Behind the Song: The Camel Song

I wanted a Christmas song around a Christmas-ish animal, and a camel has loose Christmas ties… (wise men from the East)? And camels are hilarious.  They are huge, they spit, and they have a giant hump (sometimes two)! After some thought, I realized if you need a silly Christmas song about a silly Christmas animal, the camel is the obvious choice. The donkey is a distant second.

When the idea of calling it “the camel song” was born in my mind, the chorus arrived fully formed.  Lyrics and melody happened in real time, all the way through the “what’s wrong with you” line at the end.

My hunch is, if someone had recorded me when that lyric hit my brain, you would get to see me laugh out loud for minutes at a time.  The whole package struck me as so funny, I could hardly sing it.  The melody is ridiculous, and the lyric is so cluelessly and earnestly pompous that I fell in love with it immediately.  I wasn’t sure I would have the guts to record it, but it made me laugh till I cried. I do think I remember, when I had calmed down a little, praying out loud, “Thank you, thank you,” for having been given such a gift of silliness and laughter in that moment.

For the verses, I remember first laughing at the idea of “everybody’s favorite Christmas mammal,” because it continued the theme of pompous, righteous cluelessness that the chorus began. I can’t remember how the Mark Hamill / ton-ton verse showed up.   I do remember trying to think of everything that could possibly be funny about a camel, and I was particularly looking for things that were blatantly missing the point of Christmas.

At the end of the day, if you could crack open the chest bone of The Camel Song, and slice open its beating heart, you would find it pumped full of blissful ignorance.  The Camel Song is having a great time celebrating itself, and can’t understand why “you” won’t join in on the fun.

Last week, my 11 year old daughter asked me the classic pupil question about History.  “Why do we need to learn history?  It’s just a bunch of stuff that’s already happened.  It doesn’t matter for today.” I had fun with the answer, but I bring it up because that’s the framework for this song. The Camel Song is sure that Christmas is about “Ho ho ho,” and “The Christmas Camel.” You might say, for The Camel Song, Christmas is about me, and now.  It’s funny because we see it miss the point of Christmas so wildly and with such self-possessed abandon.

But I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about all that stuff. And I don’t expect kids to get any of it.  For them, it is a fun and silly song like Frosty the Snowman that they can sing with mom and dad.  Except, they get to sing about Star Wars.

PLAY: The Camel Song

5 thoughts on “Behind the Song: The Camel Song

  1. We’ve had your Christmas CD playing exclusively in our car since Thanksgiving, and The Camel Song is my 4 year old son’s FAVORITE!! He asks to listen to it over and over again (and he likes the original version and the one at the end of the CD with the talking). My husband (a big Star Wars fan) and I love it too. It never fails to make us smile and giggle. Thanks so much for your great music!

  2. The Camel Song is THE BEST! We laugh so hard singing it. We stumbled upon it shortly after we had reverently shared the glory of the STAR WARS movies with our girls. Needless to say, the Ton-ton line is the loudest of the entire song. Please know that TCS is the #1 Christmas song sung out of season. We love your entire CD and have just pulled it out for this year.Thanks for adding levity (and some depth also) to our Christmas celebration.

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