November 28, 2012
“We Know Christmas” claims the Christmas Entertainment page on our website with nothing but a selection of great Christmas acts to back it up. A bit of baseless boasting perhaps? How dare you suggest such a thing? Why, I’ve half a mind to write a Top 5 blog listing facts about Christmas songs just to put you in your place...
To prove we’re not waffling when we talk of wassailing, we’ve compiled a list of surprising facts about our festive tunes. Read on for more.
‘Five Gold Rings’ Are Birds, Not Rings
In perennial seasonal favourite “The 12 Days of Christmas”, wedged between 4 Colly Birds and 6 Geese a-laying you get ‘Five Gold Rings’. “Great!” you think, “One gold ring for each finger of my right (or left) hand!” But hold your horses there, Mr T/Ron Atkinson/1970s Darts player, it turns out the Gold Rings referred to in the songs aren’t jewellery or even gold. Some theorise that 'Gold Rings' refers to ‘Ring Necked Pheasants’ which would mean that the first 7 days brought nothing but bird gifts and the total number of birds acquired over the first 7 days is 84 (as the true love continues to bring duplicate birds on each subsequent day) – by the twelfth day, the true love will have brought 504 birds to thee. Hope thee likes birds*.
White Christmas has a Secret First Verse
The Sun is Shining/The Grass is Green/The Orange and Palm Trees Sway... so begins the origanial version of White Christmas, written for the film Holiday Inn in which Crosby’s Character Jim Hardy laments his having to spend Christmas in L.A. There’s never been such a day/In Beverly Hills LA/But it’s December 24th/And I’m longing to be up North... not exactly catchy is it? Nearly all versions of the song cut the first verse out much like the intro to Cliff Richard’s “Millenium Prayer” in which Richards mumbles “Now Usually I don’t do this but-uh, Go head’ on and break ‘em off wit a lil’ preview of the Millenium Prayer... Our Father Who-”
Jingle Bells was Written for Thanksgiving
While this public domain classic is inextricably linked to Christmas, it was apparently written by James Lord Pierpont as a Thanksgiving song, though there’s little in the original lyrics that suggest such mostly concentrating on the business of sleigh riding. In fact the final verse merely offers advice on how to attract ladies with your sleighing/singing:
Now the ground is white/Go it while you're young/Take the girls tonight/And sing this sleighing song/Just get a bobtailed bay/Two forty is his speed/Hitch him to an open sleigh/And crack! You'll take the lead.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Owes its Success to an 18th Century Racehorse
The words of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1971 hit were famously based on Ono’s 1969 ad campaign during which she rented billboards and plastered them with the words “WAR IS OVER (If you want it)”, but the music came from a different source entirely. Lennon ‘borrowed’ the tune from a folk song about an Irish racehorse named Skewball (later recorded as ‘Stewball’) adding in a counter melody sang by the Harlem Community Choir and a few key changes. A cursory Google reveals nothing particularly Christmassy about the horse who, when asked if he celebrated Christmas merely responded “No, I don’t”.
If It Wasn’t for a Broken Church Organ, No ‘Silent Night’
We’re generally pretty careful about our acts’ equipment for corporate events and consequently we rarely have the kind of technical malfunctions that necessitate the composition of entire new songs – which is maybe a shame because that’s exactly what happened with Silent Night. The Church Organ in the small town of Salzach was broken prompting Franz Xaver Gruber (brother of Hans and Simon) to compose a tune to be accompanied by guitar. So next time you have an equipment malfunction at your event, maybe just see where it takes you?
So, any fascinating festive facts that we've missed? If you play 'Mistletoe and Wine' backwards can you hear Cliff predict the downfall of Woolworths more than 20 years before it happened? Tweet us @SternbergClarke or let us know in the comments.
* I'm willing to be corrected on this
By Garreth Owen