Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Driving home last night, listening to Christmas songs, I thought about how timeless the lyrics are and how they paint such beautiful word pictures of our collective Christmas memories.

The lyrics to White Christmas were written in 1940 by Irving Berlin and introduced by Bing Crosby in the movie Holiday Inn (1942). It became very popular with WWII soldiers and their families because it expressed their longing to be home with family at Christmas.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten
and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

I'll Be Home for Christmas is one of my all time favorites. It was written the year after White Christmas by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent. It too touched the hearts of soldiers and their families alike. When you listen, it's easy to picture a soldier writing these words to loved ones back home.

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Silver Bells paints a vivid image of busy city streets. Shoppers bundled in coats and mittens hurrying past window displays. Colored lights everywhere reflecting off falling snow. Written in 1951 by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans it was first sung in the Bob Hope movie The Lemon Drop Kid.

Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush home
With their treasures

Christmas carols celebrating the birth of Christ date back to 760AD. They never became popular because they were all written in Latin. Not until 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi started his Nativity Plays in Italy were carols sung in the language of the people listening to the plays. Minstrels traveling through Europe spread the songs, changing the language with each country they visited.

In 1647 Oliver Cromwell came into power and banned carols. People continued to sing them in secret thus keeping them alive until in Victorian times they became popular again.

It would be hard to choose a favorite Christmas carol, there are so many lovely ones. Certainly one of the most beautiful is Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem, written in 1865 by an Episcopal clergyman, Philip Brooks. His visit to the town of Bethlehem inspired him to write a poem. I love this line. No one could ever say it more beautifully.

The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear was a poem written by Edmund Sears, the pastor of the Unitarian Church in Wayland, Massachusetts. Ten years later, Richard Willis, an American composer, created the melody.

Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heaven's all gracious King
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.


Cosmo said...

Merry Christmas to you, too, Marnie, and to all your lovely critters. And thanks for the background on the carols--knowing when they were popular and why makes them more meaningful, something more than background noise. (But on the non-meaningful side of things, the one I can't get out of my head these days is "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas").

Anonymous said...

Oh Marnie, they are all so wonderful. Like you, I never tire of hearing them,especially the original recordings like Bing Crosby. All you mentioned are favorites, don't know if I can pick just one. Maybe the more secular Good King Wenceslas about the rescue and feeding of a peasant on a cold winter's night:

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

This last line always touches me, although I cannot remember it without looking it up, but know the tune well.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Connie said...

Beautiful photos! May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

tina said...

Just lovely to get us in the mood. We have a little tradition-Christmas cd in the cd player on Christmas day-I love all these lyrics and your Christmas card. Merry Christmas to you too Marnie!

BeadedTail said...

Beautiful post Marnie! Merry Christmas to you!

BeadedTail said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Wild Thing said...

Hey girl, those songs bring tears to my eyes every time I hear them, it's such a crazy world we live in these days.

And yes, it is frustrating when women can't accept their own power in a man's world. It takes hard work and a total acceptance of yourself.

So in the meantime, you have a wonderful holiday season, many dreams for the New Year and try to stay warm...got another one comin' your way, all I do is keep throwin' seed out for the birds, it's gives Scratchy somethin' to do...ha...CHEERS!


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Cosmo. I haven't heard the hippopotamus song--and for that I am greatful;) I do like "I'm gettin' nuthin' for Christmas, 'cause I ain't been nuthin' but bad".

Hi Frances, I agree, that is lovely poetry. The real spirit of Christmas.


TC said...

Merry Christmas Marnie! I really enjoyed reading the history of a few of my favorite Christmas carols. Wouldn't it be great if the Christmas spirit would last 365 days a year instead of just one?

Roses and Lilacs said...

Connie, thank you and may you have the same.

Hi Tina, we never get tired of those do we?


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hey BeadedTail, make sure those kitties get plenty of presents from Santa.

Hi Sharon, we are getting more snow as we speak. Expecting 10-inches today, more tomorrow. What's not to love about a white Christmas. Except for the broken backs and heart attacks for the snow shovelers.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi TC, it really would be great. Truly, I haven't seen as much 'spirit' this year as in the past. People are very afraid of what the future may bring.


F Cameron said...


A beautiful post! Thanks for reminding us of the history of these songs.

Merry Christmas!


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post today Marnie. I love the history behind these classic carols. Merry Christmas!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Cameron, I didn't know the history. Turns out many of our favorites were created by someone whose job it was to write a movie tune. Not as romantic as I would have thought.

Hi PerennialGardener, the carols are much more interesting than the newer commercial songs. Some real emotion in those.


Dog_geek said...

Merry Christmas to you and yours, Marnie! And a Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Oh..I love those songs...A very Merry Christmas Marnie...hugs.. Michelle

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
A very Merry Christmas to you and yours, especially the furry and feathered ones! All the best from our house to yours, despite all the snow we both have on the ground or on the way....

Nice post on the history of these songs ... one thing I've always been curious about is one of those later verses in We Wish You a Merry Christmas where they sing 'O bring us some figgy pudding, o bring us some figgy pudding or we won't go away.' (well at least that's the idea) That seems to carry some implied threat to me for some reason, thus why I find it very odd. Who knows, with all the tradition and history packed into these songs.

One traditional American one that always makes me teary eyed is called The Greatest Gift, in which the husband and wife share their perspectives ... he toils to buy her a beautiful comb for her hair for Christmas, while she sells her hair to give him a gold watch... a sad story that always gets me going. I don't know much about it, but I'm betting it has its origins in Appalachia ... do you know this or have any ideas?

Anyway, have a great holiday! I am so looking forward to 5 days away from my stressful job right now!



Unknown said...

Such a sweet music lesson, I enjoyed that very much! Great photos. Have a Blessed Christmastime!!

walk2write said...

Music has always been the best part of Christmas to me. When the kids were younger, we would go caroling with them and a church group to nursing homes and shut-ins, trying to share a little cheer with the older folks. I miss those days, even though at least one of us always ended up sick a day or two later. Worth every cough! Tonight, daughter will probably entertain us with a few favorites on her keyboard. Maybe I can convince everyone to sing along. I hope you stay warm and well this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Mary said...

Beautiful post! Merry Christmas!

Nan and =^..^= said...

What a lovely post!
Merry Christmas to you and all who share your home and yard!

Gail said...

Hi Marnie,

Your photos of the snow make me a tiny bit envious of your white Christmas...but just a tiny bit, you understand! There is something wonderful and powerful about carols and hymns and the memories and feelings they evoke...there are a few I love to hear and never tire of hearing.

I hope your holiday was peaceful and filled with love...and that all your sweet kitties are healthy and happy with their catnip presents and other goodies I'm sure Santa brought them. The cat and dog have signed a peace treaty here and all is quiet this morning. Have a good weekend.


joey said...

You've brought a tear to my eye with your beautiful photos and post, Marnie. Bing Crosby singing White Christmas and I'll Be Home For Christmas sends me tearfully back, big time ... I've been 'an orphan' for over 35 years. My father, a huge Crosby fan, use to sing these and 'pipe' the carols throughout his barbershop and our connected store ... and I love ... Oh, Holy Night. Do hope your holiday was beautiful.

Cindy said...

Hi Marnie - I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas. I love all the old carols and Bing is a big favorite in our house. It's nice to read the history of them.

Anonymous said...

I'd never be able to pick just one favorite either Marnie. They're all so beautiful. I love listening to Christmas music, I usually start after Thanksgiving and go right on humming/singing until New Years. Great post!

Anonymous said...

You made it sound so grand and now I'm humming them to finish each one. I like the glistening tree tops.