Image courtesy of Decca Records.

A digital history exhibit produced by

Cole Fairbairn (’19), Mary Cate Babcock (’22), students in History 364 (Introduction to Public History), and Dr. Ray Rast (Department of History)

with generous support from

Gonzaga University Department of History

Gonzaga University Archives and Special Collections

Gonzaga University College of Arts and Sciences Morris Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Digital Humanities Initiative, Center for Public Humanities, and Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry

Section I. Irving Berlin and His American Music

A Russian Jewish immigrant would write the song that helped redefine Christmas in America.

Section II. The Creation of “White Christmas”

Berlin wrote an American song about a dream of better times and better places — and he wanted Bing to sing it.

Section III. Christmas in America Before the 1940s

The American Christmas tradition was always evolving, because it always reflected a mixing of religious and cultural influences.

Section IV. Supporting the War Effort

Amidst the turmoil of war, Berlin’s lyrics and Bing’s voice soothed Americans’ shared longings for the comforts of home and a peace.

Section V. A New Era of Christmas Entertainment

“White Christmas” propelled a new era of holiday entertainment that promoted a nostalgic yet inclusive vision of Christmas.

Section VI. An Americanized Christmas Tradition

An Americanized Christmas tradition connected Americans through shared rituals, nostalgia, and dreams of a better future.

Conclusion: “The Best Song Anybody Ever Wrote”

Berlin’s song is a Christmas classic that transcends the holiday because it reminds us of our shared humanity.


Visitor Comments

“Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote.”

Irving Berlin (1940)

© 2020 by Raymond W. Rast. All rights reserved.