Story of the song | Christmas given meaning, letter by letter
The Meaning of Christmas came easily to Barrington Gardiner, the acrostic song flowing "through my brain, into my hands, on to the paper," as he tells The Sunday Gleaner.
So he wrote a line for each letter of the time of year when little children glow with anticipation, shopping malls overflow, parties are many and merry, and frustrated drivers honk maybe as frequently as revellers toot their horns to welcome the New Year as the season closes.
However, The Meaning of Christmas does not get into the hustle and bustle of shopping or the glee of partying. The ballad, instead, speaks to the general feeling of well-being in late December, as well as the significance of 'the season of good cheer', which lasts long after the food has been eaten and the presents become ordinary.
Barrington Gardiner wrote:
"'C' is for Christmas, the
season of good cheer
'H' is for happiness, to last
throughout the year
'R' is for respect, which each
and all must show
'I' is for indulgence, to know how far to go..."
He did not set out to write a Christmas song when The Meaning of Christmas came at the end of summer 1960.
"It was a day like any other day, but I got an inspiration. I was writing other stuff, but the Christmas carol came to me," he said.
He did not have to do any rewrites and editing as "it came to me one time, exactly as it is today".
HIT ON THE CHARTS
Gardiner did not have to go very far to find someone to sing The Meaning of Christmas, his brother Boris providing the vocals, and his band, The Rhythm Aces, doing the music close to Christmas 1960 for Island Records. As Barrington described the natural flow of the song, from mind to paper, and then brother to brother, it was the same thing. "He knew exactly how to sing it."
The Meaning of Christmas soon made its way on to the charts. Gardiner said it peaked at number two on the then Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation's countdown; however, he laughed as he said, "financially, it was a disaster".
Gardiner said that when he was writing the song, he "knew it was good, but I did not make any predictions".
Now, he notes that "it has outlasted many songs I thought would have lasted", and there is even a new interpretation, with the same melody, but different meanings, given to the days of Christmas.