It's true that "I Believe in Father Christmas" is as pretentious as prog-rock can possibly be. The far superior 45 RPM version of the song uses over a hundred musicians and singers, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The album version, without the orchestra and chorus, appeared later on ELP's 1977 album Works, Volume 2. If you like soft-rock and acoustic music you may prefer the LP version. If you're like me, you'll revel in the massive wall of sound that Lake produced for the single.
The instrumental theme that opens and closes the song, and also appears in between the verses, is actually a fine piece of classical music composed by Russian Sergei Prokofiev who is probably best known for composing "Peter and the Wolf". The melody, known as "Troika," comes from a segment of Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kije Suite" and was written for a Soviet movie in 1934.
According to several websites Lake said the song is often misinterpreted. It is not an anti-religion song. Instead, it's about the over-commercialization of Christmas. In an interview with the British music magazine, Mojo, he said, "I find it appalling when people say it's politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, you've got to talk about 'The Holiday Season.' Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance. And I do believe in Father Christmas."
Coincidentally, Wisconsin disc jockey J.A. Bartlett has written an article on the same song for his blog, The Hits Just Keep On Comin.' He takes a more philosophical approach.
Finally, I've been hesitant to offer readers any more YouTube clips because two of the three times I've posted them on this blog the videos were eventually removed. However, I'm going to try one more time. Here is a video using Lake's original 45 RPM single. I hope you agree this song is a wonderful Christmas classic!