There are songs so closely associated with Christmas that their appearance at any other time seems inappropriate, like a TapouT shirt worn to a wedding, or a bridesmaid's dress worn anywhere. Yet, many of these songs aren't even about Christmas. They are, at best, winter songs. It's time to free these songs from their Yuletide time-prison and let them be heard at any time! Well, any time in the winter, that is.
We're not alone on this one. If you type "My Favorite Things not a" into Google, the only autocomplete suggestion is "Christmas song." And yet, it appears on Christmas albums by the Supremes, Barbara Streisand, Andy Williams, Brian Setzer, Luther Vandross and Kelly freaking Clarkson, just to mention a few. Why? Why on earth has this pretty little song from The Sound of Music been declared a Jesus birthday anthem? Because it mentions snowflakes? Snow is in no way exclusive to Christmas. Ask anyone from Minnesota. In March. Sleigh bells? Look, not every sleigh is Santa's sleigh, okay? (More on that later). Brown paper packages tied up with strings? If, as a child, you woke up on Christmas morning and rushed to the tree to find a pile of brown paper packages tied up with strings waiting for you, then your parents failed Christmas. We hate to be the ones to break it to you, and now you'll have to be the one to break it to them.
Other "favorite things" the song mentions:
Things the song does not mention:
In the movie, Maria sings this song to the children during a thunderstorm, not a tree-trimming party. It's a tool to help them deal with unpleasant emotions, not a yuletide hymn.
Oh, man! Don't you just feel all Christmas-y listening to that? Can't you just see the tree and the lights and the presents? Wait . . . Those things aren't in the song? In fact, there's nothing at all about Christmas in there? Nope. This lovely song is purely and simply about staying in and boning on a cold night. We'll admit that's a hell of a good plan, but it's not (necessarily) a Christmas plan.
Songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne were suffering through the 1945 L.A. heat wave while wearing 1940s men's fashions. To take their minds off the lung-shriveling heat, the two decided to write a song about winter. They swapped stories about being stranded by snowy weather, which to their heat-crazed minds had begun to seem like a beautiful idyll rather than the uncomfortable pain in the ass anyone who has lived through it knows it to be. They eventually developed the idea of a song about two lovers being snowed in together because nothing can't be improved with a little hubba-hubba. The song was released just after Thanksgiving. It kept selling long after Christmas, well into February, which makes sense, seeing as how it's a much more appropriate Valentine's Day song than Christmas song. However, by the 1950s, the song was firmly associated with Christmas, and Dean Martin's scotch-soaked 1960s take on his Christmas album sealed the deal.
This is a song about taking a walk in the snow, creating a frozen clergy impersonator, and then going inside and maybe doing some boning. It was not born out of Christmas spirit, unless by "Christmas spirit" you mean "horrifying terminal illness."
In 1934, songwriter Dick Smith was dying of tuberculosis in a Pennsylvania sanitarium. One winter afternoon, he dragged his ass out of bed to look out a window at a city park for a while, because in 1934 you could not watch the entire series run of Quantum Leap on Netflix. He saw some kids playing in the snow. Whereas you or I would have smiled at their antics for a moment and then gone back to fantasizing about that one nurse on the midday shift, Smith was inspired to write a song. He combined what he had seen with some of his own memories. Then, he added a little romance, because this was the early twentieth century and he was writing a song about snow, damn it.
He rallied enough to take the lyrics to Felix Bernard, who wrote a jaunty tune to go along with them. For months, the song went around the publishing community. Finally, the Richard Himber Orchestra, which you have most definitely not never heard of, recorded the song. When Guy Lombardo heard it, he rushed out his own version -- just in time for Christmas. The song hit number two on the charts. Lombardo's fortuitous and not at all mercenary timing helped cement "Winter Wonderland" into the public consciousness as a Christmas song, although nothing about Christmas appears in the song at any point. Smith lived long enough to see his song be a hit for Lombardo, but because this is real life and not a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, his triumph didn't enable him to cure his own tuberculosis. He died the next fall, and so missed out on the nonstop stream of recordings of "Winter Wonderland" by everyone from Rosemary Clooney to Ozzy Osbourne.
Someone in the 1950s, believing that people were too stupid to know what a parson is, created a new, worse version of the lyrics, replacing the snowman parson with a snowman circus clown and, just for giggles, taking out the romantic references. And they still didn't mention Christmas. By the sixties, pretty much everyone was back to using the original lyrics, so that was all right.