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COL Outdated, yes, but who would change Christmas?

A mass e-mail -- one of those sent to every newspaper in the free world -- caught my eye the other day. It was from an organization called I Will Never Use Tobacco, Inc. The e-mail lauded the sender of a Christmas card that portrayed Frosty the Snowman without his characteristic corncob pipe.

The e-mail got me thinking about some of the other popular Christmas songs we hear this time of year. The lyrics tell us a lot about how the world has changed since these classics were written over the last century or so.

Pipe smoking, of course, is strongly discouraged these days. But back in 1950, when the song was written, it was portrayed as a harmless, relaxing habit.

And what about Frosty's intelligent design? No one heats their homes with coal-fired furnaces anymore, so chunks of it for snowman eyes are pretty hard to come by -- unless maybe you live near the Silver Lake power plant.

And there's a pretty good chance that if the Frosty story had been written in the 2000s he'd have a much slimmer physique, so as to create a healthy role model for young 'uns.

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A story in Monday's P-B noted that Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song" is the most-performed holiday tune in history. It's hard to say why folks continue to relate to it, though. No one roasts chestnuts over an open fire anymore. (I tried it in the oven once, and they "Pop, Pop, Popped!" into a big mess.)

In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find an open fire anywhere this time of year, even in homes with fireplaces. Most fireplaces nowadays have pretend logs in them, from which spew gas-generated flames.

It's not just roasted chestnuts that have gone away with the bluebird. When was the last time you had figgy pudding? Or a Christmas goose, or sugar plum?

When many of our favorite Christmas songs were written, sleigh riding was one of the most popular pastimes. Sleighs are mentioned in a slew of carols, including "Jingle Bells," which was written in 1857. But sleigh riding, it seems, was still cool well into the automobile age. It's prominent in the lyrics of "White Christmas" (1942), "Sleigh Ride (1948) and "Jingle Bell Rock" (1957), among others. But sleighs have been replaced on the winter entertainment scene by snowmobiles, go-through-anything SUVs and four-wheelers.

Then there's the nearly extinct practice of caroling around the neighborhood that's mentioned in so many Christmas songs. When was the last time you bundled up and headed outdoors to spread some holiday cheer? You'd be out there maybe five minutes before someone called the cops because you set off their motion-detection lights.

Finally, kids these days sing carols asking for ancient gifts they've never heard of. I won't get into the bizarre gifts mentioned in "The Twelve Days of Christmas." I'm not sure anyone ever wanted a lord-a-leaping or a maid-a-milking, even in the Dark Ages when that song was written.

But I doubt too many children these days are asking Santa for a pair of "Hopalong boots, a pistol that shoots, and dolls that will talk and will go for a walk." BORRRRRING!

I'm glad, though, that folks continue to sing and record these classics year after year, no matter how outdated the lyrics might be. And to anyone who might want to update these lyrics by, say, replacing Frosty's corncob pipe with a broccoli spear, I have this borrowed message: "You're a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss. Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable mangled up in tangled up knots."

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Greg Sellnow's columns appear Tuesdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at 285-7703 or by e-mail at sellnow@postbulletin.com.

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