Debate: Is Dominick the Donkey a valid Christmas song?

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Debate: Is Dominick the Donkey a valid Christmas song?


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Side 1 argued by Maddie Steger of The Lode

Side 2 argued by Mason Liagre of The Lode

Round 1

Side 1: When Christmas rolls around each year, every store and radio station starts playing the classic, traditional Christmas songs. As long as I can remember, I have been hearing Dominick the Donkey during the holiday season. It completely shocks me when I learn that some-one doesn’t know Dominick the Donkey. The song was written in 1960 by Ray Allen, Sam Saltzberg, Wandra Merrell and Lou Monte. The story behind the song is that Santa gets help from Dominick to deliver Christmas presents in Italy because the reindeer can’t climb the steep hills. Dominick the Donkey puts a fun twist on the more well known Christmas songs. It’s not religious or about finding true love on Christmas, it’s just a song about a donkey that helps deliver presents in Italy. Plus, since it is so upbeat, it is a great song for kids to sing along to. Overall, Dominick the Donkey is a traditional and important Christmas song.

Side 2: I would first ask the readers of the Lode the following question: Have you ever heard of the song Dominick the Donkey? Culture is formed by what a large percentage of the group that it belongs to knows, and Christmas is a cultural phenomenon. A song that hardly anyone has ever heard of can hardly be deemed part of a national holiday. However, there is a large factor that excludes Dominick the Donkey from being a Christmas song. There is nothing at all connecting Dominick the Donkey to the holiday season except itself. The song refers to Dominick as a “Christmas donkey,” but what relates him to Christmas besides that name? It’s a tautology; supposedly it’s a Christmas song precisely because it is labeled as such. One can hardly slap the word “Christmas” on something and make a Christmas song out of nothing but that fact. What’s next, Hector the Christmas brick? Alfred the Christmas microwave?

Round 2

Side 1: Growing up in a large city of 600,000 people, I remember performing Dominick the Donkey at our elementary school holiday shows every year because it was one of the most popular performances. It is constantly on the local Christmas radio stations, however, it is understandable that not everyone listens to the radio anymore. But, even if you listen to online music providers such as Pandora or Spotify, Dominick the Donkey is included in almost every playlist or radio station geared for Christmas time. Nevertheless, in 2011 Dominick the Donkey reached number two on the Official UK Charts, so people are listening to it. Besides the title alluding to the fact that the song is a Christmas song (some people like to reference the song as Dominick the Christmas Donkey), Santa Clause, the most prominent icon for Christmas, is also referenced multiple time in the lyrics. Sleigh bells also jingle in the background for the whole duration of the song. I don’t know any song that has sleigh bells in it other than a true Christmas song. There are plenty of wacky Christmas songs out there like Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer, but they are still considered to be Christmas songs, so why can’t Dominick the Donkey make the cut? The beloved song All I want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey was released in 1994, while Dominick the Donkey came out in 1960. The song has been around for decades and it’s time it has gotten the recognition it deserves.

Side 2:  I will leave the question of Dominick the Donkey’s popularity open to the readers. I for one had not once heard of it before the topic of this debate arose. Alienating listeners is not the best tactic for gaining popularity- the song makes reference to its events exclusively occurring in Italy. Who besides people of Italian descent or residence could possibly relate to such esoteric lyrics? Neither has Dominick the Donkey ever appeared in a Christmas movie or been featured in a similar piece of media. In addition, Christmas music is not the only genre where sleigh bells are used. They’re featured in The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” for example. It’s quite true that other Christmas songs have eccentric subject matter and that’s exactly what makes them popular, but in this case, it works against it. Perhaps it just failed to get off the ground- I guess Dominick can’t fly like Santa’s majestic reindeer.

*Note: This article ran 12/6/2018