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The Quick 10: Facts About 10 Christmas Hits

I’ve finally decided it’s OK to listen to Christmas songs. Stores have been playing them since Halloween (I so don’t miss that about working retail), but I’ve banned them in my car until recently. I think that goes for Quick 10 posts too – it’s finally late enough in the season that I feel OK about sharing a few Christmas song facts. Pour yourself a cup of eggnog and enjoy!

1. “Santa Baby” was co-written by Joan Javits, the niece of Jacob Javits, a Republican Senator from New York.
2. “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is based on the poem “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
3. John Lennon and Yoko Ono may have written the lyrics for “Happy Xmas (War is Over),” but the melody was taken from an old folk song about a racehorse called “Stewball.”
4. “Do You Hear What I Hear” was actually a protest song of sorts. Written in 1962, the lyrics encouraged peace in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
5. “Silver Bells” was called “Tinkle Bells” until co-composer Jay Livingston’s wife pointed out to him that “tinkle” is commonly used as slang for “pee.” It was quickly changed to “Silver.” Another interesting tidbit: Livingston and his writing partner, Ray Evans, were also responsible for “Que Sera Sera” and the theme songs to Bonanza and Mr. Ed.
6. When Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” in his head, he said to his secretary, “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!”

7. In “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the fifth gift of “five golden rings” doesn’t mean jewelry – it refers to ring-necked birds such as the pheasant. The meaning has gotten a little skewed over the years. Also, it wasn’t originally “four calling birds,” it was “four colly birds,” which is a rather old-fashioned term for a blackbird.
8. The song “Christmas Why Can’t I Find You,” later restyled as “Where Are You Christmas” by Faith Hill, was first sung by Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who (pictured) in the 2000 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Yeah, THAT Taylor Momsen. Interestingly, Mariah Carey wrote the song but wasn’t allowed to sing it because of a contract issue with her ex, Tommy Mottola.
9. Aimee Mann’s “Christmastime” written by Michael Penn, Sean Penn’s brother.

10. The Chipmunks’ “The Chipmunk Song” has hit the Billboard Hot 100 over and over, most recently in 2007, when it was rereleased with the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. You know the one, but here it is just in case you don’t have a song wedged in your head right now. And here’s the 2007 one, which I kind of hate.


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