Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Wondering about Winter Wonderland

"In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say: Are you married?
We'll say: No man,
But you can do the job
When you're in town."

At first glance this "innocent" Christmas carol seems to mock marriage. Back when this was written such a question as "Are you married?" would be asked of couples who were engaging is public physical displays of affection; the important thing being that only married people were to behave that way.
The flippant way in which the snowman builders "respond" to Parson Brown treats marriage lightly and with little respect. I mean, come on- "No MAN???" or "you can do the JOB???"
So for the last couple of years me and this time-worn Christmas carol have been at odds. However, as the holiday season (or winter break, or whatever it should be now days) comes upon me yet again I find myself considering alternate interpretations which might solve the impasse.

Wikipedia gives some insight:
"In the period when this song was written, parsons (now known as a Protestant ministers) often traveled among small rural towns to perform wedding ceremonies for denominational followers who did not have a local minister of their own faith. It is therefore likely that the children are pretending that their snowman is a parson with the surname "Brown" who would be visiting the town again in the future."

Now- combine THAT with the possibility that the snowman builders WANT to get married and their "response" to Parson Brown actually carries the emotion of enthusiasm rather than mocking. In other words, since the Parson only came around every once in a while, these two were fantasizing about the opportunity to be married and phrases like "No man" and "do the job" are used because the couple feel that marriage vows are the only thing separating them from fully enjoying each other's love. Thus, they are actually saving themselves for marriage!

While that seems to be the most persuasive vindication of this verse of "Winter Wonderland" there is another unexplained detail to be considered. Just WHO are these two? Most people ASSUME it is a male and female, but that is not necessarily the case. An intriguing possibility is that these are two young ladies, who see in Parson Brown a potential husband. Again, we have the emotion of enthusiasm at work as these two vie for his love. Under this scenario, the conspiracy being cooked up by the fire is how to get the Parson to marry one of them.

If the two characters in the song are actually men, it becomes really interesting. We have a depression-era example of gay rights advocacy! However, in 1930s America there was no way to get THAT kind of "job" done. So it doesn't really work out unless the "job" being referred to is not actually marriage but something else.

So take your pick. This carol is still dangerous in my book but as long as I can apply a morally respectable interpretation I am free to enjoy it, I guess. Right?

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