Or something like it 🙂 Jüdische Allgemeine featured an interesting article by Hannes Stein on American Christmas songs written by Jews. Old news? Exactly. Or has anybody not heard yet that (I’m dreaming of a) White Christmas was written by Irving Berlin, born as Israel Baline in Siberia 1888? Likewise, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Johnny Marks), Let it Snow (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne), Silver Bells (Jay Livinstone, Ray Evans), Santa Claus is Coming to Town (J. Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie), and Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells) were written by Yidn.

Vuz noch? Gurnisht? A zach! Stein took a look at the lyrics of those songs to see what made them jewlicious:

Rudolph, the loner reindeer, that is mocked and picked upon because of its nose and excluded from playing with its [goyishe] co-reindeers, eventually becomes the reindeer leading the way – pretty much because of its nose. (cf. Ps 118) Does that sound familiar?

Let it Snow as such just is a plain winter song (like Jingle Bells) and tells about a couple being cozy inside a warm place while it’s snowing outside. To keep it clean, that sounds like something decidedly jewlicious in the making, doesn’t it?

White Christmas conveys a touch of melancholy for good reason: Berlin witnessed his parents’ house being burnt down in a pogrom one winter during his early childhood. (In those days, western European Jews were already more or less assimilated and many even went along with the new fashion of Christmas trees, but in eastern Europe some holiday celebration or another, possibly also fuelled by excessive consumption of strong alcohol, often resulted in an angry mob starting or being manipulated to start yet another pogrom.) In 1928, fate struck again when Berlin’s son died on 24th December, Christmas Eve to non-Orthodox Christians.

I’ll save telling about the different ways Jews in Europe “celebrated” Christmas prior to WW2 for another post. As a suggestion to the Americans among the readers, particularly those sensitive to monosodium glutamate, why don’t you go wassailing instead of or after devouring that Chinese food? Rock those jewlicious Christmas songs, but don’t forget to add that pintele Yid 😉

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  • froylein, we Americans start wassailing early– on November 26 or thereabouts– and skip the pogroms.

  • Tom, I suppose that might be because Advent starts 40 days + Sundays (unknown to many, the pre-Christmas season’s supposed to be a fast season like Lent) prior to the Christmas holiday. How much do people celebrate Advent over there? Most people here, besides the clergy, don’t fast anymore, but it’s widely celebrated.

  • froylein, although some of the observances, like fasting, charity etc., are the same for Advent and Lent, I don’t think those things are nearly as prevalent during Advent, at least over here. Of course, when one spends nearly all one’s free time at Best Buy and Target, it can be hard to maintain, uh, spiritual focus.

  • Tom, certainly; I live in the country of gingerbread houses, so fasting is not something the majority would choose for themselves to say the least (it’s more like eight weeks of feasting from St Martin’s Day till Epiphany). Advent as a preparational time leading up to the holidays is celebrated a lot over here and it’s not uncommon that even secular schools have Advent wreaths and kids are permitted to light candles during class. During university, there were get-togethers offered by the Catholic student congregation; the attendants were from all kinds of faiths, and the emphasis was not put on Christology but on a happy, yet positively reflecting time together.
    BTW, if anybody knows the person in charge, I was greatly disappointed with the tree at Rockefeller Center last year. Knowing the trees over here, I thought that person could use an educational trip to Germany.

  • Most of the Advent imagery, wreaths, etc., are confined to church spaces over here. Perhaps that reflects the generally Protestant nature of US Christianity.

    Speaking of imagery– one of our local priests, from Tanzania, looked quite striking last week in the rose-colored vestments used on Gaudete Sunday.

  • At school, we’ve got Jewish, Muslim and Christian students (traditional as well as secular ones from all three groups). We ask them what they want to do and feel comfortable with, and so far they all agreed on giving Hanukkah, Eid as well as St Nicholas’ Day / Xmas some space.

  • We did that once at university when Hanukkah coincided with St Nicholas’ Day, but at school we stick to donuts 🙂