Today it's only fitting that we share the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl's "Fairytale of New York" yet again. The song, 26 years young now, concerns a couple whose New York City Christmas in the drunk tank is anything but merry.
The video was actually shot during Thanksgiving Week and features a young Matt Dillon and a NYPD pipe band (which really isn't playing "Galway Bay"). It's become so beloved that even a writer for Christian Today suggests it's better than the usual Christmas carols:
It might seem a dubious and even offensive argument. While musically it is terrific, and has topped several surveys as the best Christmas song of all time, there is no mention of Jesus. Moreover, some of the language would be offensive to many and is certainly unsuitable to sing in church. There's also the actual story it tells. As Wikipedia puts it: "The song follows an Irish immigrant's Christmas Eve reverie about holidays past while sleeping off a binge" and goes on to feature bickering between a couple whose "youthful hopes [have been] crushed by alcoholism and drug addiction".
Bit of a mess, isn't it? And that's the point. It seems to me that the messy, hopeless, curse-ridden, drink-sodden and seemingly God-forsaken world of which the song paints a picture is exactly the scenario into which God in Christ chose to come as a human being. The setting into which Jesus came was not glorious or glitzy, but marked by hopelessness, violence and despair. Jesus is Emmanuel - God With Us - for people such as the couple in the song.
The song even has its "indie" music update, courtesy of Iron & Wine and Calexico:
The Official Charts Company, which is the British recording industry's chart tracking group, offered that statistic the song is the most popular Christmas song to download in the U.K. Number two is from Long Island native Mariah Carey:
And there's another Christmas classic that debuted in 1987 just like "Fairytale in New York": Run-DMC's "Christmas In Hollis"! DMC recently talked with the AV Club about the making of the song and video, and how they almost didn't do it ("They commercialize you and try to make you corny. We’re totally against anything that’s going to be fake. If it ain’t beats and rhymes and DJ-ing and graffiti, we ain’t doin’ it! Here you go again with the corporate America powers that be and Hollywood trying to ruin hip-hop! We ain’t going out like that!”) But they did, and it worked:
Merry Christmas, everyone!