Growing up in Israel made Christmas time very different compared with living in the good ol’ U.S. of A. In Israel the imagery is more focused on the J – man. The mayhem is amazing as the many various Christian sects go through the Christian quarter in the Old City in Jerusalem. They all converge onto the sacred church of the Holy Sepulcher as they anoint a statue or life like Jesus figure. However, I remember seeing the melee as the various sects fought each other for the correct time slot. But, let us veer from the Holy Land and back to the good old land of freedom, cheeseburgers and semi-automatic weapons.
In the United States there has been a sounding board for people who feel as if the holiday is being pushed by the wayside. This so-called “war” on Christmas has been used by the pundits to keep the masses conditioned into believing a false premise. The premise that in the past all was great fun and Christian is not the entire reality. Since the turn of the 20th century Jews have been an integral part of the recording and publishing industry. Broadsheets of various famous musical tunes, some being performed through the racist guise of blackface, were churned out mostly by Jews. Some of the most popular tunes by the 1920’s were Christmas jingles and songs. Most of these songs, or at least the ones we all know as we hear them in every department store, were written by Jews. Tablet news released a list of the top ten Christmas songs written by Jews. It is very telling and very surprising to see the list and how many of these popular tunes were written by Jews.
Many iconic songs like “Silver Bells,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and of course the most vaunted being “White Christmas” were all written by Jews. So why would they do that? Interestingly enough after reading many accounts by these artists Irving Berlin made the most compelling case. His Jewish family grew up in Eastern Europe so they dealt with Christianity in a defensive way. In the United States Jews didn’t have to defend themselves from pogroms or turmoil the way they dealt with in the old country. In order to feel more at home in the United States Berlin felt compelled to write more sanitized Christmas songs. The overtly Christian imagery was pushed into the periphery and other images such as snow were brought into the forefront. This sanitizing, or as I would put it “blanching,” was the beginning of this so-called “war” on Christmas. Because Jews were such an important, and numerous, asset to popular culture these songs became popular in the public’s psyche. Just like other music styles, like the black music they would sample and re-tweak in parts, Jews did the same in the realm of popular holiday songs. By blanching the music they made Christmas far more accessible to non-Christians who felt left out. By Americanizing Christmas Berlin and his co-songwriters and performers became acceptable on their own terms. They would come to define the Christmas sound and in the present that’s taken for granted. In many cultural, especially in the realm of music and art, I remain fascinated at how Jews adapted. They adapted in such a way that they literally became American in their own right.
Fast forward to today and Jews remain the bane of Christmas in many ways. One example one of the best Christmas movies ever made, Bad Santa. The film, released ten years ago, follows the life of a down and out miserable, potty mouthed drunk who plays Santa at the local malls each year only to rob them with his elf friend and the elf’s insane Asian lady. What made me love the film is the main character’s nihilism towards everything and everybody. Played masterfully by Billy Bob Thornton, the drunk santa figure is the Jewish filmmakers and writers way of pissing on all that is sacred. This imagined sacredness, which in a way was created by Jews, is what is being critiqued so well. The Coen brothers and Terry Zwigoff did a great job in casting this dark humor set during the most wonderful time of the year. This is all connected to the past as with Berlin he twisted the concept of Christmas by switching the imagery of Christmas. Little baby Jesus, the Magi, and Mary and Joseph were pushed into the background by Santa, Rudolph and frosty the snowman. The Bad Santa film is in the same tradition of Jews in popular culture re-tweaking a Christian or foreign concept. Jews keep doing this and as I keep writing on Hip Hop and other music and Jewish matters I want to make this point. It goes like the old saying, if you can’t beat em’ join em.” Although in this case it’s more like “if you can’t beat them, beta them at their own game.”
I hope you all enjoy the holiday, sorry i’m not big on the merry part, and keep reading.
Here’s the top ten Christmas songs written by Jews:
And here is the great article in full about the Bad Santa and the Jewish plot to take over Christmas: