Do they know it's Christmas?
There's something weird about eating watermelon and listening to Christmas music. Those two things shouldn't really go together, which, incidentally, is also how I sometimes feel about my living in Benin. In the Christmas spirit of the "Holiday Lite" aka 93.9 in Chicago, I began listening to said Christmas tunes somewhere around November 1st. I downloaded a whole collection from the workstation harddrive, and bam, instant Christmas cheer. Surely you remember and can undoubtedly hum along with "Do They Know it's Christmas?" originally sung as some sort of aid thing in the 80s. I don't know how the actual lyrics of the song escaped me for so long. Have you ever listened to them closely? Perhaps I'm super sensitive or have not yet conjured up enough holiday-induced compassion, but dang! This may debunk "The Little Drummer Boy" as my least favorite holiday tune. Let us deconstruct some of the phrases.
Though the songwriters claim to want to "throw our arms around the world," they seem to lack an understanding about the actual lives of the so-called "other ones." Was the situation of most Africans that much more dire in the 80s? The "bitter sting of tears" seems a little dramatic. I'm not seeing a whole lot of tears around here. Even in Niger, where the food security situation was especially dire this year, no one's crying about it. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a Nigerien or Beninese cry about anything. Africans (all 54 countries' worth) could teach Americans something about stoicism.
Possibly my least favorite line in this bush-taxi wreck of a song is "tonight thank God it's them instead of you." Isn't this slightly hypocritical after the wrapping-arms-around-the-world part? I get the being grateful for what you have thing, but I'd be embarrassed to play this song for my English club.
And lastly, the namesake phrase, "do they know it's Christmastime at all?" In fact, they do. In Benin, somewhere around 50% of the population is Christian, mostly Catholic. So yes, "they" do know. Even in places like Niger, where nearly the entire citizenry is Muslim, there are still a lot of people listening to the BBC or Voice of America on the radio or watching France 24, where the holidays will undoubtedly be discussed. We're not as cut off from each other as you might imagine.
So one of my Christmas wishes is that we retire this song for good. The world needs more of this instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kYEK-pxs_A Could anything be better than transforming Toto's "Africa" into part of a Christmas medley? No, no there could not.