the polar express*

The Signs as: Christmas Movies
  • Aries: Bad Santa
  • Taurus: A Christmas Carol
  • Gemini: Elf
  • Cancer: Miracle on 34th St
  • Leo: A Christmas Story
  • Virgo: Frosty the Snowman
  • Libra: A Year Without a Santa Claus
  • Scorpio: The Grinch
  • Sagittarius: The Santa Clause
  • Capricorn: The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Aquarius: Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
  • Pisces: The Polar Express
the only four possible interpretations of the song ‘i saw mommy kissing santa claus,’ each more terrible than the last

listen. i can’t possibly be the first person to fall down this awful rabbit hole. i can’t possibly be the first person on the internet to point this out. 

but i need someone else to keep me company in this terrible brain-room i have built because i now seem incapable of leaving no matter how hard i try, so grab your favorite seasonally appropriate slippers and follow me on this journey into the worst five minutes of your life.

because one of four things is happening with this song:

1. a child crept downstairs late on december 24 hoping for a glimpse of jolly ol’ st nick, dreaming of some ‘t’was the night before christmas’ whimsy or maybe even a ‘polar express’-level adventure, only to instead be confronted by the sight of santa macking on their mom. right there in the living room. 

also, did you know that, in the lyrics, after mommy kisses santa, she tickles him “underneath his beard so snowy white”? think about that for a moment. really let it sit with you. you won’t want to, but let it marinate a sec.

the child did not witness a quick, platonic european-style cheek kiss. there is something more happening here. i have given friends a friendly peck before but it was not followed by ticking–their chin? their sternum? man, each to their own. but my point is: we are not talking about a simple mistletoe smooch. we are talking about intimacy.

and look, i did not come here to slutshame anyone’s mom. i certainly did not come here to slutshame anyone’s mom for making out with santa–check the archives i have literally never expressed such an interest anywhere in the years of this blog and i DEFY YOU to prove otherwise

but damn, that is a loaded way to learn of your parent’s infidelity, and shit, when you go to your dad with this information (in the chorus the narrator repeatedly voices this intention), you are about to put yourself in the middle of a weird, messy custody battle.

2. “but smile” you say, “you do realize that this song is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, with the clear implication the child is a classic unreliable narrator, too naive to realize ‘santa claus’ is just Dad in disguise, and furthermore that this irony is heavily telegraphed by the repeated assertion ‘what a laugh it would have been / if Daddy had only seen,’ a line that could never have made it into an ostensibly light-hearted christmas song if not for the certainty that it is all in fact a hilarious misunderstanding? it’s the kid’s dad! you are thinking about this way too much!’

ok first of all, obviously.

second of all, counterpoint: how do you mistake your dad for santa? he’s your dad. you know what he looks like. no matter the extenuating circumstances, if you are creeping around in your own house late at night and you see a man who looks like your dad kissing your mom, how would your first thought be anything other than ‘oh probably that is my dad’

“um smile,” you interject, probably a little distressed by the intensity in my voice and the general lack of blinking, “earlier in this very post you quote a line that tells us, the listener, precisely what enables this shakespearean case of mistaken identity: the dad is wearing a fake beard ‘so snowy white’. ipso facto, the dad is dressed like santa. bam. case closed, encyclopedia brown.”

but no. nonononono. wait. unpack that. why is the speaker’s dad in full santa garb? 


we already know the dad had no intention of being seen by any of his children. how do we know this? well, a) it’s the middle of the night and b) presumably if the dad intended for his offspring to take in the santa act, he wouldn’t be subjecting his child to this psycho-sexual minefield.

“ok now,” you say, “maybe one or both of the parents has a fetish, it is not your place to judge.”

well, yeah. but maybe when you have kids, the middle of the living room is not the place for your kris kringle kink. consenting adults should of course chase their bliss, but the child who takes in this scene is gonna come out of this with some very specific emotional baggage, i’m just saying.

3. “okay smartass,” you persevere, maybe now a little tired by my inability to let this go. (sorry.) “consider this: maybe within the fiction of the song, santa is real. you don’t know what type of relationship the speaker’s parents have with each other. you definitely don’t know what type of relationship santa has with mrs. claus. polyamory is a thing. open marriages are a thing. this could all be a completely above-the-board situation. the child will, as we have already established, approach their dad, at which point they will have a frank and informative dialogue about monogamy alternatives. merry christmas.”

well listen, i hate to rain on your parade, friend, but there is a crucial flaw in this line of reasoning: christmas eve is a workday for santa. santa is on the clock. santa has the impossibly difficult, high-stakes task of delivering presents to all the good children celebrating the holiday. this is literally the one night of the year where he needs to knuckle down and concentrate on his job.

and instead he is out there, still in full uniform, in the middle of his most important workday all year, getting his beard tickled?

fucking unprofessional. kids are gonna not get their gifts because of this bullshit.


great. now the narrator has to go the whole rest of their life wondering what the fuck in their subconscious conjured these images on christmas goddamn eve. not toys, not candy, not playing in the snow, or any other source of festive child-friendly cheer. no, this little kid nestled up snug in their bed on the night before christmas and dreamed not of sugarplums but of the hypothetical chemistry between santa and their mom.

there is no win scenario in this story. everywhere you turn it is an absolute fucking nightmare.

…and people are angry about plain red fucking starbucks cups. goddamn.

anyway. happy holidays, everyone.