Traditionally, Santa Claus has specialized in toys and sweets for children: here a teddy bear, there a dolly, and everywhere fruits and candy canes. In "Santa Baby," however, Eartha Kitt seems to suggest that Santa Claus has branched out into luxury goods for grown-ups. Which of these things does she NOT ask Santa for?
- A home in the Hamptons. "Santa, baby, slip a sable under the tree / For me. / I've been an awfully good girl, Santa, baby / So hurry down the chimney tonight." The singer goes on to demand "a '54 convertible, too / Light blue" and specifies the "one thing I really do need / The deed / To a platinum mine." There's also a duplex, checks, decorations from Tiffany's, jewelry, and even a yacht - but no house in the Hamptons. There's at least some limit on what Santa can get down the chimney! Written by Joan Javits, Philip Springer and Tony Springer, "Santa Baby" brought fame and success down the chimney for Eartha Kitt, the first artist to release it, in 1953. It seems this humorous Christmas list has a lot of appeal: it's been covered by many, many people, including Madonna, Macy Gray, and the inimitable Miss Piggy.
What made Santa Claus flirt with the dark side? Some think this new behavior may have begun in 1977, when Santa himself was the victim of a crime. As chronicled in a song released that year, several boys accosted him outside a department store and demanded, "Father Christmas, give us some money / Don't mess around with those silly toys." What song tells the whole sad tale?
- "Father Christmas" by The Kinks. The youths continue, "We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over / We want your bread, so don't make us annoyed. / Give all the toys to the little rich boys." It goes on to explain that the kids' fathers don't have jobs, that they "got nothin'," and that, by the way, they'd like "a machine gun / So I can scare all the kids down the street." Although this may have been a department store Santa, rather than the genuine St. Nick, this must have shaken the real Santa Claus terribly.
Is Santa Claus a threat to public health? After all, he may be single-handedly responsible for an epidemic of insomnia on Christmas Eve. According to "The Christmas Song," which of these groups "will find it hard to sleep tonight"?
- "Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow". The second verse and the bridge tell us, "Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow / Will find it hard to sleep tonight. / They know that Santa's on his way / He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh / And every mother's child is going to spy / To see if reindeer really know how to fly." It seems that Santa Claus inspires not only insomnia, but also an interest in espionage! "The Christmas Song," often recognized by its opening reference to "chestnuts roasting on an open fire," was written in the summer of 1944 by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells, who were trying to beat the heat by thinking cold thoughts. The song has been recorded by dozens of artists since that time, but Nat King Cole's 1961 orchestra-backed recording (the fourth time he recorded the song) is probably the best known.
We don't normally think of Santa Claus as a man of romance, but there's a popular Christmas song that argues otherwise. Written by Tommie Connor and originally released by thirteen-year-old Jimmy Boyd, this 1952 song takes the viewpoint of a young child who innocently witnesses Santa in love. How does the child describe this experience?
- "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night.". "...Then I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus underneath his beard so snowy white / What a laugh it would have been / If Daddy had only seen / Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night." The joke is that the "Santa" the child recognized was not actually Santa Claus, but Daddy wearing a costume - but how can we really be sure? "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" caused some controversy when it was first released, for mixing romance and scandal with a religious holiday. Since that time, however, it's become regarded as an innocent and sweet little ditty, and it's been covered repeatedly - by the Jackson Five and Jessica Simpson, among others.