Oy, the Irony!

5 Jewish Christmas Clips

As Xmas approaches, Haaretz selects (though in no way endorses!) five songs written, sung or centered on members of Christianity’s older brother.

Tess Scheflan

Love it or hate it, it’s that season again – the onset of global Christmasmania, featuring armies of frenzied shoppers storming the world’s department stores, joyfully jingleful movies and commercials, enough fruit cake to feed armies and juvenile wish lists burning gaping holes in parental pockets.

For some, Christmas is a profoundly religious experience. For most it's a celebration of family and tradition mixed in with a large dose of retail therapy. For a few it’s an excuse for alcohol-fuelled partying – and for the more creative, it’s pudding for parody.

From the raspy voice of Camden’s fallen Aretha to the politically loaded words of Billy Joel, these five tunes are sure to make you either laugh, cry or fume:

1. “I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus”

Christmas 2013 marks the third since the talented and tortured Amy Winehouse left this world, and, as cheesy as it sounds, her spirit – in all its rebellious glory - lives on through her work, including in this remake of a 1950s American song that Catholic leaders sought to ban. In her characteristically bluesy voice, Winehouse bellows out sexualized, seemingly sacrilegious lines like “I saw Mummy tickle Santa Claus, Underneath his beard so snowy white. Oh, what a laugh it would have been, If Daddy had only seen Mummy kissing Santa Claus last night!”

When first released in the 1952 by 13-year old Jim Boyd, and after shooting to the top of the pop charts, Boston’s Roman Catholic Church was outraged at the sordid insinuation – only lifting its veritable fatwa after Boyd met with the Archdiocese to explain that, actually, Santa is really Dad, and kissing Mom under the mistletoe is as kosher to Christmas as (marital) sex is on Shabbat.

2. “I Love Christmas (Even Though I'm Jewish)”

With lines like “you’ve got the manger and the baby in the cradle… and all we’ve got is a silly little dreidel,” Jewish performer and producer Nelson Kole entertains with a belly-rolling doozy that speaks to the experiences of millions of Jews who have grown up in Christian-majority countries and battled with feelings of being left out. Kole enthralls with a politically-incorrect display of why he always wanted to celebrate Christmas, singing, “I love the thousands of twinkling light bulbs, there’s only eight stinking candles for me,” and adding how the “baked ham makes me drool.” Those “American Jewry is disappearing”-doomsayers among you be warned – you won’t find this amusing.

3. “Christmas in Fallujah”

For something decidedly more dark and dangerous, check out this stirring Billy Joel song on the hardships, both physical and spiritual, endured by American soldiers during their deployment in Iraq. “It’s Christmas in Fallujah, and no-one gives a damn…,” he opines, “it’s Christmas in Fallujah, and we ain’t ever coming home.” Mixed in with Arabesque sounds, the song is heavy and pregnant with meaning, with its talk of infidels, crusades and armies of empire, not to mention the statement that “there is no justice in the desert because there is no God in hell.”

All proceeds from the song go to a charitable foundation for housing returned servicemen, and though very few American troops remain for a 2013 Mesopotamian Christmas, Fallujah, still wracked by sectarian violence, could definitely do with some Christmas cheer.

4. “ They Aint Makin Jews Like Jesus Anymore”

While more Christ than Christmas-centric, naughtily-named country music star, Kinky Friedman, delivers this profanity-littered song not for the faint-humored. Chock-a-block with tongue-in-cheek lines like "Oh, they ain't makin' Jews like Jesus anymore, They ain't makin' carpenters that know what nails are for…" and a declaration that “We Jews believe it was Santa Claus that killed Jesus Christ,” it’s as shocking as it is catchy. While Amy Winehouse’s song is risqué, this one is definitely not suitable for children (seriously).

And before you take offense at the litany of racial epithets spewed from his mouth – know that Kinky doesn’t mean what he’s singing, rather impersonating a racist yokel he encountered in a bar, and even throwing a reference to himself as a “little hebe from the heart of Texas.”

5. “All I want for Christmas is Jews”

With over five million likes, this Mariah Carey spoof is simply hilarious, or alternatively softly anti-Semitic. Though none of the three performers are Jewish, no controversial Christmas-songs-by-Jews listicle could emit this, full of stereotyping as it is, including “I won't ask for much this Christmas… Just want a Jew who runs show business.” If that’s not edgy enough, then watch out for this Christ-killing pardon: “They may have killed our savior, That's not the best behavior, That’s OK, he rose again three days later and now I'm an active J-dater.” And just for the fun of it: “Oh I just want a chosen one… Hebrew boys are so much fun.”