Coach John remembers the John Lennon & Yoko Ono Christmas song; ‘Happy Xmas (War is over)

Click HERE to download the Weekly English Practice as a PDF.

Useful Vocabulary

  1. resonant: (adj) having the ability to evoke enduring images, memories, or emotions
  2. lyrics: (n) the words sang in a song
  3. apt: (adj) suited to the purpose or occasion;
  4. suitable, appropriate
  5. head into: (v) approach
  6. bed-ins: (n) staying in bed for a long period, as a protest
  7. billboard: (n) a flat surface (as of a panel, wall, or fence) on which bills are posted specifically : a large panel designed to carry outdoor advertising
  8. featured: (adj) (of a newspaper or magazine article, broadcast programme, or show) made a special attraction.
  9. come up with: (v) produce something, especially when pressured or challenged, to have an idea


“So this is Christmas…” is perhaps one of the most famous opening lines of any Christmas song to date, but just what was the message behind John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s iconic track?

The 1971 track is one of the world’s most popular Christmas songs, and one that also contained a political message that is still resonant to this day.

“So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun… A very merry Christmas and a happy new year, let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.”

These lyrics feel especially apt as we head into 2024 with two major and bloody wars being waged in Gaza and Ukraine.

The song came about after more than two years of peace activism by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, that began with the ‘bed-ins’ for peace they created in March and May 1969.

The song was part of an international multimedia campaign launched by the couple in

December 1969, at the height of the counterculture movement and protests against America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

They had rented billboard spaces in 12 major cities around the world, for the display of black- and-white posters that declared “WAR IS OVER! If You Want It – Happy Christmas from John & Yoko”.

The slogan had previously appeared in the 1968 anti-war songs ‘The War Is Over’ by Phil Ochs, and ‘The Unknown Soldier’ by the Doors. However, it is not known if this was deliberate or merely coincidental.

In the opening, whispered lines of the song Yoko wishes her daughter (from a previous marriage) Kyoko a happy Christmas followed by John doing the same to his son (from his previous marriage) Julian. The couple’s son Sean had not been born yet.

The song was written and recorded in New York City and the children’s voices featured on the song are from the Harlem Community Choir.

Lennon came up with the song as a way of continuing the themes of social unity and peaceful change via personal accountability.

War is over, if you want it War is over, now!”

by ECP coach John Hird

Let’s chat about that

  1. Give a summary of the text to your coach and/or classmates.
  2. What inspired John and Yoko to write the song?
  3. What is a ‘bed-in’? (Follow the link)
  4. Do you think it is an effective form of protest?
  5. Click on the link to the song on page 2. Listen and follow the lyrics. How does the song make you feel?
  6. The song says: ‘War is over (If you want it) What did John and Yoko mean by that?
  7. What are your Christmas wishes this year? What do you want for Christmas?