Okay, I realize the theme from Cheers isn’t technically a Christmas song, but I’d like to make the case for why it works anyway.
To me, the best Christmas songs don’t explicitly mention Jesus or Santa, but instead aim to pull on your heartstrings via nostalgia or hyper-nostalgia (that is, nostalgic for things that never really existed — Republicans know what I’m talking about here) — songs like “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” This preference probably stems from my own lack of religion (you know, and being to old to believe in Santa), which means that Christmas for me is really just about the warmth of being around loved ones. In this way, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” fits in perfectly, creating a hyper-nostalgic universe that can best be accessed by hanging out with your friends.
Ironically, I don’t have a place like Cheers in Boston — I just haven’t been there long enough. Home is really the only place I can go to “get away,” but even here, things change; friends move away, my bedroom is converted for other uses, etc. You can’t go home again, but when you don’t have a lot of familiar things in your life, you kind of wish you could. What’s magical about Christmas, then, is that you can return to that place. No matter how much the rest of the world changes, the Christmas tree always looks the same, eggnog will always be yummy, and I’ll always be bad at wrapping presents. The point is, for me, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” doesn’t just describe home, it describes home at Christmas time, the exact same way “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” does.
Of course, our associations with “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” provide a stumbling block for it to ever become a Christmas classic. It’s instantly recognizable as “the theme from Cheers,” and even if it could be divorced from its specific associations, we’ve come to think of its lyrics as describing a neighborhood bar, or at least a place filled with friends, not family. Indeed, almost all of the characters on the show use Cheers as a place to get away from their families, from Norm’s wife to Cliff’s mom to Carla’s kids. Oddly, my associations with this show are the opposite, having grown up watching it with my parents. At any rate, I don’t think strong associations really prevent a Christmas song from becoming a classic; in spite of society’s strong opposition to slavery, we still sing a song where someone gives human beings as a gift (eight maids a milking, etc.), and the song isn’t even good. If we can forgive one of the most annoying songs in the world for advocating slavery, I think we can look past the fact that this song started as a theme music for one of the most popular television shows of all time.
It’s actually kind of acts like a classic Christmas song already; people really only know the chorus and can only kind of hack their way through the first verse. Like other Christmas songs, it does have other verses (which are ridiculous), but nobody knows them, and it’s probably for the best if you just skip them altogether.
I’d also argue that it’s better than most Christmas song by the virtue of not having been recorded and rerecorded by every musician trying to make an easy buck. There is one recording of this song, and it’s all the world needs. It also doesn’t have sleigh-bells or chimes, so it isn’t as annoying as fuck. More Christmas songs could benefit from this kind of production.
I’m not sure “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” will ever take off as a Christmas song, but I’ve convinced myself that it works. Anyway, have a Merry Christmas everybody — IT MAY BE YOUR LAST!