Why Do People Consider ‘Hallelujah’ a Christmas Song?
In case you haven't noticed, Christmas time is upon us. People are getting their decorations up, Christmas music is on the radio, holiday classics are on TV...from now until the end of the year, everyone and everything is going to be filled with Christmas cheer. I like Christmas as much as the next person...but there's one holiday tradition I still haven't quite figured out: why people treat the song "Hallelujah" like a Christmas song.
Don't get me wrong, Leonard Cohen was a fantastic songwriter and the tune definitely is a bonafide classic. The song is a lot of different things but a holiday tune is not one of them. Even making the biggest stretch, I'm not sure it can be classified as a religious song. Like many of Cohen's songs, there's religious imagery, but at its core, the iconic song is about love gone wrong and a broken heart.
With lyrics like "Love is not a victory march/It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah" the only thing this song might do during the holiday season is keep Frosty the Snowman from melting away for a few minutes. The lyrics are cold and biting, not exactly something that fits a holiday celebration or the birth of Christ.
So, how exactly did "Hallelujah" make its way onto Holiday playlists? Honestly, I've searched and searched and searched online...and there doesn't seem to be a clear 'origin' story of how the Cohen classic became a holiday hit. However, I do a have a working theory which is two fold:
First off, most people don't listen intently to lyrics. Which is how songs like Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life" become huge hits...because people dig the sound and melody but don't exactly pay attention the lyrical make up that is questionable in content at best. So, people hear a pretty song where people are singing out 'hallelujah' and think it's a good for the holiday season.
Here's the second part of this theory: while 'Hallelujah' became a more and more holiday song, other groups covered the song and changed the lyrics. Cloverton has a strictly Christmas version of the tune. The Penatonix and other groups have taken out some of the darker and more depressing lyrics to sanitize the song the bit.
So, if you put those two things together, you get a recipe where one of the greatest songs about heartbreak and loss becomes a Christmas classic.