Humor Magazine

What Is ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ Really About?

By Katie Hoffman @katienotholmes

In the canon of Christmas music, " I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus " is a classic. Originally recorded in 1952 by Jimmy Boyd and made famous with covers recorded by The Jackson 5 and many other artists, "I Saw Mommy" is the go-to jam when you're looking something a little edgier than "Jingle Bells" and "The Christmas Song." I thought I knew everything there was to know about Christmas music until I recently learned of a less literal interpretation of this song, a breakthrough that's become the most mind-blowing holiday revelation I've had since learning the truth about Santa.

The Literal Interpretation

The title of the song is a bit of a spoiler: thanks to a meddlesome son, who should've been asleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in his head, we know that the matriarch described in the song is locking lips with Kris Kringle. The lyrics describe the scene thusly:

I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night.
She didn't see me creep
down the stairs to have a peep;
She thought that I was tucked
up in my bedroom fast asleep.

There's a lot going on here, so let's break this down. Children are notorious for having wild imaginations, so this entire scene could be the description of a dream or a fantasy. In psychology, children between the age of 3 and 8 experience the Santa Complex, during which their excitement for toys and family traditions makes them temporarily regard Father Christmas as their actual father. With this in mind, the vision of a child seeing his or her mother being intimate with Santa Claus is a normal, healthy response to a child's belief in the Christmas legend. If not an expression of paternal transference, the little tyke in question might just be lying to stir up trouble at home Maury Show style. There is evidence to support this latter interpretation, because it's clear the boy knows this kiss is forbidden, as he wonders about what his father would make of the situation:

Then, I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white;
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night

To any rational person concerned with fidelity, it seems optimistic to suggest it would "be a laugh" if daddy had seen the mother of his child (and presumably his wife) kissing another man, even if it's Santa Claus. That said, perhaps some couples grant each other a "Santa Pass" for the holidays-that's none of my business. Perhaps the child is just naïve to think his father would find humor in discovering his partner in an embrace with a holiday icon who, in the toy delivery profession, is easily the equivalent of Mick Jagger or Jack Nicholson. In my own relationship, there are Santa kiss boundaries:

What Is ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ Really About?

Santa Is Married and This Is Weird

We know there's a Mrs. Claus waiting on Santa in the North Pole, but "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is hardly the first song that suggests Santa has undeniable sex appeal. Think of the song "Santa Baby," which is sung entirely in a come-hither baby voice and subtly connotes that the singer has been on Seeking Arrangement before and is willing to trade sexual favors - or flirt at the very least - for a stocking that contains a duplex and checks. Indeed, women are in control of their sexual agency around Santa Claus.

Moreover, Santa brings joy to a lot of good girls and boys, and for most women who like children, have children, or plan on having children in the future, Santa's benevolence could be a bit of a turn on. Suffice it to say we shouldn't slut shame one mom for making the most of the mistletoe, because on Christmas Eve in a house full of Christmas lights, who's to say any of us could resist a quick Santa smooch? The song may describe a rather innocent one-night affair -admittedly not the most honest behavior when you're in a relationship - but it's not completely without precedent.

But What If It's Not An Affair?

Last night after yoga I was in the car with one of my best friends when "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" came on the radio and prompted this debate.

"Do you think Mike would dress up as Santa for your kids?" my friend asked.

I was somewhat caught off-guard by it, but I thought nothing of the question; hypothetical scenarios involving your career, wedding, or spawn are the currency of your mid-20s.

"I don't see why not," I answered, because even though it hasn't come up, but I'm optimistic my future child's joy will trump his reticent for wearing red.

The song continued, and after the lyric, "What a laugh it would have been, if daddy had only seen," my friend made a statement that would change my life forever. She said, "But his dad already knows because he's in the Santa suit!"

If this were the movie Inception, this is the exact moment my dream world started crumbling around me. The holiday life I knew and loved was becoming unrecognizable, my tightly held belief that a fictional mom was having a Christmas fling drowning in doubt. The car swerved off the road as the concrete turned to rubble with trees and houses collapsing into a nearby sinkhole as I desperately clung to my belief that mommy was kissing the real Santa Claus and cheating on her baby daddy.

I wanted to pretend that I knew all along that this was a possibility, because as soon as she uttered those words, it seemed so embarrassingly obvious. Nothing sinister is happening here: it's just a man giving his son a memorable Christmas and enjoying a private moment with his wife while he's in costume. This isn't a song about impending divorce; it's about a relationship growing stronger with heartfelt holiday memories! Daddy couldn't see mommy kissing Santa Claus because he is that Santa Claus in disguise, the boy just doesn't know it because he believes. He's got it all wrong in a case of mistaken identity, which was essentially the crux of the conflict in the 2002 movie I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, starring the twins from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (in a Michelle Tanner twins-playing-one-person role).

...But Why Didn't Anyone Ever Tell Me?

It's hard to believe that I made it through 26 Christmases without ever hearing of or considering about the dad Santa interpretation. Is it so obvious that everyone just assumed I knew, or are there others like me out there who had also unrelentingly embraced the affair explanation? Two of my best friends were similarly shocked and insisted that the dad Santa explanation was without merit. They demanded proof, saying, "I think it's an affair song!" and "I'm going to need to see the receipts from the guy that wrote this damn song, because I think mommy is actually kissing the real Santa Claus, too, not her husband in a Santa suit." While looking for proof that supported the theory, we found this seemingly definitive parenthetical note included on the "I Saw Mommy Kiss Santa Claus" Wikipedia page:

The song describes a scene where a child walks downstairs from his bedroom on Christmas Eve to see his mother kissing "Santa Claus" (presumably his father in a Santa Claus costume) under the mistletoe.

Another one of my best friends was shocked I didn't know, saying, "We (as in, the world) just assumed you did. You're normally up on these things." My mom was a bit less charitable in sharing her shock. She added, "How did you guys get to be as old as you are not know that?" She then turned to the dog and remarked, "You see Reagan, I don't know about this generation." -_-

If got me thinking, what if the interpretation of the song says something about our Christmas upbringing or beliefs? I grew up in a household without a dad to dress up as Santa Claus, so did that make me more likely to accept the affair explanation? Perhaps those of us that want to protect the magic of the season are more likely to believe in the affair, because it gives credence to the existence of Santa Claus. Maybe there are several factors - psychological and sociological - that determine what the song means to each person who hears it.

Even though the dad Santa explanation makes perfect sense and provides the song a completely different angle, I refuse to believe there is a right and wrong interpretation here, or that me and a few of my friends are the only ones who never thought about a dad dressed in a Santa suit kissing mommy. Please take the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments on this topic, because this is an important conversation that needs to happen.

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What Is ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ Really About?

Katie Hoffman is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @bykatiehoffman.

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