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"Yuletide Surprises: did we know that these 5 songs were not written as christmas songs?

The time has come for streams of garlands, frosty snowmen, decorated trees, and more yuletide scenes around the holiday season. In the days following Thanksgiving, Christmas music typically starts spinning everywhere, but not all songs on rotation were originally written about the holiday, nor mention it in the lyrics. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was originally written for the 1966 animated feature Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and sung by Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft but it’s the story of a being who’s far from holiday cheer: You’re a vile one / You got termites in your smile / You have all the tender sweetness / Of a seasick crocodile.

Sleigh bells ring in Felix Bernard and Richard Bernhard Smith’s 1934 seasonal classic “Winter Wonderland” which is often considered a Christmas song, but it was originally written about a couple’s romantic winter outing. Plenty of songs find a way into Christmas playlists, whether they were written for the holiday or not. Here’s a look at five songs that were originally written about everything from heatwaves, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve, and other unrelated themes yet remain Christmas classics.

1. “Jingle Bells” (1850)

Right from the start, “Jingle Bells,” originally written by James Lord Pierpont in 1950, depicts the perfect wintry day of sleighing and singing holiday songs: Dashing through the snow / In a one-horse open sleigh / O’er the fields we go / Laughing all the way. Despite its holiday-like theme, the song, which was originally published under the title “The One Horse Open Sleigh” in September 1857, was never linked to Christmas at all. Originally, the song could have been written by Pierpont for his father’s Sunday school choir to sing in church during Thanksgiving. “Jingle Bells” may also have been a drinking song. The song was said to have been sung in drinking establishments by men clinking their tankards like bells. Recorded and covered nearly 2,000 times with the first recording by the Edison Male Quartette in 1898 and later by the Shannon Quartet in 1925, by 1943 Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters made the song a hit, taking it to No. 19 on the charts and selling more than a million copies.

2. “Deck the Halls” (1862)

“Deck the Halls” has always been associated with Christmas but it originally started as as a New Year’s Eve carol. Dating back to the 16th century, the song started as a Welsh melody linked to the seasonal carol “Nos Galan,” which was originally a New Year’s Eve carol published in 1794 with the lyrics: The best pleasure on New Year’s Eve / Is house and fire and a pleasant family. In 1862, English lyrics were later added to the song by Thomas Oliphant, and “Deck the Halls,” as it was later titled, was on its way to becoming a Christmas classic with all its Fa la la la la las and its references of yuletide carols, decorating with boughs of holly, and other merriments.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la, la la la la Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la, la la la la Don we now our gay apparel, Fa la la la la, la la la la Troll the ancient Yuletide carol, Fa la la la la, la la la la See the blazing Yule before us, Fa la la la la, la la la la Strike the harp and join the chorus. Fa la la la la, la la la la Follow me in merry measure

The holiday carol was first recorded as instrumentals by William H. Reitz in 1927 as “Deck the Hall” and later as “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly” by Percy Faith and His Orchestra in 1954 before later versions by Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, and hundreds more.

3. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (1944)

Frank Loesser’s 1944 hit “Baby It’s Cold Outside” never mentions the holidays at all and was originally written by him to sing with his wife during their housewarming party in New York City, when the couple gently wanted to tell guests it was time to leave. The call and response lyrics play as a duet between two people with a line from the guest and a response from the host. The host pleads with the guest to stay for a romantic evening since it’s too cold outside. Once Loesser sold the song to MGM, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was featured in the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter, starring Red Skelton, Esther Williams, and Ricardo Montalbán, and became a Christmas classic soon after. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” also picked up an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1950. Covered nearly 500 times, some of the most popular earlier versions of the song were recorded by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan in 1949 and by Dean Martin and Marilyn Maxwell a decade later.

4. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (1945)

Originally recorded by Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra, “Let It Snow!” became a hit by Christmas of 1945, topping the Billboard Best Sellers” music chart for five weeks, but it was originally inspired by a California heatwave. Written by lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne, “Let It Snow!” during a particularly hot season in Hollywood, California as the writers desperately longed for cooler weather. Though Christmas is never mentioned in the lyrics of “Let It Snow,” it has remained a holiday staple for nearly a century.

5. “Frosty the Snowman” (1950)

Written by Walter Rollins and Steve Nelson in 1950, “Frosty the Snowman” was first recorded by Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys in 1950 and later by Jimmy Durante, both went to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Nat King Cole also took his rendition to No. 9 that same year. In 1963, the Ronettes released their glorious version of the holiday classic, but “Frosty the Snowman” wasn’t an intentional Christmas song. The song is more of a fairytale following a group of children who go on a series of adventures—down the village square—after bringing a snowman to life with a magical hat.

Frosty the Snowman Is a fairytale, they say He was made of snow But the children know How he came to life one day

There must have been some magic in That old silk hat they found For when they placed it on his head He began to dance around

Meet the writers behind “Frosty the Snowman”

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