A Holly Jolly Christmas from the Family
To those of us who grew up on the Gulf Coast, the song absolutely needs no introduction or explanation. It simply embodies who we are and Christmases and families as we know them, in my case, right down to mystery relatives from the Valley.
One of the better misheard lyrics you'll ever find gives me an excuse to write about a Texas holiday classic
Whoever transcribed REK's "Merry Xmas from the Family" for Google Lyrics messed up this verse, badly if delightfully:
"Carve the turkey, turn the ballgame on
Mix margaritas when the eggnog's gone
Send somebody to the Quik Pak store
We need some icing and extension cords
A can of bean dip and some Diet right
A box of tampons and some more Burl Ives
Hallelujah, everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the family"
Um, unless he's changed it for some reason, I believe Keen said "Marlboro Lites," not "more Burl Ives." And I don't think you could get more Burl Ives recordings at the Quik Pak store even if you desperately needed them.
I know this family is eccentric, but I can't imagine them reaching some sudden panicked consensus that they needed MORE recordings of the Holly Jolly Christmas Man and sending someone out on Xmas Day on a mission to find them, along with those essentials, such as ice, bean dip, soft drinks, and tampons. Smokes rank up there with those, music by mostly forgotten folk singers does not.
Also, it's "ice and an extension cord," not "icing and extension cords." And it was Diet Rite, not Diet Right.
Later, Harlingen is rendered as "Harlogen." Sounds like a cool sci-fi substance — purple and gelatinous in my mind’s eye: "Captain! The Harlogen generators are 90 percent depleted! We'll never escape this gravity field!"
But just imagine this would-be transcriber’s family and friends gathered around the Yuletide hearth, singing that verse, which drastically accentuates those words — “AND SOME MORE BURL IVES.”
Wrong as it is, I like this kind of party…. Even so, whoever took those words down is not a Texan, and Google lyrics is not the boss of me.
While we are here, some “Merry Xmas from the Family” trivia”… David Simon / Ed Burns’s non-fictional miniseries Generation Kill follows a battalion of Marine Recon units spearheading the ground invasion of Iraq. There are a lot of jump-cuts in some scenes, and lots of shots of marines singing badly in their HumVees, and in one such jump-cut we are shown two minor characters singing “Merry Xmas from the Family.” That is just one of many thousands of great details in that series (available on HBO Max)….
Because his fans demand it year-round, and Keen, sensibly, is averse to playing Christmas music out of season, he has enacted what he calls the “linen rule”:
Well, it's a real popular song with us, I have nine records out and this song just sort of cropped up and became a real favorite and we get requests for it all year round. So, I had to create this rule, I call it the 'Linen Rule', where we don't play the song as long as you can wear linen. So it saves it and makes it fresh for the holiday season. So we start playing it around Labor Day and we play it on through the holidays. It's the big number particularly in December that we close with.
To those of us who grew up on the Gulf Coast, the song absolutely needs no introduction or explanation. It simply embodies who we are and Christmases and families as we know them, in my case, right down to mystery relatives from the Valley. (Brownsville in my case.)
Keen, who grew up in Houston’s sprawling, Levittown-like subdivision Sharpstown, has had to explain it to Yankees, though.
I didn't even know what a chestnut looked like until I was 30 years old and saw it in a picture book… It was a different kind of Christmas. Every Christmas song I had ever heard didn't have a lot to do with growing up in Houston where it was most likely 85 degrees and 95 percent humidity.
I was somehow not aware that there a sequel exists. “Merry Christmas Y’all” came out in 1998, four years after the original.
“I vowed when I really started writing songs that I'd never write a sequel. But I thought, well, you know, why not. The song 'Merry Christmas from the Family' is set in the present tense. This song is set in the present tense, but little further in the future—say like after the party when everybody's packing up and leaving on the 26th of December."