“♪♫It’s the most wonderful time of the year…♫♪”
Oh, hello. Guess you caught us singing. Sorry, but we can’t help ourselves because there’s nothing that gets us into the Christmas spirit quite like singing along to some of our favorite Christmas tunes this time of the year. It takes us back to a time when we’d take our yearly car trips to the mall to have our pictures taken with Santa and somebody would just start belting out The 12 Days of Christmas at the top of their lungs. Pretty soon the whole family was joining in, especially on the five golden rings part. Then there were the Christmas Eves when carolers would come around the neighborhood singing about decking our halls and wanting us to bring them figgy pudding, whatever that is. (We usually just gave them a fruitcake.) And then there are the times we’d march alongside the local high school marching band playing Jingle Bells in the town’s annual Christmas parade, playing along with our invisible trombones and trumpets.
Speaking of Jingle Bells, did you ever notice that the song never says anything about Christmas? There’s no mention of St. Nick, Christmas trees, or even Jesus in a manger. That’s because The One Horse Open Sleigh, the song’s original title, was actually written about 19th Century dating traditions when, long before Tinder, teenage boys use to impress the local teenage girls with their sleigh riding abilities.
However, if you always thought it was a classic Christmas carol, don’t be embarrassed; you’re not the only one. Apparently, when New England-born songwriter, arranger, composer, organist, and Confederate soldier James Lord Pierpont first debuted the song at his church on Thanksgiving in 1857, parishioners thought it was just another Christmas tune, too, and had little idea it was really an indecorous teenage dating song.
Jingle Bells isn’t the only Christmas song with dubious beginnings or chilling connotations, however. Read on to see what we mean:
“Let it Snow!”
Yet another Christmas classic that doesn’t even mention Christmas at all. In fact, as Sammy Cahn, who co-wrote the song with partner Jules Stein, put it: “I said to Jules, ‘Why don’t we go down to the beach and cool off?’ He said, ‘Why don’t we stay here and write a winter song?’” With that, Sammy sat down at the typewriter there in Hollywood, California, on one of the hottest days of summer of 1947 and wrote out the lyrics for Let It Snow. Talk about Christmas in July!
“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”
When we think about somebody writing a Christmas song, we usually imagine the songwriter sitting at their piano in their Christmas sweater looking out of the window at the snow falling. The fire next to them is so delightful as they sip their hot cocoa and wait for that moment of inspiration to strike as they hear sleigh bells ringing off in the distance.
J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie wrote Santa Claus is Coming to Town on the New York City subway in 1933. However, the song never really took off until popular American singer Eddie Cantor sang it on his radio show nearly a year later in November 1934. Since then, it has been recorded by over 200 artists.
On Christmas Eve 1918, Father Joseph Mohr, a Catholic priest at – get this – the Saint Nicholas Chapel (!) in Salzburg, Austria, was in a bit of a jam. The chapel’s organ was broken and it looked like there would be no music for Midnight Mass. However, in a true Christmas miracle befitting a Hallmark Channel movie, Father Mohr asked his friend, musician Franz Gruber, to compose some music for a little poem the priest had written called Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!. Gruber (not to be confused with Hans “Yippe-Ki-Yay” Gruber of the modern Christmas classic film Die Hard) agreed. Since the organ was broken, Franz whipped out his guitar and started shredding. Later at Midnight Mass, Father Mohr got his Christmas miracle as Franz played his guitar and the choir sang the Christmas song we know in English as Silent Night.
For such a cheerful song, Winter Wonderland has rather melancholy beginnings. Its composer, Richard Smith, was living in Pennsylvania’s West Mountain Sanitarium as result of having tuberculosis when he wrote the song in 1934. At the time, Smith liked to enter jingle contests for ad companies and wrote Winter Wonderland after watching kids play in the snow outside his hospital window. Unfortunately, Richard would succumb to the disease in 1935, never seeing the success of his holiday classic come into fruition.
“All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”
At the beginning of the holiday season in 1944 music teacher Donald Yetter Gardner and his wife, Doris, were helping 22 second-graders in Smithtown, New York, compose a Christmas song. He asked them to finish the sentence, “All I want for Christmas is …” As they answered, he noticed that 16 of them were lisping their Christmas wishes thanks to a lack of one or both of their front teeth. That night, the 31-year-old music teacher went home and composed the popular Christmas ditty in the space of half an hour. It was a song that would bring him royalties every year until he died at the age of 91 in 2004.
“Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Next to REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine), this is probably one of our favorite apocalyptic songs. You see, when a record producer asked Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne to write a Christmas song, the husband and wife musical team were a bit hesitant at first because they weren’t too keen on the commercialism of Christmas. What they wrote instead is Do You Hear What I Hear, a song meant as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In fact, the couple could never get through the whole song when they sang it themselves because of the troubling times the world was going through. As Gloria later stated, “Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of war at the time.”
“Here We Come A-Wassailing”
Okay, so before we start with this one, you’re probably wondering what in the world wassailing is. Well, according to the internet the word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase “waes hael” meaning “good health”. Wassail was a drink made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar which was served in large pots or kettles. Every year on Christmas in 18th century England, beggars would visit everybody’s house in the neighborhood, sing a few songs and be given a drink of the wassail. So, it’s basically like Halloween, except instead of saying “Trick or Treat” you and Freddy the Freeloader have to belt out a few lines from the Little Drummer Boy, and instead of candy, you get drunk. (Okay, maybe not like Halloween at all, but you get the picture.) As for us, we’ll stick with Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll Beer and singing along with the radio.
Speaking of Stuckey’s and singing, all of this researching Christmas carols has made us hungry. Think we’ll stop over at one of our nearest Stuckey’s locations on the way home and pick up a couple of those Yule Log-sized 10-inch Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls to eat on the way back.
With Christmas only a few days away, we should probably pick up some Stuckey’s candy while we’re there because whether its Stuckey’s pralines, pecan divinity or their branded caps, t-shirts, mugs and other Stuckey’s memorabilia. Actually, anything from Stuckey’s always makes a great gift at Christmas.
Better yet, let’s wait until we get back home and go a-wassailing over to the Stuckey’s website and have everything delivered right to our door just in time for Christmas. We can find out how at stuckeys.com.
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips (and Holidays) Fun Again!
Whether your next road trip is by car or by rail, it’s not really a road trip without taking Stuckey’s along. From our world famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls to our mouthwatering Hunkey Dorey, Stuckey’s has all the road trips snacks you’ll need to get you where you’re going.
For all of the pecany good treats and cool merch you’ll need for your next big road adventure, browse our online store now!
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!