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.
‘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.
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.
Wyle is also famous for having written the music for the theme song for “Gilligan’s Island.”
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 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.
“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.
After hearing Javits’ song lyrics, Springer was apparently able to write the melody in around five minutes.
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.
“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.
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.