“Wake up little darling, it’s Christmas morning,” begins the quiet track by Eraserheads at the end of their special Fruitcake album. It is idyllic, serene, peaceful; it is the perfect melody for a cool December morning, for decked halls and sleepy wishes, for children looking forward to opening presents.
But behind the earnest, hopeful melody, we soon see an outlook that is world-weary. Ely Buendia sings to the beloved child,
You had been dreaming
Angels are singing
But now they’ve gone and once again
It’s time to go on with our lives
Christmas Morning, a deceptively sentimental tune, speaks not just of Christmas season’s occasional sorrow (which comes from its serenity), but also of its despair. Despair, as a holiday that merely holds harsh realities at bay, postponing their pain for a later time.
Maybe the time will come when we won’t need to pretend to be happy for just a while
At the end, the persona realizes that a little more time spent dreaming would be better than bringing a child back to a less wonderful world; that, perhaps, the holidays are an attempt to duplicate dreams in reality, although a futile effort it always will be.
Or maybe I should just let you dream for a while longer
Wherever’s a better place than here
Christmas Morning reflects the overall tone and message of Fruitcake, a record that takes a special place in Eraserheads’ music for being spun around a central concept, particularly Christmas. While they appeal to an important Filipino tradition by doing so, as they have done in many of their previous work, they also write about it in trademark Eraserheads style: spontaneously humorous, and often unashamedly honest. Throughout Fruitcake they parody the elements that comprise the Filipino Christmas tradition: our love of fruitcake, Christmas carols, parties and games, the sorrow of holiday separation, even visions of snow in tropical Christmastime.
Eraserheads has fun in Fruitcake with this, going through festive ups and melancholic downs (plus a few bizarre, dissonant fillers), but they end with Christmas Morning, quite a solemn note in their longest studio album. It leaves us with a cold look at a warm season. It is nothing like, say, We Wish You A Merry Christmas by Ray Conniff and his Singers, that nostalgic recording that occupies so many of Manila’s shopping malls at the beginning of the Filipino Christmas season (September), and refuses to leave until January; it is also unlike the choral pieces sung in holiday concerts as well as in churches, like Felipe de Leon’s Payapang Daigdig, whose tragic wartime inspiration is left out from the lyrics, at least literally.
For the many loyal listeners who have made Fruitcake part of their musical Christmas traditions, what Christmas Morning represents is the varied but always frank look at life that Eraserheads’ music has always been. Only this time, it is also rightfully a holiday treasure on its own.