The original version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" was recorded by 13-year-old Jimmy Boyd in 1952. The song was absolutely huge. It went to number one, was awarded a gold record when it sold a million copies, was awarded another gold record when it sold another million, and then for the third million was awarded a special silver saddle (because Jimmy Boyd liked horses).

That's a lot of success for a song that was essentially just an advertising jingle. It was conceived not by any record company but by Saks Fifth Avenue, the department store. Saks had an annual Christmas card to promote the store, and they commissioned the song to promote the card. The card used a sketch by artist Perry Barlow, which had previously appeared on the cover of The New Yorker, of a mommy kissing Santa while he holds her confused child. 

Not everyone was so keen on the song. In Boston, the Catholic Archdiocese officially condemned it, and so great was their influence that some radio stations took the song out of rotation despite it being the most popular single in the country. The church objected to "implying even a tenuous link between sex and the religious holiday." If Santa kissed Mommy, well, we can hardly expect the couple to stop there, especially with all those sinful details about Mommy tickling him underneath his beard.

Jimmy Boyd actually met with church leaders to convince them the song was harmless, and upon being granted a private audience with the 13-year-old boy, the Boston priests agreed to change their position. It's generally assumed that Jimmy explained to the priests that this song wasn't about adultery: Santa Claus is really the child's father dressed up, which is the whole joke of the song.

A fair number of people miss that detail (one memorable scene in Fresh Prince has Will scandalized on hearing the song, before Carlton explains it to him). One version of the song has an adult man, the kid's father, sing some lines to explain the truth to the listener. It doesn't change any words, but the verse makes perfect sense now as the father singing about his daughter: "She didn't see me creep / Down the stairs to have a peep / She thought that I was tucked up in my bedroom, fast asleep."

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For more on Christmas music, check out:

The First 'Response' To "Baby It's Cold Outside" Is As Old As The Song Itself

"White Christmas" Is About Being Stuck in California

12 Horrific Implications of the Most Famous Christmas Song

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Top image: The New Yorker, Stefan14776/Wiki Commons

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