Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The "Mommy Kissing Santa" legend (Part 2)

The Boston Globe has just published my story refuting the old myth that "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" was once banned in Boston by the Catholic Church.

The article won't appear in print till Dec. 24, but Wikipedia has already corrected its entry on the song — up to a point. There's another part of the tale, though, that didn't make it into the Globe. 

Many retellings of the "Kissing Santa" saga include this second chapter, summed up on Wikipedia thus: "The song was commissioned by Saks Fifth Avenue to promote the store’s Christmas card for the year, which featured an original sketch by artist Perry Barlow, who drew for The New Yorker for many decades." (The entry will be promptly corrected, I assume; this is what it says today.)

As for commissioning the song, why would a department store order up a composition that didn't mention the store's name or establish any lasting connection? And neither the news stories about Jimmy Boyd nor histories of the song itself — it was written by Tommie Connor, a Brit, and produced under the aegis of Mitch Miller — mention such a sponsorship. It's hard to prove a negative, but this part of the story seems to be pure fantasy. 

(The earlier myth has a kernel of truth, since apparently a few radio stations briefly banned "Mommy Kissing Santa." These bans were somehow, over time, transmuted into a story about Boston and its censorious Catholics.) 

I'd be happy to learn that the most plausible part of this legend — that the Perry Barlow cover (above) became a Christmas card — was true (as would his family). So readers, if anyone has a sample to show us, please do. Otherwise, like the rest of the story, this detail remains unproven.