How Did Christmas Music Start?

12/16/2021
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How did Christmas music begin - loopazon Christmas Carols

With the chilly weather it signals the arrival of winter season, which means it’s time to pamper our desire for Christmas again. The best way is to get deeply lost in the Xmas music by Frank Sinatra, Mariah Carey and more. But before indulging into the Christmas music, let’s talk about the history of American Christmas music and get to know the facts about it.

Starting with the most famous Christmas song “Jingle Bells”. We associate this song with Christmas but do you know that this song was originally produced for Thanksgiving, yes you read it right. This song was written in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont to honor Thanksgiving. Another interesting fact about this song is that it is the first song that was performed in space.  The Xmas holiday contained the elements of Christian, Pagan and secular, from Medieval Christmas festivities ahead. The holiday season was celebrated with so much zeal and zest during the 17th and 18th centuries, American colonist used to do mumming practices, containing pranks, costumes, dancing and musical instruments. In the 18th century, sacred Christmas music was written by Boston tanner and composer William Billings. American Christmas music gained immense popularity during the 19th century in the United States, which was developed from various immigrant traditions. Other people also played their part to the popularity of Xmas traditions, one of them was Charles Dickens who put forward his two successful novels “The Pickwick Papers” (1836-7) and “A Christmas Carol” (1843). During this era, the celebrations of Xmas included Christmas caroling which used to happened door-to-door, Christmas cards and living nativity scenes. (Enjoy Christmas music only on https://www.loopazon.com).

In the 19th century, there were several classic Christmas carols were delivered which included “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” (1849), “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (1863), and “Away in a Manager” (1885). In the 20th century, the Christmas music gained huge success via the radio, television and film. The major part played in the success of Xmas music was by Hollywood by producing films like “Holiday Inn” (1942), “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (1964), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) and “A Christmas Story” (1983). Benjamin Hanby’s “Up on the Housetop” was the first Xmas song that mentioned Santa Claus. This song was written in 1864 and was an inspiration of 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore that included going down the chimney and a sleigh on the roof. In 1953, Gene Autry covered this song and he became instant famous. One of the oldest Christmas hymns is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” which still get airplay. During the 12th century, this hymn was initially produced in Latin. Later, it was translated into English in 1851 by John Mason Neale. (Visit  https://www.loopazon.com for Xmas songs).

The three famous Xmas songs were written by Jewish songwriter Johnny Marks which were “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Holly Jolly Christmas”. Another Jewish songwriter Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” which was initially planned for a Broadway musical that unfortunately was never produced. Later, in 1942, it was picked up by Hollywood producers who produced a movie Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and used this Xmas song in this movie. This version of “White Christmas” starring Bing Crosby is all time highest selling single. There was another version of this song by Elvis Presley which Irving Berlin hated to the core, he even tried to stop radio stations to play Presley’s version. The most interesting fact attached to this song is that it was played by American army, in April 1975, over Armed forces radio as a signal for soldiers to vacate Saigon. 

The second Xmas music to be broadcasted on radio was “O Holy Night” in 1906 which was a violin solo.  The song that made its way into the Christmas songs list without mentioning about the holiday once is “Let It Snow” which was also written by two Jewish songwriters Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. One of the famous Xmas songs “My Heart Will Go On” is written by Celine Dion who was also a co-writer of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”. In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis famous songwriter Gloria Shayne Baker wrote a song as a plea for peace which was “Do You Hear What I Hear?” One of the famous holiday classic song “Silver Bells” aka “Tinkle Bells” (as per the book “America’s Songs: The Stories behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley by Philip Furia and Michael Lasser) but Livingston’s wife clarified that trinkle was often used as a synonym for urination and then they have to change it to Silver Bells. The most renowned character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was not begun in Jonny Marks' exemplary Christmas jingle, rather it was made by a staff marketing specialist Robert L. May who worked for Montgomery Ward retail chain. He came up with this character of reindeer for holiday themes series of coloring books offered by the retail giant. 

One of the most established common Christmas tunes is "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" which started in sixteenth century in England. Throughout a mid-year heatwave in 1944, "The Christmas Song" (ordinarily known as "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire") was composed by Mel Tormé. Darlene Love sang her vacation hit "Christmas Baby Please Come Home" on David Letterman's late-night show for a considerable length of time i.e., 28 years. The first version of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" was recorded by artist Brenda Lee when she was just 13 years of age. Another Jewish songwriting duo Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith wrote “Winter Wonderland”. The famous “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” was written by Randy Brookes in 1978, the interesting fact is that it was sung by an actual DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) Elmo Shrophire. (Log on to https://www.loopazon.com to listen to your favorite Christmas music).

Another interesting fact is about the famous Xmas song “You are a mean one, Mr. Grinch”. You might not know this fact but when we will tell you, you will sense how you did not realize it yet.  Famous voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft who also sang the tune “You are a mean one, Mr. Grinch” in the TV movie ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas!’ which was produced in 1966.

You must have heard about the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, where different troops such as British, French, Belgian and German laid down their guns and got united for gift exchanges, soccer matches and sing-alongs upon the Western Front. Various different stories are there to share experiences and explain the position of soldiers upon the western front but one of the British soldiers who fought with the second queen regiment Pvt. Albert Moreno described his experience of caroling on the battlefield with the enemy. He expressed in a meeting republished by Time "the Germans would sing one of their hymns first and afterward we would sing our own, until when we fired up 'O Come, All Ye Faithful'. They then instantly started singing the same carol in Latin words ‘Adeste Fideles’ and that was such an extraordinary moment – two nations in the middle of a war singing the same carol”.

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