Boomers Dream of a White Christmas

If you’re a boomer dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones you used to know, then you are not alone. As the song illustrates, a white Christmas is defined as a measurable amount of snow on the ground for the holiday … and therein lies the connection to: like we used to know. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the areas of the country most likely to get December snowfalls has been changing for at least 30 years now. There are variations from state to state, of course — nature doesn’t like to work in straight lines — but as a general rule, the snow demarcation markers have been trending northward. Consequently, areas that may have seen white Christmases in our boomer years are now left with snowless holidays four and five decades later.

Mister Boomer can attest to this by personal observation. In the region where he spent his boomer years of the 1950s and ’60s, every Christmas was a white Christmas. Snow generally started falling the first week of December and additional snow fell every week until Christmas. That guaranteed several inches of snow on the ground for the holiday, but it often snowed on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as well. For that reason, Mister B’s local weather men often referred to “white Christmas” as actually receiving snow on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This further defined the term to include fresh snow for maximum glistening.

To young boomers, a white Christmas went hand in hand with a series of snow-related Christmas gifts. After all, boomer kids would spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s more outdoors than indoors. Mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, long johns, boots, sleds, saucers, ice skates, hockey sticks and the perennial Christmas gift of socks, spanned the gift-receivable range from very welcome to sighs and groans. In the end, the double pair of gloves protected our hands from frostbite as the top pair was wet before the first snowball fight was over. Tree tops may have glistened, but a chill wind required layers of clothing, starting with long johns. All the better to make snow angels without feeling the frost. With hats firmly in place, scarves were wrapped around our faces in what, in retrospect, looks eerily similar to sporting this year’s obligatory face mask. All the better to ward off the snow and ice crystals tossed up from our sled runners. To young boomers, a white Christmas was winter fun.

Another aspect of a white Christmas that Mister Boomer really enjoyed was how fresh snow on rooftops and shrubbery softened the brightness of Christmas lights. Large, teardrop light bulbs would glow beneath a thin veil of freshly fallen snow, reflecting outward in a beautiful diffusion of color. While there was (and is) a case to be made for the garish brightness of the holiday, there was something immensely peaceful about a snowy night that muffled the jazz horn that house decorations played.

As for Mister B, the crossover from boomer years to adulthood meant more shoveling, and winter driving. White Christmases weren’t as welcome. As the 1970s wore on, his region experienced an occasional snowless holiday. Into the 1980s, there were more snowless Christmases than white ones.

How about you, boomers? Are you dreaming of a white Christmas this year, or will you have your fill of snow before the New Year is here?

 

Boomers Loved Elvis Christmas Music

There are many things in boomer cultural history that have lasted well beyond our Wonder Years to become classics in their own right, but perhaps none more prevalent this time of year than Christmas music from Elvis; more specifically, music from Elvis’ Christmas Album, originally released in 1957. No matter to which part of the Boomer Generation you belong, you probably have favorites and know the words to several of these songs, played annually on radio stations — and therefore our transistor radios and car radios — ever since the album first arrived.

The album was quintessential Elvis: a mix of blues, gospel and rock, with a flair that only the King could covey. The two sides of the record were divided between traditional and secular, with some standard classics and some written specifically for the record. Elvis could exercise his gospel chops on one side, and rock and blues his way through the other. It was reissued several times, including while Elvis was in the Army and was stationed in Germany.

Mister Boomer heard the songs annually on the radio, like most every other boomer. But his mother acquired the reissue of the album in 1970. When she wasn’t playing Andy Williams singing Ave Maria on the family “Victrola,” as she called the stereo (she called the refrigerator the “ice box,” so there you go), then her Christmas music of choice was the Elvis album.

Mister B was partial to the secular side. Three songs from that side were released as singles at various points in Elvis’ career, and they happen to be Mister B’s favorites from the album:
Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me)
Blue Christmas
Santa Claus is Back in Town

Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me) was commissioned for Elvis. The writers of the song, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, were also responsible for songs that became hits for Elvis and other people before him. The team wrote both Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock! And get this, the duo also was responsible for Santa Claus is Back In Town on the same album, written especially for Elvis!

The song, Blue Christmas, was around nearly a decade before Elvis recorded it. Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson, it was first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948. That same year, Ernest Tubb released his version and had a hit with it. Subsequent releases, including orchestral instrumentals of this country-tinged classic, made it a staple on country stations at Christmastime. Elvis took it to the next level with his 1957 release. At this point, it’s Elvis who comes to mind when someone says, Blue Christmas. It is a cross-generational classic.

The traditional side had religious and pop Christmas standards, but was the side of the album that garnered the most controversy. Elvis patterned his arrangement of White Christmas after the doo wop version released by The Drifters in 1954. Their version of the song charted at R&B stations, but did not gain widespread radio airplay. Then Elvis’ version hit the airwaves. When Irving Berlin — yes, THAT Irving Berlin — heard his song performed by Elvis, he went ballistic. Bing Crosby had made White Christmas famous in 1942, and by the 1950s, it had attained classic status. So, Berlin thought Elvis was destroying his music. He called radio stations and tried to have the Elvis record banned from airplay. For the most part, stations ignored him, though some Canadian station chose not to play it.

OK, boomers! What is your favorite Elvis Christmas song? Did you have the 45 RPM singles or the album?