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Friday, December 25, 2009

Reuven the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

This came from a Garrison Kellor rant about Christmas songs he doesn't like.
Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.

Christmas is a Christian holiday - if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don't mess with the Messiah.
Huh? Scott Johnson explains.
In America Jewish composers are in fact responsible for many extremely popular Christmas songs. One might reasonably ask why. I would guess that the outsider's perspective fostered a kind of yearning and appreciation. Both the yearning and appreciation carry an appeal to the wider American audience, expressing the feelings of the audience in a peculiarly congenial manner. (Incidentally, Jeffrey Goldberg has now told "the true story of Orrin Hatch's Hanukkah song." Senator Hatch has composed a Hanukkah song with an outsider's admiring perspective on the Jewish holiday.)

Though unmentioned by him, "White Christmas" is a prime example of the phenomenon Keillor decries. Composed by Irving Berlin, it is the most popular record ever in the version of the song recorded by Bing Crosby. Gary Giddins notes in Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, that Crosby's record of the song made the American pop charts twenty times, every year but one between 1942 and 1962. It must have spoiled many of Keillor's Christmases.

Keillor alludes specifically to two songs by Jewish composers in the passage above. The first is "Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer," by Johnny Marks. Marks wrote three of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. The story of "Rudolph" originates in a poem about a red-nosed reindeer named Rudolph written by Marks's brother-in-law, Robert May. Nate Bloom recounts that the poem became popular as a Montgomery Ward giveaway and Marks turned it into a song. When Gene Autry succumbed to Marks' entreaties to record it, the song became a hit of monumental proportions in 1949.

The second song to which Keilor alludes is "The Christmas Song," by Bob Wells and Mel Torme. This song is an evergreen. Unlike "Rudolph," it hasn't dated, or hasn't dated much. I can't imagine what about it might rub Keillor the wrong way. Is it okay for Jews to wish their Christian friends "merry Christmas"?
There's much more - read the whole thing.

That last question Scott asks presents some interesting issues by the way. The answer depends on whether Judaism considers Christianity idol worship. If so, we're not supposed to mention the names of Christian holidays. Go ask your rabbi (and please don't get into a flamefest here).

Paul Mirengoff is relieved by Scott's post.
I have long felt bad about the injury Jews have inflicted on Christmas by leading the charge to limit public celebration of this great religious holiday. Here we are, living in a country whose Christians have treated us with unprecedented kindness, tolerance, and fellowship, and we show our thanks by forcing them to remove the most meaningful aspects of their most important holiday from the public square.

This year, however, I was able to find solace in Garrison Keillor's rant about how Jews have injured Christmas by writing "trashy" Christmas songs. I had not focused, until I read Keillor's bizarre column and Scott's response, on the fact that Jews have contributed songs like "White Christmas"," Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and other staples of this "most wonderful time of the year." These songs may annoy Keillor, but they have pleased millions of American Christians of all ages. Thus, we Jews have contributed more to Christmas than ugly litigation.
And I will second Paul's good wishes to those of you celebrating today.


At 5:22 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Jews have also been in the forefront of the commercialization of xmas.I.e. Miracle on 34th st. Macy's, gimbels, A&s, Bambergers, B&H etc

At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

glad to see another self hating jew (Paul Mirengoff) getting a note in this blog

unless all athiests and the aclu are jewish, then no, it hasnt been jews who have led the fight to remove christian religious symbols from the public square

gosh, it must really bug mr mirengoff that there is this thing called the constitution, which the supreme court (made up of mostly christians throughout its history) has upheld, when it comes to seperation of church and state.

to excuse mr kellor's blatant jew hate is beyond the pale.

it isnt jews who have secularized christmas, it is christians themselves

jews didnt create black friday...jews didnt create santa claus...jews didnt make the importance of the holiday buying crap.

in fact, jews have taken the worst out of what the christians have done to their holiday and imported it into chanukah

what i learn from kellor's rant is that no jew should feel comfortable in america, for underneath every supposed kind, considerate and loving christian...is a friggin jew hater wating to come out


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