You know them, you love them, you sing along to every line. Holiday songs are an integral part of the season, from the first post-Thanksgiving playlist to wishing you could just hear something else come New Year’s Day. But who jingled the first bell, anyway? There’s more to your favorite holiday tunes than you could ever imagine.
11. ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS CASH
From Love Actually to the top 40, the Mariah Carey classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You” has earned an estimated $60 million in royalties. While she won’t be accepting the title “Queen of Christmas” from her fans any time soon, Mariah knows when she’s got a hit on her hands. She released a family movie and a book inspired by the song this year.
10. TINKLE BELLS
Thanks to songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, “Silver Bells” has grown to mean it’s Christmastime in the city; however, the song was originally titled “Tinkle Bells.” It wasn’t until Livingston’s wife pointed out the double meaning that the word “silver” was thrown into the mix. Awkward!
9. DO YOU HEAR WHAT I LEARNED?
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” details what happens when a night wind speaks to a little lamb, but beneath the peaceful melody lies a deeper historical background. The song was written by a married couple in 1962 as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
8. WILD CHRISTMAS
Once upon a time, Irving Berlin wrote a charming lyric about a snowy holiday… but just where he wrote that lyric has become a big question. According to rumor, Berlin wrote “White Christmas” while staying in a sunny West Coast hotel. Arizona’s Biltmore goes one step closer and claims the crooner wrote it in one of their rooms.
7. ROCKIN’ AROUND THE MENORAH
While Johnny Marks’ songs “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Run Rudolph Run” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” all center around Christmas cheer and celebration, the songwriter was Jewish.
6. YOU’RE A GRRR-EAT ONE, MR. GRINCH
While Mr. Grinch himself is as cuddly as an eel, his singing counterpart happens to be fluffier. The voice behind the animated classic’s theme song is Thurl Ravenscroft, who is known for voicing Tony the Tiger.
5. I SAKS MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS
Tommie Connor was commissioned by Saks Fifth Avenue to write this goofy Christmas song to promote the store’s Christmas card. Not everything went according to plan. The tune ended up being condemned by a Boston Catholic church for “mixing Christmas with kissing,” and the song’s singer had to fly out to explain the lyrics to the Archdiocese.
4. BABY IT’S CAPITALISM OUTSIDE
Frank Loesser wrote this holiday duet for him and his wife to perform at Hollywood dinner parties. After becoming stars on the circuit, Loesser sold the rights to the song, much to his wife’s fury. She compared the song’s sale to “walking in on her husband with another woman.”
3. STILLE NACHT
While it’s become a staple track on holiday albums today, this ballad wasn’t originally in English. “Silent Night” was written and composed in Austria. It didn’t make its way across the pond until 1859, when a New York priest translated three of its six verses.
2. SKIN CELLS ROASTING IN MID JULY
“The Christmas Song,” while so aptly titled for the winter, was actually written in the middle of the summer. Lyricists Bob Wells and Mel Tormé penned the tune as a means of “staying cool by thinking cool.”
1. THE CHANUKAH SONG
Despite being a Saturday Night Live novelty song, Adam Sandler’s ode to Chanukah has taken on a life of its own, gaining radio air play and eventually being covered by Neil Diamond for his holiday album.