Wednesday, December 19, 2012

About Our Beloved Christmas Songs

Dear friends,

With holiday cheer in the air, and the help of various sources, let's take a look at a few favorite Christmas songs.

"Silent Night"

This is the world’s most popular Christmas carol. It comes in several different translations from the German original.

It started out as a poem by the Austrian Catholic priest Father Josef Mohr in 1816. Two years later, Father Mohr was curate at the parish church of St Nicola in Oberndorf when he asked the organist and local schoolteacher Franz Xaver Gruber to put music to his words.

Legend goes that Franz Gruber wrote it to be performed by two voices and a guitar. It was first performed at midnight mass on Christmas Eve in 1818 with Father Mohr and Franz Gruber themselves taking the solo voice roles.

"Silent Night" was translated into English more than 40 years later by Episcopal priest John Freeman Young, who is responsible for the version Americans favor.
It is said to have been translated into over 300 languages and dialects. 

And yes, to show the power of such a carol, because "Silent Night" was one of the only carol that both British and German soldiers knew, it famously played a key role in the unofficial truce in the trenches in 1914 during World War One. 

"Away in a Manger"

"Away in a Manger" is a Christmas carol first published in the late 19th century and used widely throughout the English-speaking world.

Although it was long claimed to be the work of German religious reformer Martin Luther, the carol is now thought to be wholly American in origin. Yes, the two most-common musical settings are by William J. Kirkpatrick (1895) and James Ramsey Murray (1887). The popularity of the carol has led to many variants in the lyrics.

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" 

This Christmas hymn is believed to be from 1739 or earlier.

Charles Wesley, the brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, penned as many as 9,000 hymns and poems, of which this is one of his best-known. It was said to be inspired by the sounds of the bells as he walked to church one Christmas morning and has been through several changes. 

It was originally entitled "Hark How All The Welkin Rings."  The term "Welkin" being an old word meaning "sky" or "heaven."

As with most of his hymns, Wesley did not stipulate which tune it should be sung to, except to say that it should be "solemn". The modern version came about when organist William Hayman Cummings adopted it to a tune by German composer Felix Mendelssohn in the 1850s. 

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"

Another English traditional Christmas carol. It was published by William B. Sandys in 1833, although the author is unknown.

Like so many early Christmas songs, the carol was written as a direct reaction to the church music of the 15th century. However, in the earliest known publication of the carol, on a 1760 broadsheet, it is described as a "new Christmas carol", suggesting its origin is actually in the mid-18th century.

For those of you who have actually read Charles Dickens, it is referred to in his A Christmas Carol, 1843. It states, " the first sound of - 'God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!' Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost."

This carol also is featured in the second movement of the Carol Symphony by Victor Hely-Hutchinson. While it is interesting to note that the author is unknown, its author is believed to be a mailman who delivered mail at around the 1700's. The legend goes that he sang this song on his route so that people would go to church.

What some might not know is that the song is enjoining the gentlemen who are probably the shepherds in the fields to be "merry" because of Christ’s birthday. It’s not telling “merry gentlemen” to rest! It is telling them to be happy.

"Adeste Fideles"

Yes, this is a hymn tune "O Come All Ye Faithful". The English translation of the latin "Adeste Fideles" version became "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

It was translated by the English Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley. It is widespread in most English speaking countries. The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into many languages. 

Some say it may have been written in the 13th century by John of Reading, though it has been concluded that John Francis Wade could have also been the author. Then of course, there are those who say the carol may been attributed to the Franciscan Order of monks and the 13th century Italian theologian Saint Bonaventure, and to various authors from the 14th to the 17th centuries. 

I like to think the author was Portuguese King John IV, who was a noted musical patron and composer. The story goes that King John IV of Portugal wrote this hymn to accompany his daughter Catherine of Braganza to England in the mid-17th century during her courtship of her future husband King Charles II.

It is said that wherever she went, she and her embassy, were announced and accompanied with this hymn, which became widely known in England as the Portuguese Hymn. And though that may or may not be the case, it certainly represented Portugal in the form of the Princess Catherine.

The hymn was known for a while as the Portuguese Hymn after the Duke of Leeds in 1795 heard the hymn being sung at the Portuguese embassy in London and assumed that it had originated from Portugal.

"O Tannenbaum"

The traditional folk song that most in America know as “O Christmas Tree,” in fact celebrates the unwavering fidelity that Germans apparently once associated with fir trees.

As you may have guessed, "tannenbaum" is the German word for "fir tree". 

The song’s melody in based on an old folk tune that dates back more than 500 years. The lyrics were penned in 1824 by composer Ernst Anschütz, who was inspired by a love song in which the proud evergreen is presented as symbol of faithfulness.

As the popularity of Christmas trees grew in the 1800s, so too did the popularity of Anschütz’s song as a holiday favorite. Now you know!

"The Holly and the Ivy"

This is an English traditional Christmas carol, yet the carol contains intermingled Christian and Pagan imagery. Believe it or not, the holly and ivy supposedly represent, among other things, Pagan fertility symbols.

Holly and ivy have been the mainstay of English Christmas decoration for church use since at least the 15th and 16th centuries, when they are mentioned regularly in churchwardens’ accounts. Supposedly in ancient English village life there was a midwinter custom of holding singing-contests between men and women. The men sang carols praising holly for its "masculine" qualities, while women sang songs praising the ivy for its "feminine" qualities. The resolution between the two was under the mistletoe.

These three plants are the most prominent green plants in British native woodland during the winter, and for this reason they earned respect from the early country-dwellers and a place in their traditions.

Holly and ivy also figure in the lyrics of the "Sans Day Carol". The music and most of the text was first published by Cecil Sharp in the early 1800's.

Sir Henry Walford Davies wrote a popular choral arrangement that is often performed at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols and by choirs around the world.

"Deck The Halls"

This Christmas song dates back to 16th century Wales, where its melody and much of the lyrics were borrowed from the New Year's Eve drinking song "Nos Galan." 

This musical makeover was done by Scottish folk music scribe Thomas Oliphant, who built his reputation on old melodies with new lyrics.

In 1862, his "Deck the Hall" was published in Welsh Melodies, Vol. 2. He'd go on to become a renowned translator of songs as well as a lyricist for the court of Queen Victoria. But Oliphant's version is not the one most commonly sung today.

Now known as "Deck the Halls," this variant became popular from revised music sheet printings made in 1877 and 1881.

"O Little Town Of Bethlehem"

This is the song that tells the story of the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. Its roots extent to the winter of 1865, when Phillips Brooks, the rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia, visited the Holy Land. Included in his itinerary was a horseback ride from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. 

He was inspired by this experience and composed the lyrics of this song. His organist Lewis Redner was asked to add music so it could be performed by the church's children's choir at Christmas. Neither Brooks nor Redner really expected much more from their carol.

But in 1874, the Reverend Huntington, the rector of All Saints’ Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, chose to publish it in his Sunday School hymn book, 'The Church Porch. In so doing, he introduced the carol to a much wider audience. Yes, from there it spread in popularity across the world.

"The First Noel"

"The First Noel" is a traditional English Christmas carol which dates at least to the 17th century, and possibly to much earlier. 

According to some, the melody may in fact be an ancient French tune, but the lyrics are undoubtedly English probably from South West England. Originally the title was "The First Nowell", but much later it was changed to the French spelling of "Noel". 

The earliest publication of this song is from "Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern" edited by William B Sandys and Davies Gilbert in 1833. In their collection, Sandys and Gilbert arranged and added some lyrics and wrote down the melody to be used, and with some further amendments by John Stainer in 1871. The 1871 version is what we all sing today.

"What Child Is This?"

"What Child Is This?" is a Christmas carol whose lyrics were written by British poet William Chatterton Dix in 1865. At the time of his composing the carol, Dix worked as an insurance company manager and had been struck by a severe illness.

While recovering, he underwent a spiritual renewal that led him to write several hymns, including lyrics to this carol that was subsequently set to the tune of "Greensleeves" which is a traditional English folk song and tune from the 16th century. The carol's melody has been described as "soulful", "haunting and beautiful" in nature. The carol centers on the adoration of the shepherds, who visited Jesus during his Nativity.

The lyrics of the carol are taken from a poem written by Dix called "The Manger Throne". The part of the poem that was utilized as the song's lyrics consists of three stanzas in total. The first verse poses a rhetorical question in the first half, with the response coming in the second half. The second verse contains another question that is answered, while the final verse is a universal appeal to everyone urging them "to accept Christ". 

Although it was written in England, the carol is more popular in the United States than in its country of origin today. 

And now, for some Modern Christmas favorites.

"Jingle Bells"

Well, this song is forever associated with wintry Christmas cheer, yet “Jingle Bells” was originally written for a Thanksgiving celebration.

In 1857, James Lord Pierpont, an organist at a Unitarian church in Savannah, Georgia, published the music and lyrics to a song he had written, “The One Horse Open Sleigh.”

The song was first performed during a Thanksgiving concert at the church - but many maintain that it was written as early as 1850, when Pierpont lived in the village of Medford, Massachusetts. In fact, a longstanding feud has been waged between these two towns over the “real” birthplace of the song.

The song was re-published in 1857 and was given the title we all know today. Neither version made any impression on the public, it took several generations for “Jingle Bells” to become a holiday favorite.

And here's something for you trivia buffs. It is a fact that “Jingle Bells” holds the distinction of being the first song broadcast from space. That's right, on December 16th, 1965, the crew of Gemini 6 reported seeing a “red-suited” astronaut in lunar orbit before serenading Mission Control with a spirited take on the song - it was complete with bells and a harmonica that they smuggled on board their spacecraft.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

The song that celebrates “the most famous reindeer of all” is based on a character created for a department store.

For us who remember Montgomery Ward, and how big they were, we'll be happy to know that part of their legacy is that the retail giant came up with "“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in 1939 as a part of an advertising campaign.

Staff copywriter named Robert L. May was given an assignment to create a character for a line of holiday-themed coloring books the company wanted to peddle to kids. Mr May came up with a story about a plucky reindeer who saves Christmas. 

It's said that after he rejected several names, like Rollo, he decided to call his creation Rudolph. The coloring book was an huge success, selling millions of copies in the years that followed.

Ten years later, May contacted a brother-in-law, a Jewish songwriter by the name of Johnny Marks - who we’ll hear about again - to write a song based on his original coloring-book story. It was released in time for the holiday season, Gene Autry’s version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” was the top-charting song during Christmas of 1949.

"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"

It was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie and was first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November 1934. 

Two elements in this song have made it of particular interest to children as well as adults. First is the attention-getting opening-line warning, "You better watch out," and second is the delightful promise of an upcoming event, "Santa Claus is comin' to town."

Coupled with a bouncy and catchy melody, these teasers have made the 1932 composition by lyricist Haven Gillespie and musician John Frederick Coots -- one of the most successful of all popular Christmas carols. Only "Rudolph" and "White Christmas" have outsold this depression-era joyful gem.

"Santa Claus Is Comin'" was the best-known piece by either Gillespie or Coots, although both had other successful hits. It was only by luck and/or persistence that their famous collaborative achievement ever got recorded.

Two frustrating years passed before the songwriters could get anyone to sing their composition. Finally, just before Thanksgiving 1934, Eddie Cantor, the popular entertainer and Coot's employer, performed the song on his radio show.

It's said that it took some persuasion from Cantor's wife Ida to bring about the premier. But all in all, Cantor's presentation of the song was extremely well received, and "Santa Claus is Comin'," aided by subsequent multi-million-selling recordings by Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters and by Perry Como, has become one of the more pleasant fixtures of our holiday season.

The song also has a special historical significance. It was the first in a series of top Christmas songs to appear during a uniquely productive generation from 1932 to 1951.

It is interesting to note that "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"  became an instant hit with orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music the next day and more than 400,000 copies sold by Christmas.

"The Little Drummer Boy"

This song was originally known as "Carol of the Drum". It is a popular Christmas song written by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941.

It was recorded in 1955 by the Trapp Family Singers and further popularized by a 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale. This version was re-released successfully for several years and the song has been recorded many times since over the years.

In the lyrics the singer relates how, as a poor young boy, he was summoned by the Magi to the nativity where, without a gift for the infant Jesus, he played his drum with the Virgin Mary's approval, remembering "I played my best for Him" and "He smiled at me".

I mean, let's think about this for a minute and ask ourselves, how much better a message is there at Christmas?

"The Christmas Song"

Like "White Christmas," this is a fairly new Christmas song. More popularly known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” the song was written during a sweltering heat wave during World War II in the summer of 1944.

The music was written by Mel Tormé. He was inspired by a few lines he saw jotted down in a pad by his friend and lyricist Bob Wells. Believe it or not, the two began writing the song as a way to temporarily distract themselves from the heat - and yes, it was actually finished in just 45 minutes.

That's right, the holiday favorite that puts a romantic glow on a season when folks are dress up “like Eskimos” was written in the middle of a heat wave in just 45 minutes.

The great Nat King Cole was the first to record the song. He did four different recordings with his trio and as a solo performer between 1946 and 1961. The final version is likely the one you’re most familiar with.

Mel Tormé didn’t sell a lot of records featuring him singing his own work. As for "The Christmas Song," it is said that he was fairly ambivalent about the song. Mr. Tormé did recognize the monetary value of owning the publishing rights though, he was known to occasionally refer to the song as his “annuity” as the money rolled in.

"White Christmas"

MCA Records “White Christmas” is the best-selling song of all time. The song had its first public performance on a radio show, sung by Bing Crosby during the opening days of World War II on Christmas Day 1941.

It was written by Irving Berlin, famous for writing "God Bless America" and other American favorites, for the upcoming movie Holiday Inn.

Bing Crosby had not the slightest inkling that the song would practically define him - but did give his approval: “I don’t think we have any problems with that one, Irving.”

Crosby’s first recording of the song had disappointing sales in its first few weeks, but quickly bounded to the top of the charts. It was an immediate holiday favorite and sold millions of copies. Researchers from the Guinness book of records estimated—as there are no reliable sales figures from back then - that Crosby’s version has sold no less than 50 million copies.

The next highest-selling single is Elton John’s Princess Diana tribute “Candle in the Wind 1997,” which has sold 33 million copies.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

The original lyrics for this lovely and bittersweet holiday song written for the 1944 movie musical Meet Me in St. Louis were said to be too depressing for the movie’s famous star and director. But Judy Garland did sing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis (1944).

Hugh Martin wrote the song and his first attempt concerned both Garland and the movie’s director and her future husband, Vincente Minelli, they found the words much too depressing and asked him to rewrite a few lyrics. Martin resisted, but eventually came around. There’s a mournful tone in the version we know and love, but one tempered by the we’ll-get-through-this-together line about finding the strength “to muddle through” adversity.

A wonderful movie classic, Meet Me in St. Louis tells the story of a close-knit family living in St. Louis in the early 1900s. The family is devastated when the father announces that they will soon be moving to New York City -- the news hitting his older daughters especially hard.

In a memorable scene towards the end of the film, Esther played by Judy Garland, five years after The Wizard of Oz, tries to console her younger sister Tootie played by Margaret O’Brien with the song.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was supposed to paint a picture of fragile hope and optimism.

"Do You Hear What I Hear"

Believe it or not, “Do You Hear What I Hear” started out as an anti-war song. It  was written while America was on the brink of nuclear war. The song was written by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne during October of 1961.

At that time, the U.S. was facing down the Soviet Union over some medium-range missiles in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis weighed heavily on the married songwriting team, who switched their traditional music-lyric roles for this song, Shayne was especially moved by the sight of mothers pushing baby carriages on a city street.

A single recorded by the same chorale group that had a radio hit with “The Little Drummer Boy” a few years earlier was released a few weeks later. The song’s plea for peace and “goodness and light” struck a chord with an anxious public and sold more than 250,000 copies. It has been a part of Christmas since.

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"

Decca Records released the famous Brenda Lee version of the song, whish is unquestionably the best version. She performed and recorded the song when she was only 13 years old.

Listen to the song and it’s impossible not to hear the voice of someone 10 or 20 years older. Yes, unlike today's singers whose voices are hidden, or disguised, or drowned out, by their "background music," back in those days vocalist like Brenda Lee could show the world that she indeed had a wonderful voice.
The single was released over consecutive holiday seasons beginning in 1958 and sold less than 5,000 copies that season.  But not to worry, it became a hit two years later and reached a peak position of number 3 on Billboard’s holiday charts in 1965. Lee so thoroughly owns this song that no other version has come close to matching the success of her original.

The song was written by Johnny Marks, who was the same songwriter who wrote “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The fact that he was Jewish didn’t stop him from creating a mini empire of Christmas songs. Thankfully in those days political correctness didn't get in the way of talent and holiday cheer.

In addition to “Rudolph” and “Rockin’,” he wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and the songs used in the TV special Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, including the Burl Ives hit “A Holly Jolly Christmas.”

Playing saxophone on the Brenda Lee recording of the song "Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree" was the great "Boots" Randolph, who in 1963, released a long-enduring hit of his own.

"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"

This funny yet wholesome seasonal favorite which tells the story of a young boy who sees his mother smooching his father while he's dressed as Santa was too much for the archdiocese of Boston. Being a Catholic myself, I find it hard to believe that a bunch of stiffs in Boston had the nerve to condemn the song for debasing the holiday, but they did.

Jimmy Boyd had achieved some celebrity as a child star when he recorded the song in 1952. Like Brenda Lee, he was 13 years-old when he stepped into the studio. But unlike Brenda Lee, he sounds very much his age.

A few church leaders in Boston objected to the song’s suggestion of physical intimacy and tried to have it banned. The actions made headlines across the country.

Boyd’s record label flew their young star to Boston, where he meet with church leaders and explained how maybe the song really wasn’t so evil. The Boston archdiocese lifted the ban, and more headlines were made.

All in all, the ban ended up being great publicity for a song that had already sold an astonishing 2 million copies in its first week of release. Imagine that!

"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"

Written by Randy Brooks, the song was originally performed by the husband and wife duo of Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire in 1979.

In the lyrics, the grandmother of the family gets drunk from drinking too much eggnog, which was probably spiked, and due to her having forgotten to take her medication and despite warnings from the family, she staggers outside into a snowstorm.

In the course of her walk to their outhouse, she is run over by Santa Claus and his reindeer and killed. Yes, it was meant to be funny!

The second and third verses describe the Christmas party the next day: "all the family's dressed in black" while the widower acts as if nothing's happened, drinks beer, watches football and plays cards with "cousin Mel."

The song closes with a warning that Santa, "a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves" is unfit to carry a driver's license, and that the listener should beware.

"All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth"

This wonderful children's favorite was written in 1944 by Donald Yetter Gardner while teaching music at public schools in Smithtown, New York. 

He asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas, and noticed that almost all of the students had at least one front tooth missing as they answered in a lisp. And yes, it's said that Gardner wrote the song in 30 minutes. Quick huh!

In a 1995 interview, Gardner said, "I was amazed at the way that silly little song was picked up by the whole country."

The song was published in 1948 after an employee of Witmark music company heard Gardner sing it at a music teachers conference. The song was originally recorded by Spike Jones & His City Slickers on December 6, 1947, with lead vocal by George Rock. That version reached the top of the pop charts in 1948, and again in 1949.

In the versions by Spike, The Chipmunks (Theodore on lead vocals), and Ray Stevens, the song ends with the performer shouting the words "Happy New Year!!!"

"Christmas Is a-Comin'"

OK, this is the song that drives my wife crazy because I play it constantly this time of year. It started out as a Christmas nursery rhyme called "Christmas Is Comming."

The musical version of the rhyme was popularized by The Kingston Trio as "A Round About Christmas", on their album The Last Month of the Year. A calypso sounding version of the carol was featured on a Christmas album John Denver and the Muppets. And yes, a jazzy piano-based arrangement was featured in the musical score of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

The rhyme became the basis for the song "Christmas Is a-Comin." It was re-written by Frank Luther and performed by Bing Crosby. It contains the following lyrics:

"When I'm feeling blue, when I'm feeling low,
I start to think about the happiest man I know.
Now he doesn't mind the snow, he doesn't mind the rain,
But all December you will hear him at your window pane,
Singing again and again and again and again and again:

Christmas is a coming and the bells begin to ring,
The holly's in the window and the birds begin to sing.

I don't need to worry, and I don't need to fret,
And the more you give at Christmastime the more you get.

God bless you, gentlemen, God bless you!
The more you give at Christmastime the more you get.

Christmas is a coming, the egg is in the nog.
Please give a friendly man a friendly little dog.

If you haven't got a friendly dog, a friendly cat will do,
If you haven't got a friendly cat may God bless you!

God bless you, gentlemen, God bless you!
If you haven't got a friendly cat may God bless you!

Christmas is a coming, the lights are on the tree.
How about a turkey leg for dear old me?

If you haven't got a turkey leg, a turkey wing will do.
If you haven't got a turkey wing may God bless you!

God bless you, gentlemen, God bless you!
If you haven't got a turkey wing may God bless you!

Christmas is a coming, the cider's in the keg.
If I had a mug of cider I wouldn't have to beg.

If you haven't got a mug of cider, half a mug will do.
If you haven't got half a mug, may God bless you!

God bless you, gentlemen, God bless you!
If you haven't got half a mug, may God bless you!

If you haven't got a thing for me, may God bless you!"

For me, I love the idea that someone would wish God's blessings upon another even if he or she gets nothing in return.

Now as for the New Year's Song?

"Auld Lang Syne"

While I don't think this is really considered a Christmas Song, it is definitely the best New Year's song ever written. It is the tune that ushers in every new year.

“Auld Lang Syne” was written in 1788 and came from the pen of Scotland’s Favorite Son poet Robert Burns. The five verses that Scottish Poet Robert Burns wrote in the late 1780s and published posthumously in 1798, were applied to a melody of unknown origin that had first appeared around 1711.

The Scots title translates as “long long ago.” The song quickly became a part of Scottish New Year celebrations, and it was from Scotland that the tradition spread, carried by travelers and emigrants. It was surely sung by Scot families who made the Atlantic crossing, but it was a bandleader from Canada who put the song in every American home.

While it was written by a Scotsman, it was made famous in America by a Canadian. This happened in the mid-1920s when Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo and his orchestra were a highly popular act. Even the famous Louis Armstrong was a fan.

In 1929, the band landed a contract to play New Year’s Eve at the Roosevelt Hotel. Their performance was broadcast on the still relatively new medium called "radio." It was an arrangement that lasted almost 30 years. And it was at these parties that Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians began their tradition of playing “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight.

As the band’s New Year’s Eve radio shows gained popularity, eventually reaching a national audience, so too did the song. Lombardo’s big-band arrangements usually excluded Burns' original lyrics because few understood them.

In 1956, they reached an even bigger audience when they signed a TV deal. That lasted another 20 years, until their show began losing ground to the younger based program hosted by Dick Clark.

Guy Lombardo passed away in 1977 but he made "Auld Lang Syne" a part of our culture. Today, Lombardo’s version of the song is the one that is played at the most famous New Year’s Eve celebration in the world: the dropping of the ball at New York City’s Times Square. So yes, Canadian singer/bandleader Guy Lombardo's recording of "Auld Lang Syne" still plays as the first song of the New Year in Times Square. 

And just in case you're ever stopped by Jay Leno and asked what does "Auld Lang Syne" mean? You can tell him that the American translation of "Auld Lang Syne" is "Old Long Since", which is taken to mean "days gone by". 

Apply this "days gone by" to the song, and the song makes more sense. Besides, fact of the matter is that "Auld Lang Syne" started out an an old Scottish drinking song. Yes, it's the greatest tear in my beer song ever written. It's all about remembering "days gone by."

The singer has several opportunities to become undeniably inebriated while waxing nostalgic about the past and taking a swig between choruses. This sentiment and the thought of such gatherings helps to explain the tie-in to New Years Eve.

Some say the idea that one should not remember old acquaintances is sort of bothersome. But that's not what he's saying. Instead, if we read the lyrics, we see that he is asking us the question "should old acquaintances should be forgot and never brought to mind?"

He answers his question by saying, no. He does this by saying, "we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne." So yes, in effect he is remembering old acquaintances and saluting those of "days gone by" by taking a drink to their memory.

Songwriter George M. Cohan quotes the first line of the "Auld Lang Syne" melody in the second to last line of the chorus of You're a Grand Old Flag.

If you think that an old Scottish drinking song can't be behind one of the most beloved songs in America, think again. It is said that the melody of the Star Spangled Banner, which of course is our National Anthem, is also based on an old English drinking song.

As for Christmas and the coming New Year? Well my wife and I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

May God Bless you all!

Tom Correa

1 comment:

  1. I remember that the two biggest Christmas songs that my friends and I would listen to were "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" and "The Christmas Song". But with latter, we always messed with it in our own special way. Instead of saying, "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire" we would say, "Jeff's Nuts Roasting On An Open Fire". Then somebody would ask, "Who's Jeff and why are you roasting his nuts?" Then the one I liked most of all was "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus". I would always listen to that song and think, "Why would your Mom do that? She's married!" Either that or she did some running around we don't know about. Then there was the Ray Stevens classic, "Santa Claus Is Watching You". The song will give you nightmares just by looking at the title. But if you're looking for a great Christmas song, look no further then, "Feliz Navidad". I also happen to remember that one. "I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas. I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas. I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart". What a good song. So the next time you're in the Christmas spirit, just grab a mug of hot cocoa, build yourself a nice gingerbread house, and turn on your radio. You never know what you're gonna hear on the radio this Christmas. But do me a favor. Stay away from that one song. "Baby, It's Cold Outside". That song is all kinds of creepy. Merry Christmas. (I know it's October, but still).


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