CLOSE

15 Bizarre Holiday Albums

It seems like everybody and their mom and dads has released a Christmas album. For some artists, like Mariah Carey, it means selling millions of copies. But who wants to hear Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas” when you can hear a former reality show loser sing it? ‘Tis the season to forgo listening to your traditional holiday songs and opt for something a bit more unusual.

1. HUNG FOR THE HOLIDAYS // WILLIAM HUNG

Hung appeared as a contestant on American Idol in 2004 and blew the world away with his rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” Actually, he did not advance to the next round, but a cult following soon manifested. His career culminated (ended) in October of 2004, when he released his second album, Hung for the Holidays, which only sold 35,000 copies. He sings, off-key, “Winter Wonderland,” “Little Drummer Boy,” and then randomly covers Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” After the failure of this record and the release of a third and final album, Hung retired from music.

2. CHRISTMAS ON DEATH ROW // VARIOUS ARTISTS

Released 20 years ago, Christmas on Death Row is a compilation of various artists on the Death Row label. The music isn’t the worrisome thing here—it’s the album cover depicting Santa in the electric chair. (Don’t show it to grandma or the kids.) Songs include hits Snoop and Nate Dogg’s "Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto" and 6 Feet Deep's cover of “Silent Night.” If you like your holiday tunes filled with curse words, this one’s for you.

3. CHRISTMAS WITH COLONEL SANDERS // VARIOUS ARTISTS

Honestly, this album has nothing to do with the finger-lickin’ Colonel except for the awesome album cover of him smiling while wearing a Santa hat (he could easily be mistaken for Santa, so maybe that’s the point). The album, released in 1969 (vintage!), features musical legends Chet Atkins covering “Jingle Bell Rock” and Harry Belafonte singing “Mary’s Little Boy Child.”

4. IT’S A WAFFLE HOUSE CHRISTMAS // VARIOUS ARTISTS

Discogs

Spending Christmas at the Waffle House sounds like fun. They’re open 24/7, you know. According to AllMusic.com, this is the second album the legendary chain has released, and it was compiled by Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, the guys responsible for the 1982 novelty song “Pac-Man Fever.”

There are traditional songs on the album, but few can top “Waffle House 12 Days of Christmas,” in which a couple sings, “My true love gave to me, 10 cups of coffee, eight chicken sandwiches, seven T-bone steaks, four eggs a fryin’, three sausage patties, two waffles baking, and a bowl of delicious hot grits” without a bit of irony.

5. MR. HANKEY’S CHRISTMAS CLASSICS // VARIOUS ARTISTS

On December 1, 1999, South Park aired a holiday-themed episode that featured a literal piece of crap coming alive and singing Christmas songs. One week before the episode’s premiere, the album was released. It includes songs from the episode, and a festive cover featuring Mr. Hankey chilling by the fire. Choice cuts include Mr. Garrison's “Merry F---king Christmas” and Mr. Hankey himself—“howdy ho!”—singing “Santa Claus Is On His Way.”

6. A ROSIE CHRISTMAS // VARIOUS ARTISTS

This album was just an excuse for then-daytime talk show host Rosie O’Donnell to brag about how she was buddies with Celine Dion, Elton John, and Elmo, then sing middling duets with them. Cher contributes (read: butchers) a dance-electro version of Darlene Love’s already-perfect “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” while Gloria Estefan and Rosie sing “Gonna Eat for Christmas.” Lauryn Hill’s funky “Little Drummer Boy” seems to be the only saving grace—until Rosie chimes in and ruins it.

7. MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS // NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

Released in 1989, at the height of NKOTB’s fame, this holiday record sold two million copies. You have to at least give the boy band props for writing a few original songs such as the sappy “This One’s for the Children”—which was a top 10 hit—and “Funky, Funky, Xmas,” which tries a bit too hard to emulate “Christmas in Hollis.” *NSYNC and Hanson also released Christmas records, so having boy bands release holiday albums is not an anomaly; the fact that NKOTB took the material so seriously is what makes it an oddity.

8. A HEAVY METAL CHRISTMAS EP // CHRISTOPHER LEE

The heavy metal lover never released a full Christmas album, but he did release the EP, A Heavy Metal Christmas, in 2012, containing metal covers of “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night.” The following year the prince of darkness released A Heavy Metal Christmas Too, including the song “Jingle Hell.” Last year he contributed “Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing," which would sadly be his last metal Christmas song, as he passed away in June 2015 at the age of 93.

9. JINGLE BABIES // ROCKABYE CHRISTMAS

First we had Jingle Cats, which was annoying but somewhat cute. Then the same guy behind Jingle Cats and Jingle Dogs released Jingle Babies in 1997, which is baby sounds edited together into super annoying “songs.” The babies aren’t singing as much as they are cooing and whining through “Jingle Bells,” “Up on the Housetop,” and “Carol of the Bells.” The album’s tagline reads “Real babies sing holiday classics,” but it’s unknown if real babies approve.

10. AND 11. YULETIDE DISCO AND DISCO NOEL // MIRROR IMAGE

Disco was huge in the 1970s, and apparently so were disco Christmas albums. Mirror Image released at least two Christmas records: Yuletide Disco and Disco Noel. The former features saxophone-enhanced versions of “Good King Wenceslas” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and aren’t as disco-y as you’d hope. Then there’s "Dear Santa, Let’s Disco" by Snowflake, which should get the holiday festivities started. While you’re at it, you might as well listen to “Disco Duck.”

12. CHRISTMAS AT LUKE’S SEX SHOP // LUKE CAMPBELL

The Miami rap group 2 Live Crew created a lot of controversy in the 1990s, so why not add fuel to the fire with a Christmas record? Throughout the 1994 album, MC Luther Campbell raps untraditional Christmas songs, such as “Ho Ho Hoes,” “2 Live Christmas, “Christmas Spliff,” and “Christmas F---in’ Day,” which sounds a lot like “Gin and Juice.” Campbell went legit and now writes for the Miami New Times.

13. THIS CHRISTMAS // OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN AND JOHN TRAVOLTA

The friends sang together in Grease and the guilty pleasure film Two of a Kind, and one morning in 2012 they woke up and decided that, because it had been 30 years since they had worked together, it was time to put out a Christmas album. The couple duet on the standards “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” featuring Barbra Streisand. But Travolta can’t sing, and the album cover is just plain scary.

14. A COLT 45 CHRISTMAS // AFROMAN

A parody Christmas record, from a Grammy-nominated rapper? Yup. In 2006, Afroman took a debauched look at Christmas with songs named “Deck My Balls” and other titles we shouldn’t repeat, plus the new classic “O Chronic Tree”: “O Chronic tree, oh chronic, I want you all for me.”

15. THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR // SCOTT WEILAND

In 2011, the late Stone Temple Pilots frontman released this bizarre album. The fact that he released a traditional Christmas album isn’t even the weirdest part though; it’s that he, for some reason, infused reggae and steel drum on “Oh Holy Night” and croons through the rest of the record. Listening to the songs, you wouldn’t know it was from a former grunge singer.

Original image
Warner Home Video
25 Things to Look for While Watching the 24-Hour A Christmas Story Marathon
Original image
Warner Home Video

You’ve probably seen A Christmas Story enough times that you never really need to watch it again. But watch it you will. And enjoy it, too. Even though you know every twist and turn it will take for our young hero Ralphie to finally get his hands on his much-desired Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. (An item he repeats 28 times throughout the film’s 94-minute running time; you could make an eggnog drinking game out of that.) 

This Christmas, when you inevitably tune into catch at least one airing of Bob Clark’s holiday classic during TBS’ 24-hour marathon, we’ve got a way for you to watch A Christmas Story in a whole new light: by keeping your eyes—and ears—peeled for these 25 blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em gaffes, anachronisms, and other fun facts that make watching the classic film an entirely new experience. 

1. RALPHIE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO SPELL “CHRISTMAS.”

At least it doesn’t appear that way when he gets his Christmas theme—or shall we call it a Chistmas theme—back from Mrs. Shields, who also didn’t notice that the “R” is missing from the word.

2. JEAN SHEPHERD MAKES AN ON-SCREEN APPEARANCE.

If the voice of the man who brusquely informs Ralphie and Randy that the line to sit on Santa’s lap begins about two miles further back than they had anticipated sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the voice of the narrator, a.k.a. Adult Ralphie, who also happens to be Jean Shepherd, the man upon whose short stories the film itself is based. The woman behind Shepherd is his wife, Leigh Brown.

3. BOB CLARK JOINS IN THE CAMEO FUN.

Not to be outdone, director Bob Clark pops up in front of the camera, too, as Ralphie’s neighbor, Swede. He’s the guy who seems awfully curious about how Ralphie’s dad managed to snag himself a leg lamp. When The Old Man Parker informs him that it’s a Major Award, Swede responds: “Shucks, I wouldn’t know that. It looks like a lamp."

4. RALPHIE’S DAD IS NEVER GIVEN A NAME.

Over the years, a gaggle of sharp-eared A Christmas Story fans have pointed out that in Bob Clark’s scene, Ralphie’s dad is given a name: Hal. This is because they believed that in the brief exchange between the two neighbors, Swede asks of the leg lamp, “Damn Hal, you say you won it?” But a quick confer with the film’s original screenplay confirms that Swede’s actual query is, “Damn, hell, you say you won it?”

5. SPEAKING OF THE LEG LAMP…

The continuity folks must have been taking a coffee break during the unveiling of the leg lamp. Watch closely as the amount of packing debris covering The Old Man’s back and head changes from shot to shot. In one shot, his back is covered in the stuff; cut back and there’s nothing there.

6. IS THE LEG LAMP REALLY A LAMP?

In addition to being stumped by the word “fragile,” The Old Man—and the rest of the family—is initially confused as to what the leg’s purpose is. Is it a statue? (“Yeah, statue!”) One can’t blame them, as there’s no electrical cord to be seen. It’s just a leg. Yet, once the lampshade is discovered, the Parker clan is magically able to plug that titillating little fixture right in. 

7. ONE FINAL THING ABOUT THE LEG LAMP…

After witnessing the moment that Ralphie explains would become “a family controversy for years”—the breaking of the leg lamp—Mrs. Parker balks at her husband’s accusation that she would be jealous of a plastic lamp. But just moments before the “accident” in question, we hear the sound of breaking glass. And lots of it. Plastic doesn’t sound (or break) like that.

8. IS IT TORONTO OR IS IT INDIANA?

Though the film is set in Hohman, Indiana—a fictionalized town based on Shepherd’s hometown of Hammond, Indiana—parts of the film were shot in Toronto. This becomes apparent in some of the outdoor scenes, such as when the family is shopping for a Christmas tree, as one of the Toronto Transit Commission’s signature red trolley cars zooms by.

9. BOLTS VERSUS NUTS.

We all remember Ralphie’s reaction when his attempt to help his father fix a flat tire goes terribly awry. But here’s a fun fact that only true motorheads would pick up on: In the scene, Ralphie’s dad implores him to hold the hubcap horizontally so that he can put the “nuts” in it. But the 1938 Oldsmobile that he’s driving actually uses removable bolts. A fact that Shepherd confirms in his narration of the scene when he recalls that, “For one brief moment I saw all the bolts silhouetted against the lights of the traffic—and then they were gone.” Oh, fudge!

10. SCOTT SCHWARTZ IS NOT SCHWARTZ. BUT HE IS.

Ralphie’s two best friends are Schwartz, played by R.D. Robb, and Flick, played by Scott Schwartz. As if this tale of two Schwartzes weren’t confusing enough, when Ralphie tells his mom that it’s Schwartz who taught him how to drop the F-bomb, Mrs. Parker immediately calls the boy’s mother. But the voice we hear of fictional Schwartz taking a whooping is actually the voice of Scott Schwartz. Got it?

11. SCHWARTZ’S WHEREABOUTS.

Immediately following his unceremonious (and totally false) ratting out of his buddy, Ralphie remembers how “three blocks away, Schwartz was getting his.” In the original story, that may have very well been the case. But the film’s production called for Schwartz’s home to be just a few doors down from Ralphie’s, as we see as the kids walk to school together. Not three blocks away.

12. RALPHIE’S NOT A VERY GOOD LISTENER.

Ralphie felt understandably ripped off when, after weeks of waiting for his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, the first message he decoded was simply an advertisement for Ovaltine. But he’s lucky he could decipher the message at all, because a few of the numbers that he wrote down don’t match the numbers that announcer Pierre Andre broadcast, most notably the last one; Pierre said 25, Ralphie wrote 11.

13. UPPERCASE OR LOWERCASE?

Perhaps it’s that very error above that made it necessary for Ralphie to decode Annie’s message on at least two pieces of paper. How do we know that? Check out the difference in the “E” in the word “Be.” In the earlier shot, it’s an uppercase E; in the final message, the letter is lowercase. We’re on to you, Ralphie. 

14. FOR A SPORTS FAN, OLD MAN PARKER DOESN’T KNOW SPORTS.

Though the exact year of A Christmas Story’s setting is never stated, many of its context clues—including the makes and models of the cars we see and the popularity of The Wizard of Oz and Little Orphan Annie—put its year around 1939 or 1940. Yet in the beginning of the film, Mr. Parker becomes irate after reading in the paper that the White Sox “traded Bullfrog.” But the White Sox never traded Bill “Bullfrog” Dietrich, though they did release him on September 18, 1946, which would make this comment six years premature. He also refers to the Chicago Bears as the “Terror of the Midway,” when in fact their nickname is “Monsters of the Midway.”

15. THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS LEVERS.

Old Man Parker seems to have a lot of non-human enemies—his car, the Bumpus hounds, and a seemingly possessed furnace among them. In one scene, The Old Man yells upstairs for someone to open the damper, which Mom does rather reluctantly. But watch closely when the camera cuts back to the levers, which are in the opposite position as Mom set them just seconds earlier.

16. DIVERSITY AS AN ANACHRONISM.

By the time A Christmas Story was released in 1983, racial segregation in Indiana public schools was a thing 34 years in the past. But if Ralphie’s story takes place any time before 1949, he would not have had any African American classmates, as he does in the film.

17. THE ROTATING BANANA.

Hoping to score some extra points with his teacher, Ralphie presents Mrs. Shields with the world’s largest fruit basket. It’s so large, in fact, that its individual pieces of fruit seem to have a mind of their own. Watch the way the banana shifts position each time the camera cuts back to Ralphie.

18. A DRAWER FULL OF UNIMAGINABLE MISCHIEF.

Ralphie and his classmates are a troublemaking lot. And when they decide to launch a classroom-wide prank in which they’re all wearing a set of false teeth, Mrs. Shields is well-prepared. She’s got a drawer full of pranks past, including a pair of chattering teeth … a gag gift that wasn’t actually invented until 1949.

19. SPEAKING OF TOOTHY ANACHRONISMS…

In his attempts to make Ralphie’s life a living hell, we get an up-close view of the braces worn by Scut the bully. They’re the kind that are directly bonded to the front of his teeth, a process that wasn’t invented until the 1970s. Until then, metal braces were wrapped around the teeth.

20. THREE-BARREL HINGED GLASSES WEREN’T A THING EITHER.

After nearly shooting his eye out on Christmas morning, Ralphie steps on his own glasses, revealing them to use a three-barrel hinge connector, which would not have been possible until the 1980s.

21. RALPHIE SHOOTS THREE TIMES, HITS FOUR.

When Ralphie is forced to defend his family against the rascally Black Bart (in his own imagination), he shoots three bad guys before his nemesis Bart escapes. But when the pile of bad guys is shown with their eyes X’ed out, there are four of them.

22. A VERY BING CHRISTMAS.

On Christmas morning, the Parkers kick back with that most classic of Christmas albums—Bing Crosby’s Merry Christmas—in the background. As cherished a tradition as that may be, the album wasn’t released until 1945.

23. A BOWLING BALL FOR CHRISTMAS.

Old Man Parker is thrilled when his wife gifts him with a shiny new blue bowling ball for Christmas. There’s just one problem: colored bowling balls weren’t introduced until the 1960s. 

24. MELINDA DILLION GETS TOP BILLING.

Getting top billing must have been quite a thrill for actress Melinda Dillon… until the actual credits rolled and her name was spelled incorrectly!

25. FLASH GORDON GETS CREDIT, TOO.

Keep watching the end credits roll and you’ll see Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless among the names that scroll by. Though it never made the final cut, the credits for an additional fantasy sequence in which Ralphie and his trusty firearm help Flash Gordon face off against Ming remain.

Original image
iStock
7 Christmas Foods of Yesteryear 
Original image
iStock

Over the centuries, yuletide revelers have enjoyed far different culinary fare than we do today. Here are seven Christmas dishes of yesteryear that are sure to confuse—or tantalize—your taste buds.

1. PEACOCK

 
During the Medieval ages, some wealthy Europeans dined on peacock at Christmas dinner. The colorful, plumed bird was often baked into a pie, or roasted with its head and tail still intact. Adding to the flamboyant display, the peacock’s feathers were reattached (or the skinned bird was placed back inside its intact skin), and its tail feathers were fully fanned out.

Peacocks likely looked impressive on a banquet table, but the meat reportedly tasted terrible. “It was tough and coarse, and was criticized by physicians for being difficult to digest and for generating bad humors,” author Melitta Weiss Adamson writes in her book Food in Medieval Times. “To make the meat more easily digestible, it was recommended to hang the slaughtered bird overnight by its neck and weigh down the legs with stones.”

In addition to peacock, swans and geese were also on the Christmas menu. But by the 1520s, another roast delicacy—turkey—had been introduced to Great Britain. Explorer William Strickland is credited with bringing the turkey from the New World to England, and King Henry VIII was reportedly one of the first people to enjoy the new bird for Christmas dinner. Edward VII is said to have made the meal trendy.

2. BOAR'S HEAD

An illustration by St. J. Gilbert of a man holding a boar's head on a platter that was published in a Christmas supplement to the Illustrated London News in 1855. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
In Medieval and Tudor England, wealthy parties celebrated Christmas by feasting on boar's head. The boar's head "formed the centrepiece of the Christmas Day meal," writes Alison Sim, author of Food and Feast in Tudor England (as quoted by the Food Timeline). "It was garnished with rosemary and bay and evidently was presented to the diners with some style, as told by the many boar's head carols which still exist."

One English Christmas carol, dating back to the 15th century, is actually called the "Boar's Head Carol." Its lyrics include lines like "The boar's head, as I understand/Is the rarest dish in all this land/Which thus bedecked with a gay garland/Let us servire cantico (serve with a song)." You can listen to a version here.

3. OYSTER STEW

iStock

 
Today, oysters are a delicacy, but for early Americans who settled along the East Coast, they were a plentiful and nutritious food source. People enjoyed them in stuffing, roasts, and chowder—and 19th-century Irish-American immigrants used them to make a traditional Christmas Eve stew.

Most of these Irish transplants were Catholic, and their religious traditions required them to skip the meat on Christmas Eve. Instead, they enjoyed a soup made from dried ling cod—a common fish back in the Old Country—milk, butter, and pepper. But since Irish Americans couldn’t find dried ling cod in America, they substituted it with fresh, canned, pickled, or dried oysters.

4. MINCEMEAT PIES

iStock

 
Historians trace mincemeat pie (also called mince pie) back to the 11th century, when Crusaders returned from faraway lands with spices. These spices worked as a preservative, so they were baked into pies containing finely chopped meat, dried fruits, and other ingredients.

Mincemeat pies eventually became associated with Christmas. Bakers added three spices to their pies—cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg—to represent the three gifts the Magi gave the baby Jesus. The pies were also baked into the shape of Jesus’s manger, and a model of the Christ Child was placed on top. People believed that eating a mincemeat pie on each of the 12 Days of Christmas (December 25 to January 6) would bring them good luck.

Over the centuries, the pies grew smaller and rounder, and their filling became less meat heavy, containing ingredients including suet, spices, and dried and brandied fruit. Today, some people still eat mincemeat pie in England—and on December 15 some British scientists fired a meat pie into space—but it’s not commonly seen on Christmas dinner tables in the U.S.

5. SUGARPLUMS

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
As a child, you might have been inspired by one of ballet's most famous movements—The Nutcracker's “Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy"—to wonder what a "sugarplum" actually is. The answer? A hard candy.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the term sugarplum was interchangeable with the words dragee or comfit. All referred to a hard, sugary layered candy. Often, the candy contained caraway, cardamom, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, walnut, aniseed, and almond cores. It took time, skill, and special equipment to make these sweets, so they were originally quite expensive and eaten only by wealthy people. Later, innovations in manufacturing made both sugarplums and other candies cheaper, and available for consumption by the masses.

In addition to getting a shout-out in The Nutcracker, sugarplums are also famously mentioned in Clement Clark Moore's anonymously published 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," better known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas" after its first line. But today, you're far less likely to see the candies mentioned in a ballet or poem; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, sugarplum is now obsolete.

6. POSSET

Long ago, the English enjoyed a predecessor to eggnog called posset, a kind of "wine custard" made from hot milk curdled with hot ale, wine, or sherry, and mixed with sugar and spices. The drink remained common from the Middle Ages until the early 19th century; over time, it disappeared from the culinary landscape.

Throughout the centuries, winter revelers enjoyed variations on the recipe, and eggs were eventually added to the mix. But since milk, eggs, and liquors like sherry and Madeira wine were either expensive or hard to come by, the drink’s popularity dwindled among the masses. Meanwhile, in America, early settlers created their own version of posset, which we today know as eggnog.

In the video above, you can watch Jonathan Townsend, host of YouTube living history channel Jas. Townsend and Son, cook his own version of posset, as adapted from an 18th-century cookbook. His posset has breadcrumbs.

7. ANIMAL CRACKERS

Ever wondered why boxes of Barnum's Animal Crackers have a string attached to them? In 1902, the National Biscuit Company (today known as Nabisco) introduced the circus-themed boxes filled with animal-shaped cookies as a seasonal promotion. Since people often adorned their Christmas trees with candy and/or treats, Barnum’s festive containers were hung on branches as decorations.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios