A Fairytale of New York – Obligatory Christmas Special

The bells are ringing out, so it must be Christmas day. This song is a tradition in and of itself in my life, it’s a song that tells a glorious story, full of loss, pain, and realization, but I’m getting too far ahead of myself, now aren’t I?

I grew up on Folk, both American and Irish, and they both have influenced me in more ways than you could imagine. This song is one of those that reminds me of everything positive, despite the true message. I love the Pogues, the Irish Rovers, the Dropkick Murphys, so I’m ecstatic that I get to talk about this glorious song.




It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I’ve got a feeling
This year’s for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They’ve got cars big as bars
They’ve got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It’s no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing “Galway Bay”
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing “Galway Bay”
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can’t make it all alone
I’ve built my dreams around you

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing “Galway Bay”
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas day

     This song is obviously one of loss, isn’t it? Yes, it is. The signs are clear, but there’s more than meets the eye.
     It’s clear by the first two verses, how the singer slurs his words more than usual, how he’s oddly sentimental, the fact that he says “Happy Christmas”, He’s drunk, or at least hungover, remembering a memory he sees as Happy, even if it isn’t. Let’s look at this objectively, it’s a guy, drunk out of his wits, who was thrown in prison overnight with an endtime conspiracy theorist and a singing drunk. He turns his face away, trying to ignore it, and falls asleep, dreaming of this love of his, and how they met.
     He got some form of public transportation, perhaps a Taxi of some sort, or a trolley. He was able to get out of there, assumedly, at 18 minutes to 1:00 PM, since no one in their right mind would allow some drunken fool out of a jail cell at 1:00 AM.
     The perspective switches to his love. She’s a new girl in New York, with overly high expectations on how it’ll be, with their Cars big as Bars, and rivers of gold, of course, these are exaggeration, but seeing as this song is a memory, I believe it’s this woman simply remembering how she felt, thinking that she was perfectly young and destined for greatness, using exaggeration to show how she felt.
     He first took her hand on the Christmas Eve that he was released, arriving shortly before this fated, glorious meeting. He saw her and knew above all else that Broadway was waiting for her, he promised that fact.
     He was handsome, she was pretty, she was the queen of the city. Their band finished playing and every night, those glorious moments, they’d always beg out for more. Sinatra was swinging, and the drunks all sang along to these songs. These two kissed on the street corner and danced, oh how they danced, feeling pure bliss, their feet lightening with every step, they were in love.
     Now, Galway Bay is a song about being in Galway Bay, Ireland, where these people both hail, but just as they see New York, Ireland is portrayed as perfect, as beautiful, intriguing, a place where you’d always wish to be, a place they left for a better life and more chance at their dreams. The song intends this connection, too, as the notes sang for “And the bells are ringing out on Christmas Day” matches the ending of each verse in Galway Bay, for example, “and see the sun go down on Galway Bay”, Cementing the connection between the two songs.
     The next verse is in the present, a conversation in their current state of mind, him calling her a slut doing nothing with her life, being all but dead, doing fuck all. She calls him a scum bag, a bum, a punk, a faggot, repeating that same line that he said in the introduction: “Happy Christmas” something of hope and betterment, but only making things worse. This also may be meant to insinuate that he’s drunk in this exchange, never entirely there in their relationship. I’d bet she questions if he even loves her anymore. We know bloody well that in the heat of the moment, she says she hopes it’s their last together.
     The boys of the NYPD choir still sing that tired old song about the “Hope” and “Beauty” of Ireland, nothing more than a complete lie, they left the place to have a better life, a life where all their dreams come true, but they don’t. The singers sound a bit more annoyed or irritated, as well, as compared to the first chorus.
     He’s depressed, sad, he could have been someone, but that New York Fairytale he had was a lie, a dirty, painful, evil lie that he told himself and his love for years, taking her dreams from her from the moment she first found him and their fates were intertwined. But, he kept her dreams with his, he knows that he can’t make it all alone, he needs her, her love, her support, her. His dreams are built around her, cleverly foreshadowed in the first verse. The love that started with a dream the first time may very well start anew with these dreams structured like a steep roof, falling off at any moment. They love each other, or at least they think they do.
     The bells and choir take on a new meaning, one of rebirth and a happily ever after, but maybe not. After all this heartbreak and pain, is it really worth another go?

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