Last December I wrote a post about Christmas songs.
The idea was that the song that makes you feel the most Christmassy is the one that meets your main emotional need at this time of year. I picked out eight classics to illustrate eight different needs.
But it’s slowly dawned on me that I committed the cardinal sin - I didn’t define the central need. Without that, any Need Map is like Rudolph without a sleigh.
So what is it that we all really want for Christmas?
If you don’t mind, I’m going to go back to those eight songs. Here they are, with a link to the song itself and the need I felt they met:
1. ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ by Slade (http://bit.ly/2hNSxkS): EMPOWERMENT
2. ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ by John and Yoko (http://bit.ly/2gLuPIr): INDEPENDENCE
3. ‘Walking in the Air’ by Aled Jones (http://bit.ly/2htQ828): FREEDOM
4. ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ by Chris Rea (http://bit.ly/2hFCeuA): CONNECTION
5. ‘I Believe in Father Christmas’ by Greg Lake (http://bit.ly/2hw8qNI): DISCERNMENT
6. ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues & Kirsty McColl (http://bit.ly/2hO2leL): BONDING
7. ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’ from Frozen, by Kristen Bell, Katie Lopez and Agatha Lee Monn (http://bit.ly/2hwSfju): CONTROL (if you’re Elsa), FUN (if you’re Anna)
8. ‘The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)’ by Nat King Cole (http://bit.ly/2hwTDm8): COMFORT
If you’d like to read the original post, it’s here.
So that’s all very well, but what’s the central need? What is every one of those songs about, one way or another?
Well, it has to be something to do with Togetherness.
Shane and Kirsty, Elsa and Anna, the Snowman and the boy, John and Yoko (plus, ideally, the rest of the world), Slade and everybody else having fun. Chris Rea and the guy in the next-door car. Greg Lake and Father Christmas.
Even Nat King Cole is tucked up safe and tight at home, presumably with others around. So true about Christmas, isn’t? We hate to think of people being on their own at this time. It seems somehow extra cruel.
There are also plenty of Christmas ads which are basically odes to Togetherness. BT TV, Sky and BBC One to name but three. Slight issue with differentiation there.
But I don’t think Togetherness is the whole story. There’s something else in all those songs. Something bittersweet. A touch of melancholy. Why is that?
Of course, the air is always thick with nostalgia over Christmas. Traditions. Reminiscences. Regrets, maybe. The passing of time. The passing of childhood, especially.
Also, Christmas is an emotional journey in itself. Anticipation to Excitement to Satisfaction to Weakness to Depression. And however you look at that, it’s a downward spiral.
So Christmas is about a kind of happy-sad Togetherness. It’s Shane and Kirsty staying together despite everything. Greg Lake seeing through the disguise. John and Yoko knowing deep down war will never be over. The Snowman knowing he’s going to melt.
And one day that John Lewis boy is going to go to sleep and not listen out for the monster under the bed. Those Waitrose shoppers are going to have to leave the pub. And those Amazon shoppers are going to have to pay their January credit card bill.
Maybe then what we all need at Christmas is to make sure we enjoy the time we have together. With a smile and tear. Because it’ll be over before you know it.
All the best insights contain a tension.
Happy Christmas to you and your loved ones.
See you next year.