clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

10 Christmas song you didn’t know were written by Jewish artists

Ever wonder who’s behind some of the most popular Christmas songs in the world? While it only seems natural that Christmas songs would be written by those who actually celebrate the holiday, many popular Christmas songs were actually written by Jewish people.

Contrary to popular belief, many popular Christmas songs were actually written by Jewish people.
Adobe Stock

Ever wonder who’s behind some of the most popular Christmas songs in the world? While it only seems natural that Christmas songs would be written by those who actually celebrate the holiday, many popular Christmas songs were actually written by Jewish people.

Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or not, though, here are 10 Christmas songs written by Jews that are sure to get you in the holiday spirit.

Note: This roundup was compiled using information from Newsweek, The Times of Israel and Interfaith Family, among several other sources.

‘The Christmas Song’ (‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’)

The Christmas Song” was written by Robert Wells and singer Mel Tormé in 1945. Tormé wrote the song’s melody, while Wells wrote the lyrics.

In an interview with NPR, Tormé’s youngest son, James, said his father began writing the song in an effort to cool down on an extremely hot day.

The song has since been covered by Nat King Cole, Michael Bublé, Andrea Bocelli and Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Céline Dion, among others, according to Who Sampled.

‘Holly Jolly Christmas’

Holly Jolly Christmas” was written by Johnny Marks, who also wrote “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Silver and Gold,” “Run Rudolph Run” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

While the song was written in 1962, it didn’t become popular until 1964, according to Singing the Song in My Heart.

The most popular version of the song was recorded by Burl Ives in 1965. The song was also featured in the Christmas special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” in which Ives voiced the part of Sam the Snowman.

Apart from Ives, the song has been recorded by LeAnn Rimes and Lady Antebellum, according to Who Sampled.

‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was written by Edward Pola and George Wyle, who, according to Interfaith Family, were born Sidney Edward Pollacsek and Bernard Weissman, respectively.

Wyle is also famous for having written the music for the theme song for “Gilligan’s Island.”

According to Song Facts, the song was specifically intended for The Andy Williams Christmas Album and was performed on “The Andy Williams Show.”

It has since been covered by Harry Connick, Jr. and Pentatonix, according to Who Sampled.

‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” was written by Sammy Cahn, born Samuel Cohen, and June Styne, born Julius Kerwin Stein, according to Interfaith Family.

The song is said to have been written during the same heat wave in which “The Christmas Song” was written and in an effort to cool down.

Both Cahn and Styne were extremely successful in the music business, with Cahn having won four Oscars for best song and with Styne having composed myriad musicals, including “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “Peter Pan,” “Bells are Ringing,” “Gypsy” and “Funny Girl.”

The song has since been covered by Dean Martin, Rod Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Jessica Simpson, Gloria Estefan and Doris Day, according to Who Sampled.

‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’

Like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” was written by Johnny Marks.

The song was recorded by Brenda Lee in 1958 when she was just 13 years old, but didn’t become popular until 1960 after some of Lee’s other work became popular, according to KXRB.

The song has been covered by Mary J. Blige and Sheryl Crow, Cyndi Lauper, Jimmy Buffett, LeAnn Rimes and Miley Cyrus, according to Who Sampled.

‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” also written by Marks, was based on a poem written by Marks’ brother-in-law. The poem was written as part of a 1939 assignment from Montgomery Ward to write a Christmas book that could be given out to shoppers, according to Interfaith Family.

The song introduced the concept of flying reindeer to the world and became a hit for singer Gene Autry in 1949.

The song has since been sung by The Temptations, Burl Ives, Destiny’s Child, Dean Martin and Ringo Starr, according to Who Sampled.

‘Santa Baby’

Santa Baby” was written by Joan Javits and Philip Springer who began working on the song together in 1953.

The pair were being financed by an older man who had made a deal with Victor Publishing, who asked them to write a song specifically for Eartha Kitt, according to Robynn’s Corner.

After hearing Javits’ song lyrics, Springer was apparently able to write the melody in around five minutes.

The song has since been covered by Madonna, R.E.M., Kylie Minogue and Ariana Grande, according to Who Sampled.

‘Silver Bells’

Silver Bells” was written by Jay Livingston, born Jacob Harold Levison, and Ray Evans, according to Interfaith Family.

The song drew inspiration from sidewalk and department store Santas, and was originally titled “Tinkle Bells” before being renamed prior to its release, according to Holidappy.

Silver Bells” was written for the movie “The Lemon Drop Kid” and was originally recorded by Bob Hope, before becoming a hit for Bing Crosby.

It since been recorded by Dionne Warwick, Doris Day, Michael Bublé and Elvis Presley, according to Who Sampled.

‘Sleigh Ride’

Sleigh Ride” was written by composer Leroy Anderson and Jewish lyricist Mitchell Parish.

According to WQXR, the song is yet another winter-themed song that was written in an effort to cool off during a heat wave.

While it is seen as a Christmas song, the song, in reality, is just about winter, rather than about the Christmas season specifically. In fact, the song’s lyrics don’t mention the December holiday.

The song has been recorded by the likes of the Spice Girls, fun., Hilary Duff, Bill Murray and Miley Cyrus, the Carpenters and Pentatonix, according to Who Sampled.

‘Winter Wonderland’

Winter Wonderland” was written by Richard B. Smith and Felix Bernard, born Felix Bernhardt, in 1934, according to Interfaith Family.

Smith originally wrote the lyrics as a poem while he was being treated for tuberculosis, according to Family Tree. He later brought the poem to Bernard, who wrote music to go along.

Varying versions of the song have been recorded by Snoop Dogg and Anna Kendrick, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jesse McCartney, James Taylor, Michael Bublé and Pentatonix, according to Who Sampled.