king wenceslas


To: Eleanor (@allthingsjily)

From: Bonnie (@bantasticbeasts)

Happy Christmas and I hope this isn’t too far from what you had in mind :)


It’s an unpleasant and not entirely unfamiliar sensation that hits Lily Evans first. It’s Marlene McKinnon’s Potions essay that hits her second.

Ow,” she hisses, swatting the roll of parchment away.

“You’re staring,” Marlene sings, and Lily quickly averts her gaze from the table three to her left to the ceiling.

“Staring at what?” she asks, feigning innocence. Marlene doesn’t buy it for a second, and rightly so. Lily was staring, and the curious look on James Potter’s face says that he knows. “Okay, shut up,” she hisses, ducking her head to stare at her Transfiguration homework. “Maybe I was staring, but it’s not like that.”

“Not like what?” Mary asks sweetly.

“I hate you both.”

“Are you coming to dinner?” Marlene asks, checking her watch.

“Nah,” Lily sighs, gesturing down at her pile of parchment, “I have way too much homework, and I still have to finish the patrol roster. I’ll swing by the kitchens when I finish, I promise.”

“Alright,” Mary agrees, though not quite happily. The pair of them are long gone when Lily looks up from her paragraph on the dangers of large scale human transfiguration. The whole tabled section of the library is empty, and Lily allows herself a moment to relive the awful feeling she felt when she saw James whispering in Tilly Guthrie’s ear, when she saw her hand on his thigh. It’s the third time she’s reacted like this to seeing them together, had this… jealousy plant itself in her stomach.

Oh god, she thinks, watching ink pool where the nib of her quill is pressed, unmoving, to her parchment, I fancy James Potter. She drops the quill like she’s been burnt, and starts violently when she sees who’s leaning over her shoulder, reading what she’s written.

“Not the angle I would have chosen, but it works,” James says, slipping into the chair next to her.

“Shouldn’t you be at dinner?” Lily asks, a little too harshly.

“Shouldn’t you?” he shoots back. “Marlene said you were working on the patrol roster, which is technically my job too, so I came to help.”

“I have it covered,” Lily snaps, gathering her various belongings as quickly as she can, knocking over her ink bottle in the process. Her heart is pounding, and it’s too damn hot in here. “Look, I’m not trying to be funny but can you just fuck off, thanks?” she hisses, as James rights the bottle, and vanishes the mess with a lazy flick of his wand.

“Are you alright?” he asks quietly, placing his hand on her forearm gently, trying to calm her down. “You’re looking a bit peaky.”

“I’m fine,” she insists, piling her rolls of parchment into the crook of her elbow, and swinging her book bag over her shoulder. “Just leave me alone.” And she pushes past him, completely forgetting her promise to go via the kitchens as she makes her way back to Gryffindor Tower.


“Does he have to flaunt her all over the place like that?” Lily groans, letting her head flop down onto her folded arms. Sirius exchanges a curious glance with Remus over her back, and the latter shrugs. “I don’t trust her,” she says, and it’s muffled by her sleeve.

“And that has nothing to do with your enormous crush on Prongs?” Sirius asks casually.

Lily’s head whips up, an expression of horror plastered to her face. “What? I don’t have a crush on him. Where’d you…” she trails off, resigned to the knowing look he gives her. “Fine. I might fancy him a bit.”

“More than a bit,” Remus says under his breath, and ducks to avoid Lily’s Charms textbook as she swings it at his head. James’ right hand is clasped in Tilly’s left as he takes notes, three rows ahead of them, and the trio watches them with varying degrees of bitterness.

“We can get rid of her, if you want,” Sirius offers, and it’s his turn to duck as Remus reaches over to slap him. “I don’t trust her either! I know she’s just in it for the Sleekeazy’s.”

“What?” Lily asks, laughing. “Why would…”

“James’ dad invented it,” Remus sighs, checking his notes against the blackboard. “His mum sends him some every month, so he palms it off on anyone who’ll take it.”

Suddenly the bottle of Sleekeazy’s Lily got for Christmas last year makes a whole lot more sense.

“I used to take it all, but his mum caught wind and now she sends me my own supply,” Sirius shrugs.

Lily laughs, but her eyes are trained on the pair three rows ahead. Oh god, she thinks again, I am so done for.


Lily Evans has been jealous approximately three times in her life. First, when Petunia started secondary school, then when Mary got that really cool Creedence Clearwater Revival t-shirt from her brother, and finally, now.

The first two had been fleeting, lasting barely a day, but this is constant. Jealousy is a terrible thing to live with, Lily discovers, as she becomes increasingly intolerant to what Peter has dubbed JTPDAs, to the point she can’t even stand them holding hands. She avoids James where she can, but it’s difficult when they’re required to spend time together. Lily briefly considers giving up her Head position, but she worked too damn hard for this, and she won’t let some stupid crush ruin what she’s achieved.

“Hey,” he says, sitting down next to her. Predictably, she jumps about a mile, and immediately begins thinking up excuses to leave. “Can we talk?”

Lily closes her eyes, and clenches her fists, and nods, once.

“You’ve been acting really weird lately, and I’m concerned. We’re mates now, yeah?” Another nod. “Except whenever we hang out it’s like it was before. So I guess I just want to know what it is I’ve done to change your mind back.”

Lily blinks once, twice, stupidly. “What?”

“Well, I figured I’d done something to upset you, and Remus told me to just buck up and ask you what it was instead of trying to work it out by myself and inevitably getting it completely wrong.”

“He’s smart, our Remus,” Lily says sagely, internally planning the boy’s assassination.

“So?” James prompts, his hand twitching on the table next to hers.

“It’s not you. Well, not really. I just found something out recently, and it’s come at a really inconvenient time.”

“You’re not…” he trails off, giving her an uncertain look.

“Nah, nothing like that. Really, it’s nothing. I’m being stupid.”

“Not to be a total cliché, but you can tell me anything, you know that, right?” His face is entirely too close to hers, and her cheeks feel like they’re probably hot enough to boil water.

“I don’t like Tilly,” she says finally. A half truth is better than a lie, she reasons.

“Neither does Sirius,” James frowns, his hand twitching again. “Good thing we broke up, then.”

“Come again?” Lily asks faintly, looking up at him.

“Tilly dumped me,” he says, but he’s grinning. “Want to know why?”

“I have a feeling you’re going to tell me anyway.”

James smiles, like he’s got a private joke he’s not going to share. He flips his hand over, so his palm is facing the ceiling. “She said I payed more attention to you than I did to her.”

“Really?” Lily asks, chewing on her bottom lip, and staring down at her Ancient Runes homework.

“And she’s right, but you want to know what the funniest thing is?”


“If you pay a lot of attention to someone, it becomes pretty obvious when they’re paying a lot of attention to you, too. And I could swear that you, Lily Evans, have been paying me quite a bit of attention.”

Lily narrows her eyes. “Sirius told you, didn’t he?”

“Boy can’t keep a secret to save his life,” James agrees. He grins, and he’s so damn beautiful, and for the first time, Lily isn’t frustrated about it. He twitches his fingers once more, and she takes his hand, and grins back, and she’s beautiful too.

It makes sense for them to be beautiful together.




((These have essentially no bearing on the above however I wanted to include them as a little behind the scenes glimpse of what was going through my head while I was writing this))


The four of them - that is to say, Lily, Remus, Sirius and Peter - have never spent as much time together as they do during James and Tilly’s brief relationship. They’re sat at the very end of Gryffindor table, observing the couple with disgust.

“Do they have to do that?” Remus asks, putting down his fork and pushing his plate of bacon and eggs away. They’ve just begun snogging with the grace of third years, and Sirius, Peter and Lily are quick to follow Remus’ lead.

“We need a better name than that,” Lily muses. “If we’re complaining about that, we could be complaining about anything.”

“JTPDAs?” Peter asks, scratching his jaw. “It stands for James and Tilly’s Public Displays of Affection, but it could also have a double meaning, like… I dunno, Genuinely Terrifying PDAs?”

Lily blinks a few times. Remus cocks his head. Sirius narrows his eyes, and, “Peter…”


“Genuinely doesn’t start with a J.”

Fuck,” Peter whispers, but it’s too late.


“It’s Christmaaaaaaas,” Peter sings, jumping up onto James’ bed. This, effectively, wakes up the whole tower, and within a few minutes, Lily has made her way sleepily into their room, and the five of them are all gathered on the floor between Sirius and Remus’ beds. Lily reaches for the pile of presents, but she’s halted by an indignant noise from Peter.

“Please?” she tries.

“We have to sing Christmas carols before we open any presents,” James explains, rolling his eyes.

“It’s a tradition,” Peter hisses.

“Why don’t you start us off, then, Pete,” Remus suggests with a yawn. “How about Jood King Wenceslas, that’s my favourite.”

“I’m partial to Ginjle Bells,” Sirius argues, and Remus chuckles as he leans back against his bed. Lily hi fives both of them, and James takes on an expression of both anger and confusion.

Guys,” he whines, but he’s ignored by all.

“I’m going to smother you in your sleep,” Peter says darkly.


Silence falls over the room as Sirius stands, a handsome figure in black, with a flute of champagne raised in toast. “Hello everyone, I’m Sirius, and I’m the Best Man, so I think a Best Man speech is in order. I’ve known Lily and Games for… I’m terribly sorry, everyone, I got Peter to proof read this, it should be Lily and James.”

Peter hides his face in his hands, but attention is drawn to his anyway, with Remus’ rather loud snort. “I hate you all,” he whispers.


James is dancing with his mother, and Lily is dancing with Remus, and Sirius and Peter are seated as close to the bar as they can be.

Peter sighs, watching Remus twirl Lily around, her wedding gown billowing out around her. She looks so happy, surrounded by friends and able to forget, just for now, about the war. “Lily looks stunning, don’t you think?”

Sirius keeps a straight face for approximately three seconds, and Peter groans in anticipation. “Yeah, she looks absolutely jorgeous.”

“Fuck off you wanker, Padfoot.”


Sirius and Peter have never had such a perfect opportunity to show off their entire choreographed dance routine to Money Money Money as they do at the reception of Lily and James’ wedding. They pull it off flawlessly, and the crowd hollers and hoots as they finish, chests heaving and hair slicked back with sweat, though none so loud as Lily and Remus.

“That was jreat!” Remus whoops, applauding so hard his hands hurt.

“Jlorious, boys!” Lily agrees, just as furious in her clapping.

No one can really blame Peter for what he does next.

Good King Wenceslas

Good King Wenceslas looked out,
on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
gathering winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me,
if thou know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence,
underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence,
by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh, and bring me wine,
bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I shall see him dine,
when we bear them thither. ”
Page and monarch, forth they went,
forth they went together;
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
and the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now,
and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how;
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, good my page.
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s step he trod,
where the snow lay dinted.
Heat was in the very sod
which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
ye who now will bless the poor,
shall yourselves find blessing.

steggyisimmortal  asked:

I'm watching Love Actually and it's making me think of your fic Special Relationship. The part where the Prime Minister is going around to the houses looking for Natalie but especially the part where the little girls are asking him to sing a Christmas carol.

Quick note: I was just going to jot down a brief drabble…and then this grabbed hold of me and it will now be a full-length chapter…I just have to finish my Secret Santa gifts first lol

Peggy dropped onto the most comfortable couch in 10 Downing Street–hideously yellow, over two hundred years old, and the softest thing imaginable–and kicked her feet up, her high heels flying toward the portrait of some stuffy, forgettable prime minister from three hundred years ago. Her briefcase, bright red and embossed with the seal of the PM in gold, sat on the table in front of her, right next to a generous three fingers of scotch.

She took a swig from the glass and popped the briefcase open. Right on top sat a stack of Christmas cards, wrapped in a rubber band. A sticky note written in Angie’s neat script was placed on the top card.


Peggy snorted. It was typical of Angie to “encourage” her to do the parts of the job she hated, like Prime Minister’s Questions or reading a bunch of cards from pretentious blowhards, with an exclamation point. It rarely worked, but she always gave Angie points for trying. She set the cards aside and rifled through the briefcase, which was full of files and briefings. She scowled at the idea of doing work on Christmas Eve. Intelligence and economics briefings were not conducive to Christmas cheer. Ever.

She sighed and pulled the rubber band from around the stack of cards, shooting it toward the far wall. She winced and whispered an apology as it struck Winston Churchill right in the nose. 

She flipped through the stack quickly, each card containing a perfunctory greeting from MPs and members of the House of Lords. Midway through, a beautiful card caught her eye. It was a hand-drawn rendition of the White House Christmas Tree, and Peggy smiled. There was only one person who would have sent it to her.

Dear Peggy, it read, Merry Christmas. (Or is it Happy Christmas? You Brits say both and it is very confusing). My Christmas will not be as merry because you are not with me, and every day is a little less bright when I don’t get to see your face. 

Angie promised she would sneak this card in for me, but I don’t know if you will see it in time for my Christmas wish to come true. The Howlers are having a reunion in London this year, and I want nothing more than to sneak away from the craziness and whisk you away. Waking up beside you on Christmas morning sounds like the greatest possible Christmas gift. It was a small miracle that I was able to come for this trip, but my security and protocol officers believe it would be improper to visit you, as it would be perceived as an official visit. I think it’s stupid, but presidents have less power than you may think.

I’ll be staying on High Street through Christmas day, in the area that Falsworth describes as the “dodgy end.” I don’t know if that means anything to you, or if you’ll get this card in time. If you do, I would love to see you. If you are reading this after the fact, know that each one of my thoughts are with you.

Merry Christmas, Peggy. I love you.

-Your Steve

Peggy stared at the card, a wide grin spreading over her face. Steve was here, in London. It was the best Christmas gift she could have ever received. She pulled her phone out of her skirt pocket and pressed his speed dial. It rang four times and went to voicemail. She groaned and tried twice more, with no success. 

She sighed–of course Steve would choose today not to answer his phone–and rang the motor pool for a car. She rushed to the door, clumsily sliding her shoes on as she went. 

“I’m going out,” she told the cop at the door cheerfully. “Don’t wait up!”

She slid into the car and instructed the driver to head for High Street. “The dodgy end, if you please.”

The motorcade arrived in short order, and her driver said, “Here we are, ma’am. What’s the number?”

She peered out the window to see what was quite possibly the longest residential street in London. “Oh God. I have no idea.” And Steve still wasn’t picking up his bloody phone. She heaved a sigh and got out of the car. They would have to do this the old fashioned way.

She knocked on the first door on the street, a one hanging prominently against the wood. The door swung open to reveal an elderly woman.

“Hello, is there a Steve staying here?”

The woman shook her head. “No, sorry.”

“Right,” Peggy replied, turning away. “Thank you, sorry to disturb your evening.”

“Wait a minute. Aren’t you the Prime Minister?”

Peggy spun back around with a wince. She had been hoping to avoid this exact scenario. “Um. Yes? Merry Christmas?”

The woman let out a happy sigh, and Peggy soldiered on. “Yes, it’s part of the service now. Trying to get around to everyone by New Years. Have a lovely evening.”

She all but sprinted to the next house, not wishing to get stuck talking to constituents this evening. The next twenty or so houses passed by easily. Most people were either out or eager to get back to their families, so they didn’t linger beyond a polite “No, sorry,” when Peggy asked after Steve. 

The door to Number 56 opened to an empty foyer. Peggy stared into the house, unsure what to do. She heard a loud cough below her line of sight, and she looked down to see three young girls, all adorned in tutus, watching her expectantly.

“Well, hello. Is there a Steve staying here?”

“No, there isn’t,” one of the girls replied, the other two nodding sagely.

“Oh dear,” Peggy sighed, turning away.

“Are you singing carols?” the same girl asked, hands on her hips.

“Oh, no. No, I’m not.”

“Please, ma’am, please,” a second girl said, and the other two chimed in until their pleading was all Peggy could hear.

She exchanged a glance with the officer accompanying her. “Well, I suppose I could, if you’d like.”

The girls cheered, and Peggy took a fortifying breath. She was good at many things, but singing was not one of them.

“Right. Um,” Peggy dithered, desperately wishing she had just said goodbye and went on her way. “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen”

She looked to the officer, who chimed in with a spectacular voice, much to her surprise. “When the snow lay roundabout, deep and crisp and even.” 

Peggy and the officer finished the verse with only a little embarrassment as the girls danced around the foyer, laughing and kicking their feet in the air to an unknown rhythm. She extricated herself as graciously as possible, though she was exceedingly grateful that no one in the next dozen homes mistook them for carolers.

At Number 100, Peggy knocked on the door weakly, her excitement at seeing Steve tempered by the many blocks of walking in her impractical heels and without a coat. She was tired and shivering, and when the door opened to reveal a young woman in a pajama set, her shoulders slumped.

“Hello. Is Steve staying here?” she asked wearily, already preparing herself for the inevitable answer.

“No,” the young woman replied, and Peggy turned away, disappointed. “Though there is some sort of reunion next door, and I thought I heard someone say the name Steve. There’s been police cars and limos and everything over the last day or so.”

Peggy slowly spun on her heel, scarcely believing what she had just heard. “Oh. That’s brilliant. Thanks!”

“You’re not who I think you are, are you?” the woman asked.

Peggy chuckled wryly. “Yes, I’m rather afraid I am. I apologize on behalf of my government, we’ll do better next year. Merry Christmas.”

She took the few steps between 100 and 102, heart squeezing in her chest. She missed Steve terribly–phone calls and video chats were a very poor substitution to his presence, and now that she was in front of the door where he was likely staying, she worried that this was a dream, that she would wake up alone in her big house on Christmas morning, this whole night a scotch-flavored figment of her imagination.

She squared her shoulders and rapped on the door. Better to try and fail than never try at all. The door swung open, and she was blasted by warm air and boisterous laughter. The entryway was full of big, burly men dressed in truly horrid Christmas sweaters, and they all went silent at the sight of her on the doorstep. 

Peggy cleared her throat. “Um, right. Hello, is Steve staying here?”

They all looked curiously at her, and she fidgeted in the doorway. She thought she could see Barnes’ face in the back of the group, but it was difficult to be sure. 

As Peggy and the occupants of the house were locked in some strange sort of showdown, heavy footsteps came down the stairs. Steve appeared at the top of the landing, shouting, “Hey, where’d you assholes put my phone? It wasn’t funny when I first ran, and it isn’t funny now–”

He froze in his tracks halfway down the stairs at the sight of Peggy in the doorway, still in her suit, a run in her stockings and her updo on the edge of collapse. “Peggy?”

She sighed in relief. “Hello, Steve.”

The Commandos turned in unison to face Steve, whose cheeks flushed under their scrutiny. “Right. Guys, this is Prime Minister Peggy Carter. Peg, these are the Howling Commandos, my old unit. Dum Dum, Gabe, Jim, Monty, Jacques, and you remember Bucky,” he said, pointing out each of the men as he listed them off. 

“Gentlemen.” Peggy nodded at the group and resisted the urge to give a pathetic half-wave. She had been in plenty of weird, uncertain situations as both spy and politician, and she thought she had tamped down her worst, most awkward instincts, but apparently meeting her boyfriend’s friends brought them all back with a vengeance.

Before she could completely humiliate herself, Steve sprinted down the last few steps and just about bowled her over in a bear hug, wrapping his huge arms around her waist and lifting her off the ground. Her stomach swooped as her feet left the pavement, and she let out an embarrassingly girlish giggle.

“I missed you,” he whispered, his breath tickling her ear.

“I missed you too,” she replied in the same tone. She patted his shoulder and, at a normal volume, said, “Now put me down. People will talk.”

to be continued…

Need a Little Christmas (1/most likely 3) - A GFSS fic

SANDRA!!!!! You must have guessed it was me who was so super late at posting your GFSS present. I tried so hard to be timely but life and muses and holidays conspired to make that impossible. But finally the first part of your gift, my lovely @laschatzi - a bit of banter, a bit of humour (I hope), some silly outfits and hopefully a tiny bit in the gutter direction eventually :-) 

(PS - I had a go at the world’s simplest heading banner thingy. The visuals helped in writing, hopefully they will help in reading too!)

Need a Little Christmas

There were a number of things that Emma Swan did not enjoy about Christmas.

Untangling herself from the myriad of fairy lights her sister-in-law insisted on stringing across her apartment; finding new and unusual places to hide slices of Granny’s rock-hard fruitcake; avoiding handsy Uncle Leroy any time she found herself under the mistletoe.

There was, however, one notable exception…not that she would ever, ever admit it.

As far as her friends were concerned, Emma’s choice of Christmas wear was 100% a political statement on the ridiculousness of holiday consumerism, or the wasteful nature of Christmas decorations or whatever other tenuous link to a cause she was able to create on the spur of the moment.

In reality, however - Emma Swan loved the kitschy glory of a truly awful Christmas sweater. Adored the scratchy feel of acrylic, the garish reds and greens accented with the tackiest of tinsels. It was everything that she wanted to think of Christmas as being - fun and whimsical and joyful - and everything her actual memories were not.

But somehow, regaling the gathered Christmas crowd with sad tales of your childhood in the foster care system did nothing for the ambience around the dinner table - so half assed political statements it was.

Tonight’s offering was particularly spectacular, if she said so herself; an especially potent shade of green, offset with clashing red patterns and finished with a dainty Peter Pan collar, embroidered with holly. Only a tiny sliver of garish green had alerted her to its presence - but that was all it took for Emma to know she had found a prize. The internet was awash with ugly sweaters these days, she knew, but there was something about the hunt, the methodical search and recover operation of finding the perfect item in a thrift store that appealed to Emma’s determined soul. Emma Swan always got her mark - in work and in holiday festivities and that wasn’t about to change because #uglyxmassweater was now a thing.

Throwing aside a collection of hand knitted scarves, she reached for the trophy, only to find herself engaged in a tug of war with a man on the other side of the bin. Tugging the sleeve towards her sharply, he lost his footing, tumbling slightly before letting go of the sweater and steadying himself against the metal cage. Long fingers grasped the metal, a silver ring on his thumb catching her eye as he righted himself.

Keep reading

I have a complicated relationship with Christmas.  I am the product of a pagan/jungian gnostic and an existentialist demi-jew,  and between Mom’s mysticism/impeccable design sense and Dad’s love of deception-based holiday traditions I had some pretty intense xmasses growing up, particularly after they got divorced.  I don’t do much in the way of holiday celebrating now that I am an adult, in part because I feel kind of like a yuletide version of Julian Lennon, but my upbringing did leave me with very particular opinions about Christmas music.  This was Mom’s doing, and so she gets the credit/blame for what follows:


Before we begin, here’s what I look for in a carol:

1. It old

2. It complicated

3. It’s not so much about the baby jesus (although I will definitely brook some exceptions if the baby jesus gets up to some wacky hijinx)

 OK here we go

10. “Jolly Old Hawk

The best Christmas carols are only tangentially about Christmas, and  "Jolly old hawk and his wings were grey - now let us sing, who’s gonna win the girl but me?“ is a pretty promising opening gambit

This is basically the Twelve Days of Christmas, but better, because all the animals who are inexplicably getting sent to the lady in question are really grumpy about it, and also there’s something called a "three-thistle cock” involved

Keep reading

A Hallowmas Carol

The Urchins have started belting out seasonal(ish) carols for pennies.  Somewhat early.

(To the tune of Good King Wenceslas)

Let peace ring out from Hallowmas
In all the darkest places
May th’ Iron Republic’s guns be cold
May snuffers spare our faces.

May Zee be calm and waxwind still
May spiders never blind us
Let cats and rats and bats embrace
And dreams of sunlight bind us

Amber for each rub’ry man
Glim for every urchin
A city for our dear Bazaar
That ends its hungry searching

May you find your own true love
And granted be your wishes
The Masters want this coming year
Your days to be delicious.

anonymous asked:

Just curious: A few days ago you mentioned how dark Christmas carols can be. So which ones strike you as really dark, and why?

Well, it first struck me because We Three Kings is my favorite Christmas carol ever, and one of the verses goes

Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume
Breaths a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Which is DARK when we’re talking about a baby’s birth, but at the same time these dudes all knew that this baby they were showering with gifts was born to die young and in torment. (Well, “young”, life expectancy was lower then, but 30ish was still pretty early.) Most songs about the birth of Christ reference his eventual death in some sense.

I don’t want to make a case that all Christmas carols are dark, or that an entire carol is dark because one verse is; there are a lot of great joyous ones and I know I’m cherrypicking a little. But man, there’s also some heavy shit in some of these.

“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is another favorite of mine and while it is indeed about tidings of comfort and joy, it opens with

Remember Christ our savior was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray

Whoa, Satan in LINE THREE. (Incidentally, excuse you, “we”? Go a little easier on the original sin there, dude.)

“Good King Wenceslas” is technically about how the king did something nice for a hermit, but there’s a lot of freezing cold and misery en route.

“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.“
“Mark my footsteps, good my page. Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.”

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is pretty dark:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave

Also some whiffs of anti-Semitism there, now that I look at it.

Most people leave this verse out of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”:

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

There are also a bunch of songs that are basically the narrative of “Man this freezing barn with a bunch of animals in it is kind of a crap place for a baby, especially a really nice baby like Jesus.” That said, every goddamn time I hear “The Little Drummer Boy” I get choked up at

Baby Jesu
I am a poor boy too
I have no gift to bring
That’s fit to give a king

“Do You Hear What I Hear” was literally written about the Cuban Missile Crisis and “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” was written about the American Civil War.

“Carol of the Bells” isn’t especially dark but it’s in a really creepy minor key.

This isn’t like a theological lecture or anything but a huge part of the narrative of Christ, especially in certain denominations, is that he was born to die for humanity’s sins. His future was predestined and it was a terrible one. There’s no real escaping the destiny of suffering and death, even if you belong to one of the churches which focus more on the joy of his coming and the promise of salvation. The shadow of Calvary is there in the stable of Bethlehem.

Perhaps more relevantly, in Europe, Christmas was laid over the top of numerous pre-Christian holidays occurring at or around the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Most of these were about surviving the darkness of winter by…well, often by setting shit on fire. The reason we emphasize warmth and light at this time of year is that there was so little of it in nature when the winter festivals were evolving. You can’t have the celebration of the solar god who redeems and protects without acknowledging that the need for such protection arises out of the darkest, coldest, hungriest, most dangerous part of the year. Which is, uh, today.

So, I mean, it’s a dark time. And I think the songs we sing reflect that, in various ways, throughout various eras.