Natural Christmas Tree

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

There really is something about this time of year, even if you temporarily cast aside of the religious overtones or ignore the overly commercialized nature of the season. All of those Christmas specials on TV fill your home with cheer. And part of the holiday fun has to do with both traditional and more contemporary Christmas carols… but do you really understand their meaning?

I heard “Winter Wonderland” (not to be confused with Walken in a Winter Wonderland) on the radio the other day and it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t have the slightest clue who Parson Brown was. As a quick refresher, here are the lyrics from that part of the song:

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown.
He’ll say, “Are you married?”
We’ll say, “No man, but you can do the job when you’re in town!”

So, who is Parson Brown?

First, he does not appear to be a specific person. The only well-known person named Parson Brown who was around at the time that “Winter Wonderland” was composed and released happened to be an orange grower from Florida. That connection doesn’t really make sense.

Instead, it is much more likely that “Parson” is being used as a title in this context. As you may already know, a parson was a Protestant minister who typically traveled from small town to small town. As such, the character mentioned in the song is likely a parson with the surname Brown.

The “are you married” lyric makes a lot of sense in this context too, since parsons were the ones who would perform wedding ceremonies for the people in these small towns and rural villages. The children making the snowman tell “Parson Brown” that he can be the one performing the wedding ceremony in the future when they indeed want to get married.

Of course, many other Christmas songs and holiday tunes have been composed since “Winter Wonderland.” I really like the Boyz II Men version of “Let It Snow,” for example. What’s your favorite Christmas carol? Do you prefer traditional songs or the more modern creations?