

  7. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this crap but I know I wouldn’t like it – no reason to fear even if Jesus lets you die a horrible death? Shit, shit and holy shit.

  8. Erm, although I don’t actually like the song, you seem really unaware of its history and the impact it made in the 1980s. I expect you’re too young to remember the whole Band Aid phenomena. The song was recorded to address a specific famine situation in Ethiopia (I was 14 at the time). The message was ‘while you’re enjoying your Christmas, don’t forget to make a donation to this specific cause’. Since the Ethiopian famine was as much in the news at the time as the Syrian crisis is today, and this fundraising response by Bob Geldof (not Bono, though you may see him performing on it) was extremely well known. In fact we can reasonably say it only became a massive hit at all because it provided a focus for people’s desire to do something about the Ethiopian situation. All the profits from the sale of the single, and various Band Aid concerts were used for famine relief, the Ethiopian famine of the mid-80s specifically. Today, they continue to be used for various charitable causes, mostly in Africa.

    At the time, some people criticized the content of the song, for implying that everyone everywhere in the world had Christmas. It’s also possible to criticise the effectiveness of the Band Aid famine relief effort in Ethiopia, but unfortunately that goes for all such interventions. Bod Geldof received numerous honors for his humanitarian work, at which he was, in my opinion, certainly more effective than as an artist.

    These days of course, we have other ways of raising sums of money. The internet has made us less dependent on celebrities and allowed us to have crowd-funding sites and easy means of donation. When I was 14 there was no internet, nobody had a home computer, it was all radio and television, but teenagers like me (and adults) who would have no other means of contributing, bought this single – and not because we particularly liked it.

    1. I’m not unaware of its history. The song’s history doesn’t make it any less of a pile of manure. Band Aid is still going on actually, and you’re only 6 years older than me, so let’s not get too crazy with the “too young to remember” nonsense.

      1. Well, I was 25 in 1984, so I remember it well. I’m with you, Kevin. Thanks for bringing this to light. While the intent was to raise money, I always thought the lyrics were a bit contradictory, and I say “a bit” in terms of the highest sarcasm. It reeks of “oh well, we’re having fun and getting gifts. Too bad, they’re suffering and dying over there.”

    2. The famine in Ethiopia was a political construct rather than a natural disaster. The Ethiopian Government used funds from Band Aid, Live Aid and Oxfam to facilitate the forced movement of hundreds of thousands of people. The eventual result was splitting the country and leaving us with the despotic regime we still have in Eritrea. The misappropriation of funds was only a small part of this. The ridiculously simplistic narrative of things like Band Aid only served to give the illusion of doing something in an otherwise complex situation with the end result of only making things worse.

      1. Yes, as I was saying this is a common type of complaint about all such interventions, including aid by nation states of course, as well as privately. I wish we had a much clearer and unbiased analysis of the pros and cons of contributing in general: every time people do, we’re told it does more harm than good. Every time people don’t, they’re told they’re being callous, selfish, etc, etc. Obviously, we have no direct political leverage in foreign countries – nor should we have, and precious little on the foreign policies of our own, so donations of cash seem like the only possible action. It may be that saying ‘fuck it, there’s nothing we can do, people there will just have to sort it out on their own’ IS the best of all the bad solutions. It certainly seems to be one many people are adopting, especially as the western countries struggle increasingly with problems and inequalities of their own.

        Incidentally, I am morally and politically opposed to charity as a means of solving almost all problems, but I didn’t get into that in my comment. I don’t vilify people who contribute to charity, but I do think it’s a misguided and counter-productive solution, whether to disasters in foreign countries or at home – for similar reasons, actually. It maintains the systemic causes of problems and usually enables and empowers the people who are the root cause, or who have no real interest in fixing it.

  9. I remember reading an article a while back, written by an African man who mentioned at how confused and offended people were when the song came out. People didn’t understand why the singers thought Africans didn’t know what Christmas was, or that they were all starving. He said it just pointed out how ignorant Americans and Europeans really were in regards to Africa.

    1. Yeah, European Christians colonized many parts of Africa, destroyed their livelihoods, economy, ecology, etc. and spread Christianity… and a century or so later Americans put out a song about how if they only had the hope of Christmas they wouldn’t be in this mess. how classy

  10. Chill, dude.

    BTW, I have a memory of someone wanting to sing “I’ll be home for Christmas” with pictures of the homeless on TV but the network refused to air it.

    1. It’s “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” for me. And it keeps following me! I keep hearing it in public and then it gets stuck in my head.

      1. Sirius again. I’ve heard that song on my way to work, then lo and behold on the way home. It’s always the same Jackson Five version with Michael yelling, “I saw them. I really did. I really saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. I really did.” Now get that out of your head.

        1. Melloncamp is the other one.

          They always sing the same part, but I could swear there was another verse that went something like

          “But to my suprise
          I couldn’t believe my eyes
          It wasn’t really Santa Claus
          But Daddy in disguise”

          I haven’t heard that for who knows how long and never seen that included in any lyrics

          Then there is I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus by RuPaul

    2. What is it with these songs that are supposed to be from a child’s perspective? They’re not cute, they’re obnoxious.

      Now, “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells,” a song with lyrics by actual children, is wonderful. It’s been sung for about 50 years. Why can’t they play that on the radio?

      1. The original “Hippo” was actually sung by a child. Gail Peavy. There is actually a YouTube video of her performing it on some 50s TV show.

  11. Okay, so the song was hideous, but this dark cloud directly inspired the glorious silver lining that was ‘We Are The World’!
    Oh, wait…

  12. I absolutely hate Christmas music. The airways are flooded with it from the day after Thanksgiving until New Years. The same songs over and over.

  13. It’s SUPPOSED to be about the “selfish and narcissistic” nature of the Western world. Sheesh! C’mon, Kevin; context and comprehension escape you in school?

    1. Unfortunately, though, people hail it as a lovely Christmas sentiment without paying attention to the actual words, because it is in the holiday song cycle. Or actually agree with thanking God you are one who knows it is Christmas and are safe and sound. To me this song is akin to Baby It’s Cold Outside-catchy but an awful actual message. Or the failed logic behind the republicans inviting Colbert as the main speaker at that dinner for Bush years ago.

  14. “God” has nothing to do with this song. It’s all about the selfishness of the Western world, and how we ignore what’s going on elsewhere. If you understood that context you might feel differently. Now, “The Christmas Shoes” may well be the worst xmas song ever.

  15. The song sucks. It’s annoying message or no message. The tune is horrible, and the lyrics grating.

    I listen to Sirius Holly as well and cringe every time this comes on. And it comes on a log. Thank goodness We Are The World isn’t a Christmas song. Only have to hear that one a few times a year.

  16. If you want some good Christmas songs, listen to Weird Al’s “Christmas at Ground Zero” and “The Night Santa Went Crazy”.

  17. As much as I hate it, “Thank God it’s them instead of you” is an attitude that sums up a gigantic section of American Christians, particularly those that are economically well-off and of the hard-line political right, and putting that smug, nasty sentiment into a tight line is almost a kind of miracle.

  18. I’ve been posting on Patheos for a while now but just tonight I noticed this “Nonreligious Channel”.

    Is this meant for the growing legion of those who claim to be “spiritual
    but not religious”?

    If so, can someone explain what the “spiritual” part means?

      1. Maybe theirs should be called the “Spiritual but Nonreligious Channel” and yours should be called the “Nonreligious and Not Spiritual Channel”.

  19. We have always heard these self-centered proclamations that their god was looking after them. After the devastating tsunami in Indonesia a few years back a TV personality said she’d narrowly escaped by returning from her vacation there just days before and how she knows it was god’s hand that saved her. Really? So he waited for her plane to depart before sending a tsunami to kill thousands of others? Because her life was so important but the Indonesians lives were not?

  20. Ya know it’s funny. I like Christmas too, love it actually. It’s fun. To me it’s always been about concentrating on Family and those close to you. The presents are just a tool in that regard. It doesn’t hurt that my late Grandma loved Christmas too, and loved giving presents. My wife’s family, however, has gone totally the other direction. Christmas is completely about “Jesus” and “Jesus Birthday”. Her Sister even managed to put the nativity scene right in the middle of the Christmas tree, which, as far as I’m concerned, completely takes the focus off of what really makes Christmas special. Oh. well.

  21. I love that line. It’s a slap in the face to the listener, exactly as it’s meant to be. The song overall gets a bit cheesy, but that line is what saves it.

    Now if you want well-intentioned dreck, look to the truly terrible knockoff American effort “We Are the World”.

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