There’s a war on Christmas, don’t you know. The attacks are relentless—at every shopping mall, drugstore, grocery, family dinner, badly-lit office party. It is the scourge of bland Christmas music, and it can absolutely ruin your holiday. There you are, merrily shopping for the perfect gift or the perfect ham, and, wham! The most dispiriting version of “Little Drummer Boy” you’ve ever heard in your life. You feel sick, depressed, deranged. Is this some kind of sonic weapon? Or do you respect the season too much to let it be demeaned by mediocrity?
Fight back, my friend, with the playlist below. Keep your Christmas cheer—if that’s your bag. The discriminating Yuletide celebrant must guard their ears zealously, lest some undead zombie travesty of a “White Christmas” (or worse yet, “Blue Christmas”) does them in. Opt instead for the simple celebration of the Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).” Listen to the Damned. You don’t have to believe in Santa Claus, but you know “There Ain’t No Sanity Clause.”
The Vandals keep it moving with “My First X-Mas (As A Woman),” a straight-ahead burst of positivity, empowerment, and coming out as trans to the family. They return later with “Grandpa’s Last X-Mas,” an honest reckoning with mortality during the season. Check out the earnest rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful” from Bad Religion, who clearly adore the song enough to really do it justice, even if many of their usual lyrics can be summed up by swapping the words in their name. (They put out a whole album of respectful Christmas tunes. “Anyone expecting some sort of subversion of the holiday classics,” notes Apple Music, “will be disappointed.”)
As this playlist shows, punk rock has always had a special relationship with Christmas. But if you think about it, so have many indie, fringe, and avant-garde movements. John Waters believes the “whole purpose of life is Christmas.” Andy Warhol “really, really loved Christmas,” and made several Christmas-themed artworks. And in 1977, the Sex Pistols played their last UK gig, a Christmas benefit for an audience of seven and eight year olds. Johnny Rotten remembered it later as “one of the highlights of mine and Sid’s career.”
Fantastic. The ultimate reward. One of my all-time favourite gigs. Young kids, and we’re doing Bodies and they’re bursting out with laughter on the ‘f*ck this f*ck that’ verse. The correct response: not the shock horror ‘How dare you?’
The kids get it, why can’t we? Christmas is a fine time for irreverence, camp, crude humor, booze, and candor. It is also a time for the heartfelt appreciation most punks seem to feel for the holiday of light shows and inflatable reindeer, of a crackling fire on TV and a place that does delivery. Santa Claus, the Holy Baby, and Gremlins. Stuck with relatives who can’t get the spirit of giving? Put on “Bloody Unholy Christmas,” “I’ve Got a Boner for Christmas,” and “Credit Crunch Christmas,” and turn them all the way up. And have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.