Modern celebration of Christmas hardly existed before the war. The only Christmas song that you will hear played on radio is 1930’s “Santa Claus is coming to Town.” The only Christmas movie made by Hollywood was the 1938 adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol. Back then, investors believed that it does not make sense to invest on a product that is only saleable during the holiday season.
However, everything changed with the classic 1942 movie musical. The Broadway production of “Holiday Inn” was crammed with spectacular production numbers including elaborate sets and costumes and chorus lines but what stood out was the quiet song in the score. Near the end of Act I of the Broadway production, Bing Crosby who was playing the role of a singer/ songwriter sat down in front of the piano and played his latest composition “White Christmas” for his leading lady. That brief moment in the Hollywood musicale changed American culture.
According to legend, the true composer of White Christmas, Irving Berlin was in Hollywood making a movie. He missed his family in New York so much that he composed White Christmas. In Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, the sun was shining making him nostalgic for a white Christmas that he used to spend with family. The emotional resonance of the song is something you do not expect of a Christmas song like Jingle Bells. However, the first audience of Holiday Inn was soldiers who were on the home front and missing their families during the holidays.
Berlin never imagined that his song will open the floodgates to Christmas music, something that has remained unabated to this day. Bing Cosby’s record of White Christmas remains to be the most successful single of all time but most importantly, it changed how Christmas was viewed by people. Thankfully, the producers of Holiday Inn were smart enough to trust the iconic song.
Aside from Christmas songs, one of the things that often remind people that the holiday season is near is the proliferation of Ugly Christmas Sweater in stores. Instead of chic party clothes, people prefer to don the ugly sweaters bedecked with all kinds of crazy décor.