8 Quick Facts About “White Christmas”

December 17, 2013

Stuff you didn’t know about the most popular Christmas song of the 20th century.

Facts About White Christmas• Legendary songwriter Irving Berlin wrote the song from the point of view of a New Yorker (like himself) stuck in warm California for Christmas (as he had been). That sentiment was made explicitly clear by the song’s original first verse, which mentions “the sun is shining,” “the grass is green,” and things like palm trees and Beverly Hills.

• “White Christmas” was picked to be included in the 1942 Bing Crosby movie Holiday Inn—both Crosby and his producer thought that the song wouldn’t have much worth outside of the movie with that verse. So it was dropped.

Berlin copyrighted “White Christmas” in 1940, but rumors persist that he actually wrote and shopped it in 1938. If that were the case, it wouldn’t have been eligible to compete for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. Berlin won the Oscar, which he presented to himself, an Oscars first.

• “White Christmas” spent 11 weeks at #1 in 1942. Before rock n’ roll became the dominant style of popular music, Bing Crosby was the most popular singer in the U.S. Today, he’s best remembered for “White Christmas,” but that song was his 29th #1 hit. To put that in perspective, the Beatles only had 20 chart-toppers.

• The song become an instant classic. In subsequent years, it remained so popular with radio listeners and record buyers that it re-entered the pop charts over and over again for decades. It was a hit single in every year, from 1942 to 1962 (except in 1952 for some reason), routinely reaching the top 10 and even making it back to #1 on two separate occasions.

• “White Christmas” wasn’t a hit single in England until 1977…the year Crosby died.

• Selling an estimated 50 million copies, “White Christmas” was the bestselling single of all time for more than 50 years…until Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997” tribute to Princesss Diana.

• The version you hear on the radio today isn’t the one recorded for Holiday Inn. By 1947, the original masters were worn out from having to be pressed millions of times. So, in March 1947, Crosby re-recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra, the backing group from the original version.