White Christmas

sagehen sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM
Mon Dec 12 18:55:31 UTC 2005

>        How old is "white Christmas"?  The phrase's current popularity,
>of course, derives from the 1937 Irving Berlin song, but he did not coin
>it.  In Nancy: A Novel, by Rhoda Broughton (1874) (via Making of
>America), we read "It is Christmas-day - a clean white Christmas, pure
>and crisp."
>        That 1874 quotation, with "white" mixed in with other
>adjectives, made me wonder if the usage was the same as our standardized
>term.  There's no doubt about this example from 1878, from Appletons'
>Journal (Dec. 1878) (also via Making of America):  "Once she lifted the
>closed curtain and looked out; snow was still falling.  It was to be a
>white Christmas, and people had said all day that if the storm did not
>abate by nightfall there could be few carols sung this year."
>        "White Christmas" still had currency when Berlin wrote the song.
>>>From the 12/24/1934 New Yorker (reprinted in The Complete New Yorker):
>"For once, it looks like we might have a white Christmas."  This is the
>caption of a cartoon; the speaker is the father of an African-American
>family, looking out the window.
>John Baker
Its origins are probably Old World, given the old saying that a green
Christmas means a full churchyard.  It must have arisen in contrast to the
notion that a healthier season would need enough winter weather by
Christmastime to arrest some diseases.
A. Murie

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