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From the Archives: Christmas revisionism and satanic carols

, , and | Monday, December 9, 2019

Diane Park | The Observer

Much of our holiday cheer comes from annual tradition. When Christmas songs start playing in the dining hall and colorful lights are strung up around campus, that’s when festivity truly begins. 

Traditions, of course, tend to evolve over time. This process of change can be natural, but sometimes Christmas fanatics take things into their own hands. This week, From the Archives welcomes the holiday season with an Observer spin.

Observer front page | Observer archives, Dec. 14, 1983

“‘Twas the night before Christmas” at Notre Dame

Dec. 14, 1983 | Amy Stephan | Researched by Meg Pryor

The struggles of college students are truly timeless. Just in case you haven’t been thinking enough about final exams already, here is a poem from December of 1983 to remind you of all of the work you have to do during the next couple of weeks.


The poem reads, “The books were piled up 10 feet high on my desk in a desperate cram for tomorrow’s test.” One can’t help but feel pity for students in this esoteric era. Back in the 80s, those lucky students did not have portable laptops to view their textbooks. They braved the blizzards and biting cold with heavy backpacks.

As students dive into their studies, they always dream of the time when they can take a breath and relax. The poem reflects this sentiment: “I longed to be snuggled all warm in my bed but visions of failure flashed through my head.” Clearly, there is a contagious optimism in this poem. 

But the struggles extend beyond academics. “St. Theodore” (surely a festive spin on Fr. Hesburgh) forbids the narrator from putting up Christmas lights because “this is ND, you cannot have fun.” 

The narrator strikes back, telling St. Theodore he’s in a female dorm past parietals. 

“Big brother is watching, so have a good night,” St. Theodore warns as he bolts out of the dorm. 

Student rebukes ‘satanic’ Christmas carol 

Dec. 12, 1990 | Michael Snyder | Researched by Evan McKenna

Accent writer Michael Snyder (’94) is no stranger to subliminal messages in popular songs. After hearing rumors the Eagles’ “Hotel California” was a reference to the satanic church, he exercised his investigative journalism skills and asked other Notre Dame students to weigh in. Synder received resounding agreement, and after attending a Christmas SYR, he had a new contender for most sinful song: “Jingle Bells.”

According to Snyder, the song’s lyrics are rife with references to satanism, drugs and general moral degeneracy, and he kindly provides us with a line-by-line analysis so readers may reach the same understanding.

Excerpt from "Hell

First, Synder argues, the opening line “dashing through the snow” is a euphemistic invitation for listeners to do cocaine.  “Over the fields we go”? Only the supernatural can make humans fly — “probably the devil’s work,” he writes. 

Then there are bells in “bells on bobtails ring,” which Snyder says references the famous quote by John Donne: “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” 

This lyric calls to mind the inevitably of death, reminding listeners of “the good ole’ days when the dead were collected right at your front doorstep,” Synder writes.

The “spirits” made bright by the aforementioned bells might reference ghosts, or, of course, alcohol. And the final line of the first verse, “What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight,” he says, is clearly another invitation to hop onto the bandwagon of drugs and devil worship.

To keep these demonic messages out of our children’s ears, Snyder “[vowed] to ban ‘Jingle Bells’ forever.” He hoped his crusade against this beloved Christmas classic could provide us with a new perspective on other corrupt carols. After all, how could “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” be anything but another drug anthem?

The Twelve Days of Christmas, Notre Dame style

Dec. 3, 1999 | Observer Scene | Researched by Mary Steurer

Scene header | Observer archives, Dec. 3, 199

This is exactly what it sounds like: Scene’s rehash of “The 12 Days of Christmas” featuring some of your favorite Notre Dame icons. The spread includes guest appearances from Notre Dame women’s basketball, ducks, dining hall workers, French professors and more. If nothing else, it’s a fun way to usher in the season and an entertaining throwback to life at the University in 1999.

From "The Twelve Days of Christmas, Notre Dame style" | Observer archives, Dec. 3, 1999
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About Jim Moster

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About Mary Steurer

Mary is a senior sociology major and journalism minor from St. Louis. An aspiring religion reporter, Mary has spent the last year covering conversations about the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis at Notre Dame.

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About Evan McKenna

Evan is a senior at Notre Dame from Morristown, Tennessee majoring in psychology and English with a concentration in creative writing. He is currently serving as the Managing Editor of The Observer, and believes in the immutable power of a well-placed em dash. Reach him at [email protected] or @evanjmckenna on Twitter.

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About Meghan Pryor

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