How to Sing “Fairytale of New York” at Karaoke without Sounding Like a Jerk

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s “Fairytale of New York” is obviously one of the best Christmas songs of all time. It’s a lively tune with a melancholy final verse (oh god that verse), the story of a couple that wonders if they have any good times left, a bittersweet look at the present compared to Christmases past. I sing along every time it comes on, even if that means I’m belting it out in a busy store, and it makes an excellent karaoke duet. But although it’s a perfectly crafted song, not all the words are winners. My mom came up with some alternate lyrics to one line so that you can sing without cringing, and I will now share them with you, my gift to you for this festive season.

Instead of “you scumbag, you maggot,  you cheap lousy f*ggot,” sing “you scumbag, you fungus, you cheapskate among us.” It scans, it keeps the idea of cheapness and vermin, and you cut out the slur. So go ahead, belt it out and Happy Christmas (your arse).

The Media of a Merry Christmas

My love for the Christmas season runs deep. I’m lucky in that our family Christmases were fun and full of people I love. I know a lot of people have to struggle through a Christmas dinner of intoxicated relatives, inquisitions on their personal lives, and a replay of every fight they ever had with their siblings. I’m fortunate; we all get along and we’re happy to see each other. Especially now that we’re grown and living in various places across the country, we appreciate having the one time of year when we get together and celebrate in much the same way we have since I was little.

Welcome to my home -- currently a winter wonderland

So I’m off to Michigan in a couple days for a little church, a little eggnog, and a lot of contented lounging about the house. In the meantime, I get in the holiday spirit with a bunch of Christmas media — music and movies that make me smile every year. What kinds of things do you listen to and watch each December?

For movies, the list goes something like this (in no particular order):

A Charlie Brown Christmas
While You Were Sleeping
A Christmas Story
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
It’s a Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
Home Alone
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

There’s a little more pleasure in others’ pain there than you’d think/hope for a Christmas list, but ah well. I said we were a happy family, not a particularly kind one.

The music! Of course there are the hours of angelic choirs singing hymns from across the centuries, and there are also the old standards from the last 60 years. And the entirety of the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. But there’s the other category — the dance party Christmas music. Seeing as how I just threw a wildly successful Christmas party, I take it upon myself to give you a playlist of excellent, non-cheesy tunes that’ll keep everyone grooving long after Santa shimmies back up that chimney.

Run, Run Rudolph–Chuck Berry
This Christmas–Donny Hathaway
Purple Snowflakes–Marvin Gaye
Father Christmas–The Kinks
Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas–The Eels
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree–Brenda Lee
Merry Christmas, I Don’t Want to Fight–The Ramones
Jingle Bell Rock–Bobby Helms
Blue Christmas–Elvis Presley
Santa Claus is Coming to Town–The Jackson 5
Soulful Christmas–James Brown
I Want a Beatle for Christmas–Becky Lee Beck
Merry Christmas–The Ramones
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus–Patti Page
Santa, Teach Me to Dance–Debbie & the Darnels
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)–Darlene Love
Just Like Christmas–Low
Baby It’s Cold Outside–just about anyone, but I like the new one from Marah
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus–The Ronettes
All I Want for Christmas Is You–Mariah Carey
Jingle Bells–Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
Merry, Merry Christmas–Koko Taylor
White Christmas–The Drifters
Feliz Navidad–Jose Feliciano
Christmas Wrapping–The Waitresses
Santa’s Beard–The Beach Boys
A Fairytale of New York–The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl
What Christmas Means to Me–Stevie Wonder

Under no circumstances should you ever play Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” Your guests will immediately feel transported to the blue light sales on the night after Thanksgiving, and nothing spells the end of a party quite like a claustrophobic feeling of synthesizers and commercialism. If you want to have a Beatle on your playlist, go with John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over),” which is a lovely tune and sentiment all in one.

What’s on rotation at your house?

Merry Christmas, a belated Happy Hanukkah, joyful solstice, and happy holidays. I’ll be back with further adventures in travel, music, and the like after the New Year. Safe travels to you all!

And family — little full, lotta sap. See you soon.