Dec 24, 2012

Over 100 Absolutely True Facts About Christmas Carols

For the past week I've been publishing Christmas carol trivia on Twitter: @xmascarolfacts

Here are all the facts in one big list.  Merry Christmas.

  1. The French lyrics to "Twelve Days of Christmas" include eight chewing cows, three wooden branches and seven windmills. 
  2. Paul McCartney played every instrument and sang on his song "Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime." 
  3. "Silent Night" has"intangible cultural heritage" according to UNESCO. 
  4. "The Huron Carol" (or "Jesous Ahatonhia") is considered to be the first Canadian Christmas carol, written by Jean de Brebeuf around 1642. 
  5. The original lyric for "Silver Bells" was actually "Tinkle Bells", inspired by a tiny bell on the desk of composers Livingston and Evans. 
  6. According to this web site, 12 of 25 most popular Christmas songs were written by Jewish composers.
  7. "12 Days of Christmas": In Britain, the lyrics are "my true love SENT to me". In the United States, the lyrics are "my true love GAVE to me". 
  8. "The Christmas Song" (aka "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire") was written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells on a blistering hot summer day. 
  9. Meredith Willson, the composer of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas", was once a member of John Philip Sousa's band. 
  10. Charles Dickens references "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen" in his classic "A Christmas Carol". 
  11. Gemini 7 astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell asked to have "I'll Be Home For Christmas" played for them while they were in orbit in 1965. 
  12. Thurl Ravenscroft sang "You're A Mean One Mister Grinch". He was also the voice for Tony The Tiger of Frosted Flakes fame. 
  13. "O Tannenbaum" was originally a tragic love song. During the 19th century it evolved into a Christmas song. 
  14. "Carol of the Bells" is based on a Ukranian folk song called "Shchedryk", which originally celebrated the coming of spring. 
  15. Chuck Berry's "Run Run Rudolph" was co-written by Johnny Marks, who wrote the original "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" song.
  16. The "Currier & Ives" mentioned in "Sleigh Ride" was a 19th century printmaking firm
  17. The park across from the Grand Hotel in Yarmouth (referenced in "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas") is called "Frost Park".
  18. "Must Be Santa" is based on a German drinking song.
  19. In "Up on the Housetop", Santa brings one of the kids a hammer and tacks. Another child gets a whip. 
  20. "Merry Christmas Baby" dates back to 1947. Recorded by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, a west coast blues group. 
  21. The first year royalties from Wham's "Last Christmas" were donated to charity after an out-of-court settlement of a copyright dispute. 
  22. "Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad" translates to "Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness". 
  23. Music publishers at first rejected "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" because they thought it was too childish and wouldn't sell. 
  24. The German lyrics to "O Christmas Tree" ("O Tannenbaum") aren't about a Christmas tree specifically.  They're about a fir tree.
  25. "Little Drummer Boy" was originally published as "Carol of the Drum", and was based on a Czech Christmas carol.
  26. Felix Mendelssohn composted the tune to "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" as a tribute to printer/inventor Johann Gutenberg. 
  27. Gene Autry got the idea for "Here Comes Santa Claus" after riding his horse in a parade in Los Angeles in 1946. 
  28. Fascinating history of the making of The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York".
  29. TV Guide named the Crosby-Bowie "Little Drummer Boy" duet as as one of the 25 most memorable musical moments of 20th-century tv. 
  30. "O Holy Night" was the second piece of music to ever be broadcast on radio, in 1906. 
  31. "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella" is a 16th century French carol, originally used as dance music by French nobles. 
  32. There's no mention of Christmas in the lyrics of "Let It Snow". It was written in Hollywood, California. 
  33. The Grand Hotel from "It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas" is believed to be in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
  34. Paul McCartney used an Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 synth on "Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime". 
  35. "White Christmas" actually has a first verse about a New Yorker stranded in Los Angeles for Christmas. 
  36. Lyricist Richard Smith was inspired to write "Winter Wonderland" after seeing a park in Honesdale, Pennsylvania covered in snow. 
  37. The music for John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" is based on a folk song called "Stewball". 
  38. Richard Smith, the lyricist for "Winter Wonderland", was a newspaper editor before his career in music. 
  39. The "Holly and the Ivy" are Pagan fertility symbols. They've also been used as Christmas church decorations since at least the 15th century. 
  40. "O Christmas Tree" (aka O Tannenbaum) music is based on a 16th century Silesian folk song.
  41. Some historians believe "O Come All Ye Faithful" is actually an ode to the birth of Bonnie Prince Charlie, aka Charles III, born in 1720. 
  42. Chuck Berry's "Run Run Rudolph" was co-written by Johnny Marks, who wrote the original "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" song.
  43. As far as I can tell, Lady Gaga is the only performer to release a Christmas song about oral sex.
  44. One industry insider estimates Paul McCartney earns about $500k annually in royalties from "Wonderful Christmastime"
  45. Jingle Bells was originally composed for Thanksgiving.
  46. Mariah Carey wrote "All I Want For Christmas Is You" as a tribute to her then-husband, Tommy Mottola. 
  47. Chris Rea's "Driving Home for Christmas" was inspired by a road trip. He was stuck in traffic in an Austin Mini.
  48. "We Three Kings" was written by Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr. In 1857 for an annual Christmas pageant. 
  49. The five golden rings in "12 Days of Christmas" probably refers to a bird, not jewelry.
  50. There's a statue of Good King Wenceslas at Wenceslaus Square in Prague. 
  51. It's "The First Noël", not "The First Nowell". Noël is the French word for Christmas. 
  52. Dick Smith wrote the words for "Winter Wonderland" while recovering from tuberculosis in Scranton, Pennsylvania. 
  53. Australians have their own version of "Twelve Days of Christmas" where all of the animals are replaced by wildlife from down under. 
  54. "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" was once used by Jamaica in a tourism commercial. 
  55. Irving Berlin, composer of "White Christmas", once claimed it is "the best song anybody's ever written". 
  56. "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" dates back to the 16th century, when carolers would sing in exchange for food or gifts. Trick or treat?
  57. During the Christmas Truce in 1914 during WWI, soldiers from Germany, France and Britain ceased fire and sang "Silent Night" together. 
  58. "Although Fairytale of New York" mentions the NYPD choir, New York's police department does not in fact have a choir. 
  59. Bing Crosby's last television appearance was in 1977 when he performed "Little Drummer Boy" with David Bowie. 
  60. "Silent Night" has been translated into at least 140 languages. 
  61. "Winter Wonderland" is frequently used by soccer fans in Britain. They make up new lyrics to taunt opposing fans. 
  62. Randy Bachman recorded a Christmas version of "Takin' Care of Business" called "Takin' Care of Christmas".
  63. "Jingle Bell Rock" was featured in the opening of the movie Lethal Weapon. 
  64. Charles Brown, the pianist on the original 1947 version of "Merry Christmas Baby", also performed the song with Bonnie Raitt in 1992. 
  65. In the Johnny Marks' "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1949) it's Donner but in the "A Visit From Santa Claus" poem (1823) it's Dunder. 
  66. U2's Adam Clayton played bass on "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and Phil Collins played drums. 
  67. "Mele Kalikimaka" was written by Hawaiian businessman R. Alex Anderson, who wrote songs as a hobby. 
  68. The lyrics to "Sleigh Ride" never specifically mention Christmas, but do include mention of a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray. 
  69. Brenda Lee was 13 when she recorded "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree". 
  70. "Good King Wenceslas" may have been murdered by his own brother back in 935. (That's not part of the song.) 
  71. In 1964, after performing "Little Saint Nick" on television, Brian Wilson had a nervous breakdown. 
  72. "Do You Hear What I Hear" was written by Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne. It was inspired by the Cuban Missile Crisis. 
  73. Most Christmas songs are written in a major key, but "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen" is in a minor key. It also contains the word "Satan". 
  74. "Christmas in Hollis" by Run-D.M.C. samples Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa". 
  75. There's a version of "Twelve Days of Christmas" sung in Sussex, England where the calling birds are replaced by canaries. 
  76. "Little St. Nick by the Beach Boys" is remarkably similar to "Little Deuce Coupe" by The Beach Boys.
  77. Bing Crosby's real name is Harry Lillis Crosby. He was born on May 3, 1903 and died October 14, 1977 at age 74. 
  78. The actual lyric is "Deck the Hall", not "Deck the Halls". (Hall is singular, not plural.) 
  79. In 1977, Canada Post issued a series of three stamps commemorating "The Huron Carol".
  80. Bryan Adams' "Christmas Time" was recorded in Vancouver, British Columbia and was originally issued on green vinyl. 
  81. You can sing the words of "House of the Rising Sun" to the melody of "O Little Town of Bethlehem". (And vice versa.) 
  82. If you bought everything in "The 12 Days of Christmas", it would cost you $107,300.
  83. There's a traditional french carol called "Quelle est cette odeur agréable?". Translation: "What is that pleasant smell?"
  84. Darlene Love also recorded a non-holiday version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" called "Johnny (Baby Please Come Home)"
  85. "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues has been in the top 20 in the UK every December since 2005. 
  86. Reveren John Henry Hopkins, Jr., who wrote "We Three Kings", was also a stained glass artist and book illustrator. 
  87. Wizzard recorded "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" in August, and wore coats and scarves in the studio for inspiration. 
  88. "O Tannenbaum" is German for "O Fir Tree". 
  89. Boney M's hit Christmas album was produced by Frank Farian, who later went on to create and produce for Milli Vanilli. 
  90. On the fourth day of Christmas, the original lyric was "four colly birds", also known as blackbirds. 
  91. The first five singers on "Do They Know It's Christmas" are Paul Young, Boy George, George Michael, Simon Le Bon, and Bono. 
  92. Back in 1990, everything in "The 12 Days of Christmas" cost $12,231.70.
  93. Elvis recorded "White Christmas" in 1957. Composer Irving Berlin tried to get it banned from the radio. He didn't like rock and roll music.
  94. Mitchell Parish, the lyricist for "Sleigh Ride", also wrote the words for "Stardust" and "Moonlight Serenade". 
  95. In 1983, the Carribean Island of St. Kitts issued a postage stamp honouring the song "Mary's Boy Child". 
  96. Darlene Love's recording of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was featured in the opening titles of Gremlins. 
  97. José Feliciano, the composer of "Feliz Navidad", also wrote a song called "So Long Paul" about Paul McCartney's rumoured death. 
  98. The helmet and armour of Good King Wenceslas are on display inside the Prague Castle. 
  99. "Silent Night" was composed by Frank Gruber to be accompanied by a guitar. That's because mice ate through the bellows of the church organ. 
  100. Johnny Marks, composer of "Rudolph" (and many others),  is the great-uncle of Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt. 
  101. "Jingle Bells" was written by James Lord Pierpont (1822-1893). He was the uncle of American financier J.P. Morgan. 
  102. Bing Crosby's version of "White Christmas" is one of the best-selling singles of all time, with over 50 million copies sold around the world. 
  103. Lewis Redner was a real state broker, but also played the church organ and composed the music to "O Little Town of Bethlehem" in 1868. 
  104. Meredith Willson, the composer of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas", also wrote the University of Iowa's fight song. 
  105. During his life time, Good King Wenceslas was a duke. Holy Roman Emperor Otto posthumously gave him his royal title. 
  106. "Winter Wonderland" first became a hit after it was recorded by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians in 1934. 
  107. Corey Hart's version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was recorded live at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa in August, 1985.

What's your favourite Christmas song?  What's your favourite piece of Christmas trivia?

No comments: