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  1. #1
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    Irving Berlin, who wrote ‘White Christmas,’ hated the holiday

    A couple of weeks ago (on another board), I wrote about the glut of Christmas music that is clogging the radio airwaves.

    A few members were generous enough to interrupt their busy schedules to call me "Grinch" and other names, because I poked fun at cornpone holiday tunes that happen to be their favorites.

    The other day, someone in the office was taking a poll on everyone's favorite Christmas song.

    I had to think about it, but decided it’s "White Christmas."

    OK, it’s an obvious choice. The song has sold more than 350 million copies, making its holiday presence ubiquitous at home, in the car, at malls and supermarkets.

    Still, I like it. It fits sublimely within a season brimming with tradition and sentiment. And who wouldn’t want to awake on Christmas morning to a peaceful snowfall with treetops glistening?

    But I also like this song because its wistful lyrics hide a great irony. Its writer, Irving Berlin, hated Christmas. He dreaded the season.

    Berlin was born in 1888 in Siberia, the son of Russian Jews. They immigrated to America when he was 5.

    He worked as a songwriter in New York’s Tin Pan Alley. He struck hit after hit, beginning with "Alexander’s Ragtime Band."

    He wrote "God Bless America," and when he gave it to radio star Kate Smith in 1937, she said, "Irv, you’ve written a new ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’ "

    In 1940, he was working in Hollywood when he wrote "White Christmas."

    "I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know …"

    That line captures what a lot of us try to do each season: reproduce a Christmas past which, like sleigh bells in the snow, really exists in our imaginations.

    Irving Berlin was no different.

    He recalled how, as a small child, he spent Christmas Day with neighbors, the O’Haras, and how enchanted he was with their Christmas tree, which towered over him.

    "White Christmas" was released in August 1942 and was sung by Bing Crosby in the musical "Holiday Inn."

    The song struck a chord with American GIs, then being sent overseas in World War II. By Halloween that year, it was the top song in the nation.

    But few knew how Berlin felt about Christmas.

    His life had its share of tragedy. His first wife died of typhoid just five months after they were married.

    His second wife, Ellen Mackay, was from a wealthy Catholic family. Their mixed marriage was a scandal at the time. The New York press hounded them. Mackay’s father disinherited her.

    Still, they were joyful at the birth of their first child, Irving Jr., on Dec. 3, 1928.

    Three weeks later, on Christmas Day, Berlin went to check on his son and found him dead in his crib, a victim of what today is known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

    Berlin never fully recovered from his son’s death.

    The Berlins had three more children, all girls, who were raised Christian. For the kids’ sake, they put up a tree and gave gifts each Christmas.

    But as the girls celebrated opening gifts, their parents would slip out, never saying that they were going to the cemetery to place flowers on their infant son’s grave.

    After the girls were grown and had moved out, the Berlins never celebrated Christmas again.

    For those who have lost someone dear this year, when you hear "White Christmas," you might consider that the man who wrote it knew how you felt.

    For the rest of us, "White Christmas" may take on a more wistful meaning in a decade or so when we recall a time before political correctness wiped the word "Christmas" from public discourse, and replaced it with some generic name, like "Sparkle Season."

  2. #2
    Outstanding post. Thank you.

    (I would love to comment on how much Kate Smith singing God Bless America means to me but I wont at this time).

    Have a Merry Christmas LB

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by goflyers
    Outstanding post. Thank you.

    (I would love to comment on how much Kate Smith singing God Bless America means to me but I wont at this time).

    Have a Merry Christmas LB
    I just hope that Ed Snyder and the Flyer's public relations stop playing Kate Smith before the games during the playoffs. Seems to be their kiss of death every year.

    Happy Holidays, GF.

  4. #4
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    That's something...
    wow...
    Irony... what else can I say?

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