The two holidays that celebrate the divinity of Christ—the divinity that’s the very heart of the Jewish rejection of Christianity—and what does Irving Berlin do? He de-Christs them both! Easter, he turns into a fashion show [Easter Parade] and Christmas into a holiday about snow [White Christmas].
That quote from Phillip Roth begins Marc Tracy’s article “From ‘Winter Wonderland’ to ‘White Christmas,’ the Top Ten Christmas Songs Written by Jews” in Tablet magazine and quite frankly, I can’t think of a better way to begin this post.
I’ve assembled a playlist of the de-Christed secularized Christmas songs listed in Tracy’s article:
There’s plenty of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra here, but the one video that catches my eye and ear is the video of Mel Tormé and the one, the only Judy Garland singing The Christmas Song (aka Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), which Tormé co-wrote with Bob Wells. Who knew? I didn’t even know that Mel Tormé was Jewish.
Nancy LaMott was a cabaret singer who broke out into radio and the national and international scene in the 1990s. Plagued by serious illnesses for much of her life, she died from uterine cancer on December 30, 1995, only 17 days before her 44th birthday. Her priest blessed her union with Peter Zapp, a little more than an hour before she died.
According to her father, she sang along with Barbra Streisand records when she was a girl. It shows. Sometimes my husband and I confuse Nancy LaMott for Barbra Streisand when we hear her recordings on WPFW 89.3 FM’s Sunday afternoon program The American Songbook.
It was through The American Songbook that I discovered All Those Christmas Cliches, as sung by Nancy LaMott. It’s wistful and nostalgic and takes me back to childhood and how special Mom made Christmas for us. Even today Christmas lights fill me with happiness and wonderment.
That’s what I long for: All Those Christmas Cliches.
If your tastes run more to popular, folk, or jazz music, there are still plenty of beautiful, creative, and moving interpretations of classic Christmas songs in a Christian vein to listen to. Here are some favorites that can serve as an antidote for unsatisfying Christmas music concerts (as well as various other sad and troubling things in our world).