♫ Happy Xmas (War Is Over) ♫

Most Christmas songs are cheery, evoking visions of sleigh bells, mistletoe, presents, and the like.  This one, however, is a bit different and given the chaos and angst around the world today, I think is more appropriate than the other sort to play on Christmas Eve.  This song asks us to think about those who live in fear, and collectively bring about the end of war. The call to action is the refrain “war is over, if you want it.”

John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote this in their New York City hotel room and recorded it during the evening of October 28 and into the morning of the 29th, 1971, at the Record Plant in New York. It was released in the US for Christmas, but didn’t chart. The next year, it was released in the UK, where it did much better, charting at #4. Eventually, the song became a Christmas classic in America, but it took a while, and it only reached #42 at best.

John and Yoko spent a lot of time in the late ’60s and early ’70s working to promote peace. In 1969, they put up billboards in major cities around the world that said, “War is over! (If you want it).” Two years later this slogan became the basis for this song when Lennon decided to make a Christmas record with an anti-war message. John also claimed another inspiration for writing the song: he said he was “sick of ‘White Christmas.'”

The children’s voices are the Harlem Community Choir, featuring thirty children, most of them four to twelve years of age, who were brought in to sing on this track. They are credited on the single along with Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band.

Lennon and Ono produced this with the help of Phil Spector. Spector had worked on some of the later Beatles songs and also produced Lennon’s Instant Karma. It was not Spector’s first foray into Christmas music: he and his famous session stars (including a 17-year-old Cher) spent six weeks in the summer of 1963 putting together A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, featuring artists like The Ronettes and Darlene Love. Unfortunately, the album was released on November 22, 1963, which was the same day US president John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The album sold poorly as America was focused on news of the killing.

At the beginning of the song, two whispers can be heard (not by me, of course, but perhaps you will hear them). Yoko whispers: “Happy Christmas, Kyoko” (Kyoko Chan Cox is Yoko’s daughter with Anthony Cox) and John whispers: “Happy Christmas, Julian” (John’s son with Cynthia).

John Lennon was shot and killed less than three weeks before Christmas in 1980. The song was re-released in the UK on December 20 of that year, reaching #2.

Why not “Merry Christmas” or “Merry Xmas”? In England, “Happy Christmas” is a more common seasonal greeting and helped differentiate it from the holiday standard Merry Christmas Baby. More confusing to Americans is “Father Christmas,” which is the English version of Santa Claus.

I was reminded of this song by our friend David when he sent it to me earlier this evening.  There are several versions, and I am playing two of them tonight.  The first is family-friendly and depicts normal Christmas scenes, while the second is far more graphic, depicting actual scenes of death and the results of war — so graphic, in fact, that YouTube has a disclaimer which you must click on in order to see the video, but … while it isn’t cheerful, I think it’s important … it reminds us that we in the West, despite our troubles, have been living a rather homogenized life, that we have never actually known what it’s like to be treated as ‘the enemy’, to carry our dead child wrapped in a dirty blanket.  Watch one or both … your choice.  

Happy or Merry Christmas, dear friends!

Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
John Lennon and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir

(Happy Christmas, Kyoko
Happy Christmas, Julian)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you had fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas (War is over)
For weak and for strong (If you want it)
For rich and the poor ones (War is over)
The road is so long (Now)
And so happy Christmas (War is over)
For black and for white (If you want it)
For yellow and red ones (War is over)
Let’s stop all the fight (Now)

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas (War is over)
And what have we done? (If you want it)
Another year over (War is over)
And a new one just begun (Now)
And so happy Christmas (War is over)
We hope you had fun (If you want it)
The near and the dear ones (War is over)
The old and the young (Now)

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

War is over, if you want it
War is over, now
Happy Christmas
Happy Christmas, Christmas
Happy Christmas, Christmas

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: John Winston Lennon / Yoko Ono
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing

29 thoughts on “♫ Happy Xmas (War Is Over) ♫

  1. Jill, my brother and I appreciate John Lennon, but my brother is a huge fan. He and his friend would argue over who was the most important Beatle. They both were right and wrong. Lennon and MCartney made each other better through collaboration and competition.

    This Christmas song is genuine as it includes both Ono and Lennon’s voices. We lost the latter way too soon to a senseless murder. His voice has been missed as he would likely still be an influence. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just started reading James Patterson’s book, “The Last Days of John Lennon”, which actually starts out way back in the early days when John and Paul first met. Very interesting history! And I do think you’re right … I can picture that Lennon would be an advocate for countering climate change, for Black Lives Matter, and many other causes we are fighting for today.


    • Yep, you’re right about that. And we could, but the question is … will we? I think it’s unlikely that we will stop killing people or that we will take the health of the planet seriously until it is much to late to save the human species. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Merry Christmas to you too, dear Carolyn! I am hoping for a peaceful day … that’s all I ask is peace. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!!! Many huge HUGS and much love to you, dear friend!


  2. Just listening to it on Spotify. In fact, I drove my husband crazy with Christmas songs. He hates them, I love them again.

    Merry Christmas to you my friend. Hope 2021 will bring better fortunes for all of us.

    Can only get better, I guess 😁. Even though I still bet on the Zombie apocalypse 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Merry Christmas, Jill. I’m still around but for health reasons, I’ve had to back away from politics some…it was getting too much for me…the everyday craziness and danger…and the cult..OMG, what is wrong with these people!

    They wouldn’t know joy, peace on earth and goodwill to men, if it hit them smack in the face.

    Hope yours is happy and warm…..

    Liked by 3 people

    • Trump (and friends) is enough to make anyone sick. I, too, wish I could get away from it all, but he’s like a vivid nightmare that you can’t un-see. I’d wish you a happy new year, but that will be impossible until after Jan. 20….and even then, Trump won’t suddenly turn into a human being who will leave ill enough alone.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I have missed you, but I know you said you were going to back off from the political chaos, and I don’t blame you a bit. Yes, it takes a toll on us … I just can’t seem to stay away from it, though … it helps me to put it into words here on ye olde blog, so I keep plugging away.

      Happy Christmas, my friend, and let’s hope for a better year to come.

      Liked by 2 people

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