In Defense of "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"


This song is either a beloved seasonal novelty or a source of agony; there is no middle ground. After all, who wants to hear a song about a 10-year-old child demanding that she gets a hippo for Christmas? A hippo is literally the last thing a child should receive for a present, but no, nothing else will do for our precocious lead singer. She disregards concerns about where to hold him, what to feed him, and how to care for this endangered species with the determination that can only come from a kid.

Advent is about waiting. Regardless of who we are or where we are from, we all have to wait for Christmas to arrive, for the eventual arrival of Christ. It is a big thing to wait for. We can wait and hope for things everyday, like tea kettles to whistle or for the phone to ring. But here, our protagonist is teaching us all a lesson; we all have to wait, so we might as well wait for something miraculous. Don’t just hope for something small and predictable. But also hope, and wait, for a miracle so huge, so amazing, so ridiculous, it seems impossible.

We are all waiting for hippos this year: a vaccine, a stabilized economy and political climate, for society to demand care for those who need it. These may seem as ridiculous as a hippo to many. But if you are like me, I will see you by the Christmas tree, waiting for that ridiculous, miraculous, and glorious, arrival of the holiest of holies.

May your "hippo" be under the tree this year.

Blessings, Roberta