Songs of Christmas…White Christmas


This is part 16 of an Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.

When I was a kid I remember a trivia question that went around. “What is the best selling music single of all time?” The answer is our song for today. Even if you didn’t know the answer before you started reading this post, you probably figured it out just you know that today I am talking about “White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records.

What I didn’t know at that time was, there are other trivia questions one could ask about “White Christmas.” The first one that came to my mind is, “What popular Christmas song was written by a Jew?” The second would be, “What recorded single went to number one in three separate years?” I feel certain I could find others, but this will suffice.

I also learned something else while doing the research for today’s post. Bing Crosby not only sang the biggest selling single of all time, he also had the number three song on the list with “Silent Night.”

In the early 1940s, Crosby was at the height of his career. He had a recording contract with Decca Records and a film contract with Paramount Film Studios. Most everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. As a result, songwriters wanted, dreamed of Bing Crosby singing one of their songs. One song writer who was pretty successful in his own right but was even more so because of Bing Crosby was Irving Berlin.

Berlin, however, had his own Midas touch. He also had a knack for putting together heartfelt lyrics with simple tunes that the public wanted to hear and to know.

Berlin was contracted to write the music for the musical Holiday Inn. Most of it was fine but there was a Christmas intended for the script. Berlin, a Jew, had limited knowledge of Christmas. Still, he didn’t back away from the challenge. Berlin focused on what he did know about Christmas, snow and Santa. Berlin realized that people were nostalgic for snow covered fields and children had dreams of visits from Santa. Putting the two together was the direction Berlin took.

When Berlin finished the song he didn’t care for it and almost threw it away but instead took it to Crosby who read it and liked it, but some say he wasn’t all that excited about it. Others claim that Crosby told Berlin not to change a thing.

Crosby debuted the song on radio on Christmas Day, 1941. The song spoke of a simpler time, a simpler dream that people longed for some three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Crosby recorded the song six months later. That same summer, Holiday Inn opened. At first movie goers were more excited about another song, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” But, the song gained in popularity over the next few months. Before Christmas 1942 the song was at the top of the Hit Parade and remained there for several weeks into 1943. Interestingly, the song returned to number one on the Hit Parade again in 1945 and 1946.

For many, even still today, it is not Christmas until they hear the crooning voice of Bing Crosby singing the all time best selling single, “White Christmas.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved


Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.


Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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