Halloween has “The Monster Mash” and Hanukkah’s got its own Adam Sandler-created jingle, but there’s no holiday more closely associated with accompanying jingles than Christmas. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, two things happen the very next day: Black Friday mayhem (which, after my sprained wrist incident of 2012, I will never be participating in again), and Christmas carols on the radio (some people insist it’s too early, but I beg to differ). There are a countless number of songs that have been created over the years to honor the holiday.
You may think you know everything there is to know about your favorite jingles, but the truth of the matter is, there are many fun factoids about some of the most common yuletide carols that will completely blow your mind. Take a look at our list.
- Though many vocalists have sung their own individual versions of “White Christmas”, the edition sung by Bing Crosby is the most successful. In fact, not only is it the most successful Christmas song of all-time, but it is the highest-selling single, period—not just Christmas!
- Have any idea what the first song played in space was? Perhaps the late, great David Bowie’s “Space Odyssey”? Why, no—in fact, the honor belongs to none other than “Jingle Bells”. The year was 1965, and the two astronauts who played the classic little jingle used a small harmonica and a set of silver bells that were somehow aboard the ship.
- Ever heard the song, “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” and thought its lead singer sounded pretty young? Well, you were right! Brenda Lee sang and recorded the most popular version of this song when she was only 13 years old. The song came out in 1958, and though it wasn’t initially a commercial success, it went on to be a holiday classic.
- The two men who wrote “Winter Wonderland”, Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith, were actually Jewish. Though there aren’t any direct references to the Christmas holiday, it’s pretty clear from the “Sleighbells ring; are you listening?” line and the snowy landscape that it’s intended to err more toward the holiday. Hey, kudos to them for being willing to put aside their religious beliefs to create one of the most beloved holiday tunes!
- Gloria Shayne Baker wrote her timeless song, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, in 1962 in an attempt to bring peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The song, which gives an overview of the Nativity, is one of the most successful Christmas songs of all-time. It’s a perfect holiday song, and it’s particularly gripping because it was written with actual intent in mind.
- “Silver Bells,” written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, was originally called “Tinkle Bells”. The last-minute name change came about after Livingston’s wife mentioned that “tinkle” was often associated with urination. Apparently bathroom humor existed even in 1950.
- Before the classic “Rudolph” movie, the beloved red-nosed reindeer was born from the classic song, right? Well, though the song did precede the movie, that isn’t the actual origin of Rudolph. In fact, he was created by Robert L. May in 1939 for a coloring book that was to be sold in department stores. The song didn’t come about until ten years later.
- Whenever “White Christmas” comes on the radio, smoothly crooned by the beautiful pipes of Bing Crosby, listeners would never think that this song could be used in any context other than one of leisure. However, in 1975, the U.S. Military played the song over loudspeakers in Vietnam as a secret message to U.S. soldiers who were in Saigon to evacuate.
- How closely do you listen to the lyrics of “Up on a Housetop”? You probably aren’t as well-versed in it as, say, “Jingle Bells” or “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeers”, so you may be surprised to know that in one of the parts of the song, Santa is described as bringing one of the children a hammer and tacks, while another receives a whip. A little strange, to say the least, but still a great song!
- Elvis Presley sang his own version of “White Christmas” in 1957, in what has become one of the most beloved iterations of the song. Unfortunately, given his reputation at the time, many were not pleased to hear his voice on the radio singing this particular number, even if his intentions were pure. Many tried to get the song banned from the air waves, and nearly succeeded.
- There isn’t a soul out there who doesn’t enjoy How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and its classic theme song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, has become a must-hear around Christmastime. In fact, the gentleman who sang the song, Thurl Ravenscroft, was not only known for his contributions here, but also had a famous voice in commercials: he was also the voice of Tony the Tiger.
- Though many classic Christmas tunes originated around the middle of the twentieth century, one holiday staple—“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”—is actually extremely old. That’s because this isn’t just song jingle created for the holiday. It was actually originally written in Latin around the 9th Century, and ended up becoming popular in the 18th century—still long before the relatively recent development of many other favorites.
- “Up on the House Top”, written in 1864, was the first song to mention Santa. The presence of Saint Nick is a fairly new development when it comes to Christmas songs, and this classic was the first to put the big man on the map.
The glory days of Christmas jingles—specifically, the 1950s and 1960s—are far in the past. But each time we hear one of these classic tunes, we feel as though we’re transported in time back to this era, when everything was a little simpler. As it turns out, not all of these songs are as simple as they sound!