A bit of holiday confusion

Through Facebook, it was recently revealed to me that several of my friends were under the impression that “Up on the housetop, reindeer PAWS.” (The actual line is “reindeer pause.”)

Did you think this? Did you ever wonder why all other reindeer have hooves, but Santa’s have paws? (Genetics are complex, perhaps the mutation that allowed them to fly had unexpected consequences, sort of how like if you breed foxes for tameness they also develop floppy ears.)

Did you wonder who “Olive, the Other Reindeer” was? How about Round John Virgin? I’d heard those two mondegreens before, but not the reindeer one.

Because I am a theater geek, having to actually think about the lyrics of “Up on the Housetop” made me come up with A Very Pinter Christmas:

Scene: Up on the housetop.

Woman: Reindeer.


But you don’t have to play my reindeer games. Instead, here’s an open thread for cute kid stories — your kids, or your own kid-hood — holiday-season misconceptions.

My own? Apparently, the first Christmas that I was cognizant at all of what was going on, I got really upset when it was time to go to bed on Christmas night (not Christmas Eve). Why? Because I’d taken “You’ll get presents on Christmas” extremely literally, and thought that they would disappear the next day as magically as they had appeared that morning!

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20 Responses to A bit of holiday confusion

  1. Gnatalby says:

    That’s a such a cute story.

    I fully thought until 1 minute ago it was reindeer paws, but I also never gave it any thought.

    In “Silent Night” I thought the lyric was “round young virgin” because you know, she was pregnant, obvi she was round.

    But my all time favorite religious mishearing is from my sister. We were raised Catholic and at the end of mass when you say “Thanks be to God” she thought we were saying “Thanks, speedy God!” Like, “Thank God mass is over!”

    Oh also, when I was little, I thought you could sub in any sheep song for “Lamb of God” and would do a mash-up with Baa Baa Black Sheep. Ahead of my time, thanks, speedy god.

  2. Molly says:

    I thought it was poetic license, because “paws” is easier to rhyme than “hooves”.

    “Up on the housetop, reindeer hooves
    Down the chimney, Santa’s smoove…”

  3. Molly says:

    I’m not sure this is a misconception per se, but my family’s offering for Santa was a little unorthodox: cookies, of course, but instead of milk, we left Scotch.

    Hey, he was either about to fly over the flattest part of the US or had just finished doing so, I’m sure he needed a little pick-me-up round about then.

  4. Abby says:

    It wasn’t until I was probably 20 that it dawned on me that in “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” that it was actually Daddy dressed as Santa. Prior to that I had trouble seeing the humor of Mommy cheating on Daddy with Santa. Still do, really. why is that supposed to be funny? :)

  5. Tasha says:

    Up until yesterday, actually, when I was reading A Christmas Carol–the Dickens variety, capital letters and all that–I was under the false impression that “God rest you merry gentlemen” was a comment on the congenial natures of these said gentlemen. It was the comma that threw me: it said, “God bless you merry, gentlemen.” Oh! So I did some googleresearch and found that “God keep/rest/bless you merry” was a blessing, where rest is in the vein of “stay” rather than “repose”. Who knew?

  6. Gnatalby says:


    My sister and I were teenagers before my memorably ranted about how she hated that the song glorified cheating. We were dying explaining to her that Santa was dad.

  7. Gnatalby says:

    Ooops, proofreading is my friend. My *mother memorably ranted this.

  8. EA Week says:

    Heh. From a young age, I knew it was “pause,” not “paws.” I’m not sure how I knew–always reading, maybe, and usually several years ahead of my grade level.

    Maybe for the same reason I always knew it was “round yon virgin,” probably because I could read the hymnal from about… second grade, maybe? I don’t even remember learning to read the hymnal.

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any holiday song lyrics I mis-heard (though I’m sure there must be some). However, as a kid, I was always mis-hearing the lyrics to pop songs. I was in about the first grade when the David Bowie song “Fame” was a hit, and I thought the song was called “Shame.” I also thought it was a black woman singing! About a decade later, when I was more popular music-savvy, I finally realized my mistake. To this day, I can’t listen to that song without laughing at least a little.

  9. Eeeeka says:

    From “A Very Scary Solstice” (Christmas song parodies based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft), there is a song which goes:

    “Up on a rooftop, reindeer paws.
    All that’s left of Santa Claus.”

    And that’s it. So everytime I hear the original, I can’t help but laugh. :)

  10. WES says:

    My DH just admitted to mishearing a lyric in Band Aid’s song. He never realized they sing “Feed The World” he thought they were singing “Free the world” and thought it was weird since the song was about ending hunger.

  11. Molly says:

    Oh, I have a whole bunch of my own personal mondegreens, such as hearing “I am a living legacy/to the leader of the band” as “I am a living magazine/of the leader of the band”, from “Leader of the Band” by Dan Fogelberg.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    The first Christmas after I learned to read, I turned over the piece of doll furniture I had gotten from Santa and read out loud “Made in Japan” on the bottom. My mother panicked, wondering how she was going to explain this. I came running up to her and said, “Mommy! This was made by a JAPANESE elf!”

  13. Alyson says:

    I thought it was paws, but the verb – as in pawing at the ground, because, ya know, hoofing is moving not standing around and horses have hooves yet are able to paw. So, one of the reindeer (let’s say Prancer) is getting a little impatient.

    And, I can’t think of any other lyrics I might have mistaken but I did always know “round yon virgin” because of the Catholic thing – the Catholic thing being me, bored in Church, reading anything I can get my hands on. Also: group choir practice in Catholic school.

  14. Farhibide says:

    At a family Christmas party one year, when I was small, an aunt gathered all of the children together and started handing out the most delicious-looking ice cream cones I had ever seen. As soon as I got mine, I immediately took a gigantic bite. It wasn’t until I realized my mouth was full of cotton and styrofoam, NOT ice cream, that it was actually a very convincing Christmas tree ornament glued into a REAL ice cream cone. Every year since, my parents have hung the half-eaten ornament on their tree to remind me.

  15. Robin says:

    OK, as long as we’re doing general mondegreens–

    I though the heart of rock and roll was IN CLEVELAND.

    Not “still beatin’.”

    And since that *is* where the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is, I figured, well, okay.

    And I wasn’t a kid at the time, either.

  16. PJ says:

    Not Christmas related, but in the Pledge of Allegiance, I thought the last line was,

    “with liberty, just for all”!

  17. Jess says:

    What about Tiny Dancer by Elton John. I heard a friend singing “Hold me closer, Tony Danza”. She still gets flack for that and I laugh every time I hear that song!

  18. Alyson says:

    Robin…isn’t it “still beatin’….In Cleveland” that is a real line, yes? – so you’re not totally mistaken. And speaking of the hall, why was the hall of fame concert in NYC when the hall IS in Cleveland??

  19. veronica says:

    I always thought they cut off the tongue of the boy in A Christmas Story after he was triple dog dared into licking the telephone pole.

  20. diane says:

    Hermey vs. Herbie in the Rankin/Bass Rudolph production. I knew I was hearing Hermey all those years, despite being repeatedly told otherwise. I love IMDb and Wikipedia.

    Farhibide, very very funny! I still have the hideous silver bells I made in second grade: two foil-covered dixie cups with red and green balls as clappers, all held together by ribbon. One of the clappers hangs well below the bell.

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