White Christmas - A Carol that Evokes Fond Visions of Christmas and Snow Everywhere
Christmas is Not Always White
Having grown up in upstate New York, I have always believed that Christmas and snow go together. Not that Rochester, New York, my hometown, is known for white Christmases. Cold and overcast is common with a little better than a fifty-fifty chance of some snow on the ground if not snow falling from the skies and blanketing the landscape.
Living in Arizona for the past two and a half decades have made me used to green Christmases even though I still miss the snow covered Christmases we had in my youth. Ironically, the one white Christmas in Tucson in the years I have lived here occurred the year we took our, then three or four year old son, back to Rochester for Christmas. I had promised him a traditional snow covered Christmas with the family.
However, instead a landscape covered with a fresh blanket of snow, we woke up on Christmas Day to a cloudy day with the temperature in the low 40s and an intermittent drizzling rain.
What was worse, was a big picture on the front page of the morning paper showing palm trees in downtown Tucson with branches bent under the weight of the snow covering them and a headline boldly announcing the first white Christmas in Arizona since some time in the 1940s. While we have had a handful of snow storms since then, none of them have been on Christmas.
Carol Was Written at Poolside in Beverly Hills
My early association of Christmas and snow is probably why I have always enjoyed the Christmas carol White Christmas.
Having been written a few years before I was born and being popular in my youth as one regularly heard Bing Crosby singing it on the radio while I was growing up, is probably the main reason I enjoy it so much.
The music and lyrics for the carol were composed in 1940 by Irving Berlin for the 1942 movie Holiday Inn staring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Berlin supposedly composed the carol while sitting by the pool in Beverly Hills, California and drew inspiration from his memories of Christmas decorations and snow while growing up in New York City.
According to WikiPedia the original version of the carol began with the words:
The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and
palm trees sway.
I've never seen such a day
in Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December the twenty-fourth,—
And I am longing to be up North—
Evokes Memories of Snow and Christmas
The joys of winter and snow are relative. Like other things in life, the joys of snow and winter are temporary. For children, snow is a lot of fun and the words of the carol definitely make one think back to the happy and carefree days of their childhood.
However, snow tends to lose its charms as one gets older and finds themselves having to crawl out of a warm bed early on a dark winter morning so that they can go outside and shovel the snow off the driveway in order to get to work. Sunshine, green grass and palm trees swaying in the breeze in places like Beverly Hills, California or Tucson, Arizona make for a more appealing image most of the time.
Yet, there are few activities more peaceful and more beautiful than a stroll with one's lover on a crisp and quiet winter evening with the ground covered with a blanket of new snow while snow continues to gently drift down from the sky and the only sound is the gentle crunching sound from below as you walk on the newly fallen snow. And on Christmas Eve the experience is even more serene and beautiful.
The carol quickly became popular and its popularity led to Bing Crosby staring in a second movie, White Christmas, which was released in 1954 and the ending scene of which had Bing Crosby leading the cast in singing the carol while snow began falling on Christmas Eve in the background.
Association with World War II
The movie, like the carol, evoked memories of wartime camaraderie and the bonding between soldiers fighting overseas while consoling themselves with memories of past white Christmases at home with their families.
While one of the themes of the movie White Christmas is that of two ex soldiers (played by Bing Crosby and co-star Danny Kaye) helping their former commander, with whom they shared Christmas on a lonely battlefield in Italy during World War II, save his Vermont ski resort that was failing due to lack of snow, the song itself tends to evoke nostalgic memories of home and family. With families separated by the war, as almost every family had a son, husband, father, nephew, etc. away fighting, it is easy to see why the carol quickly became popular during the war.
The song itself, however was not written for the war. Instead, it was intended as a Christmas song to accompany a movie that was a part of a series of films commemorating American Holidays. Composer Irving Berlin was commissioned in 1940 to write this and songs for other holidays for the series.
With musical and theatrical productions, as with the production of other products, there is a time lag between the idea and the finished product and world events continue to develop and change during the production process. In this case World War II erupted for the United States with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 just a few weeks before Bing Crosby introduced the song, White Christmas, on his radio show broadcast on Christmas Day 1941.
As the United States was gearing up for the war in 1942 by drafting, training and deploying troops to fight around the world, the movie Holiday Inn, for which the song had originally been commissioned, was released in August 1942. Earlier, in May 1942, Bing Crosby made the first recording of White Christmas, which was released in the fall of that year where it quickly rose to the top of the charts.
Carol Has Remained a Classic
Given the nostalgic theme of the carol and the coincidence of its release just as the United States entered World War II, it is easy to see how it quickly became popular and has remained popular in the hearts of people at Christmas time.
Links to Some of My Other Christmas Hubs
- The Story of Silent Night
On December 24th, the day before Christmas, in 1818 the young assistant pastor of St. Nicholas Church in the Austrian village of Oberndorf took a twenty minute walk from the church to the nearby village of...
- Christmas in a War Zone - From a World War I Soldier's Diary
The request was for a Hub dealing with Christmas in a war zone. Patty Inglish has already provided an excellent Hub on this topic with her article about the 1914 Christmas Truce during World War I. Unlike...
- Advent Calendar
Advent calendars are a relatively new tradition that began about 200 years ago in Germany. The tradition began in the Protestant areas of Germany where some families began preparing for Christmas by marking...
- How About Gingerbread Men and Gingerbread Houses?
Gingerbread men and gingerbread houses have long played a popular role in Christmas celebrations. Walk into the Christmas section of almost any store and you will see ready made gingerbread men in with the...
- My Top Christmas Stocking Fillers
When I was growing up my brothers and sisters and I always hung up our stockings on Christmas Eve and continued the practice until we grew up and moved out. We always received an orange along with some...
- St Nicholas and the Merchant's Daughters
St. Nicholas, who morphed into Santa Claus, was a real historical figure but much of what is known about his is mainly legend. St. Nicholas was a famous bishop in the early days of Christianity and he was...
Advent is the period for Christians (especially those in the Catholic, Anglican and some Orthodox Churches) to prepare for Christmas. The first day of Advent, which is always on a Sunday, is the spiritual...
- A Job As Santa Claus
The Santa in the mall or the department store Santa has been a retail Christmas tradition for most of the last century and is continuing into the 21st century. Every year thousands of men are hired to dress...
- St Nicholas - Patron Saint of Many
As December approaches each year, the name St. Nicholas is encountered with increasing frequency. This is understandable given the Saint's close association with Christmas which falls in December. The...
- St Nicholas Day
December 6th, is St. Nicholas Day, the day designated by the Catholic Church in its Calendar of Saints to honor the man named Nicholas who was Bishop of Myra, which is now a part of Turkey, and noted for his...
- The Origin of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
For almost three quarters of a century the song Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer has remained a popular hit at Christmas time. In fact the song, has become an integral part of our Christmas celebration much...
- Is It Good Or Bad To Tell Children That Santa Claus Is a Myth?
My first thought on reading this Hub Request was what is to be gained from telling a child that Santa Claus is a myth? After all, childhood is a time of discovery and learning for children and the existence...
- St Stephen's Day - December 26th
December 26th is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Stephen was one of the early disciples who joined the Church in Jerusalem when it was in its infancy following the Ascension of Jesus...
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