The Story Behind the Carol

It’s that time of the year – Christmas carols are on the radio and played as background music in restaurants and shops all over. You can’t get away from them! They do put you in a Christmas mood, and certain ones stand out as favorites for many reasons – they invoke childhood memories, remembrances of loved ones, or just make you feel good when they play. Most everyone has personal favorites. Let’s share some of the stories behind the music on a few . . .

White Christmas

Written by Irving Berlin, White Christmas is nostalgic with a longing for times past with sadness mixed in. Berlin’s infant son died at three weeks of age on Christmas Day, 1928. From that time on, he and his wife visited his grave every Christmas, and the lyrics identify with his longing and loss.

The song was first aired on the Kraft Music Hall radio show by its host, Bing Crosby, a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was often requested by troops during USO shows, even if it wasn’t planned. It was said that Bing Crosby often had the song removed from the show because he felt it was so sad for the troops to hear, but evidently they didn’t share that emotion and most often called out for it to be sung.

The Guinness World Record notes White Christmas as the best selling single of all time.

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,

Just like the ones I used to know”

Silver Bells

Silver Bells was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for the movie, The Lemon Drop Kid, starring Bob Hope. The song was originally titled Tinkle Bell; however, Jay’s wife explained the slang behind the word, and in short order, the title was changed to Silver Bells.

The song’s lyrics describe Christmas in a big city with all the hustle and bustle.  The inspiration was derived from department store Santas and the Salvation Army bell-ringers on the streets of New York City.

“Silver Bells, Silver Bells

It’s Christmas time in the city . . .

City sidewalk, busy sidewalks

Dressed in holiday style

In the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas.”

Little Drummer Boy

The original title of the song was Carol of the Drums, primarily due to the repeated line, ‘pa rum pum pum pum’ which depicted a drumbeat. There’s a bit of mystery about who the writer was for Little Drummer Boy, but Katherine K. Davis is most often credited. The song is thought to be based on an old Czech carol.  In 1951, the song was recorded by the Trapp Family Singers (of The Sound of Music fame).

The lyrics speak to the Gifts of the Magi to Baby Jesus . . .

“Our finest gifts we bring

To lay before the King”

Enjoy the music of the season, not just as background music. Embrace the words and their meanings.  Caroling is a fun, seasonal activity.  Join in and go caroling with your church group or family. Many places welcome carolers – assisted living homes, nursing homes, and more. It doesn’t matter if you sing well or not; a joyful noise is just that. So, sing along with your favorite carols and enjoy the blessing of the season.







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