laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Dec 12 19:16:58 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
>> 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.
>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.
Then there's the rhyme I heard recited in France-
"Noël au balcon, Pâques aus tisons"
meaning that if you get to spend Christmas out on the balcony, you'll
be spending Easter around the fireplace (lit. "at the embers"). I
guess it's their version of the law of Groundhog Day.
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