History Class, Life, Music, Uncategorized, World War 2

Musical Interlude: “White Christmas”

Our back yard looks a little different this year. Flatter. Fewer evergreens. And SNOW!

One of the biggest changes my family has experienced since this summer’s move across the country is adjusting to a new climate.

Winter in western Washington was the “rainy season.” We’d have to wear layers, and the damp air could get chilly. Occasionally, it would make it below freezing, and we could hope for one good snowfall (maybe) a year. But a white Christmas? I only recall two or three of them in seventeen years.

So, with our move to Wisconsin, my children were particularly excited about the prospect of snow. As the weather got colder, we started stocking up on the essentials: boots, snowpants, heavy coats and gloves.

I’ll confess, when we got our first snow flurries on October 17th (October?!) I had a moment where I thought “What have we done?!”

But, except for one brief autumn snowfall, (which was great fun for the kids at recess until it all melted and turned to mud) the landscape around here hasn’t looked too wintery until this week. We finally have a few inches—enough for a good thick blanket with no grass poking through or muddy patches. I’ve loved watching the kids’ excitement as they play on the snow “mountains” pushed up from the plowing of our school’s parking lot.

What is it about snow? I think my oldest daughter summed it up well, when she observed how different it made everything look. Clean. Smooth. New.

And at Christmas, with all of the lights in our neighborhood shining off it? It’s going to look lovely as a picture.

Maybe those images are one reason why Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is the best-selling single of all time, selling around 50 million copies world-wide.* It’s a popular song to re-make, too. Last year, my husband, as a gag, made a mix CD composed only of different versions of White Christmas. He found 17 in our household alone.

Like another Bing Crosby hit, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” this iconic song owes a great deal of its popularity to the dark days of the Second World War.

Bing Crosby first sang “White Christmas” for the public when it aired on the radio on December 25th, 1941, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the United States into World War II. It was featured in the 1942 movie Holiday Inn, starring Crosby as well as Fred Astair, and the song quickly gained popularity, becoming the top song of 1942. It also became an image of “home” for servicemen and women, serving far away during the holidays.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bing-crosby-1944.jpg
Bing Crosby, stage, screen and radio star, sings to Allied troops at the opening of the London stage door canteen in Piccadilly, London, England.” Pearson, August 31, 1944. 111-SC-193249.
Source: NARA World War II Photos – ARC Identifier: 531210 Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While I imagine Irving Berlin was gratified with the reception of his song, it seems that he was well aware of its potential from the beginning. Apparently, when he first shared the song with others, he claimed that not only was it his best song, but that it was the best song ever. He received an Academy Award for the piece, which, as he was the one presenting the award, he got to present to himself.

At just 15 lines long (and some of those repeated) this simple song has become a firmly entrenched part of the Christmas celebration, so, as I look at the snow outside my window today, I’d like to listen to it again with you!

*According to the Guinnes Book of World Records


While I gleaned information from a number of places (and, as always, did my best to check and double check the accuracy of anything I shared) here are a couple of sources with more information that might be of interest.

An interesting little interview of Berlin’s daughters done by CBS news about the history of the song.

history.com ‘s “This Day in History” post about the introduction of “White Christmas” to the world

10 thoughts on “Musical Interlude: “White Christmas””

  1. We have the Bing Crosby Merry Christmas album at home. Not the original Decca label of course, but still very old as I inherited that from my parents. This is a lovely post. I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, seems like almost every Christmas is white for us. As for temperatures, next week we’ll dip down to the -30’s C., that’s -20’s F! You’re good staying in Wisconsin. 🙂 Have a warm and blessed Christmas, Anne, you and your family!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s