Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Happy Holiday—Murfin ’s Carols for Corona and Winter Holiday Music Festival

                                            Irving Berlin's Happy Holiday by Peggy Lee.

Hanukah, which begins at sunset tomorrow night, reminds us why many folks use Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings as an alternative greeting this time of year when there are multiple holidays celebrated by different faiths.  And until not so very long ago folks were just fine with that.  Then came the ludicrous and entirely mythical War on Christmas which was cooked up by right wing propagandists as a hand grenade to be lobbed at Jews, secularists, and liberals to rally conservative Evangelicals and Catholics to a real culture war.  Now enraged guys in MAGA hats are out screaming at harried retail clerks, filling newspaper letters to the editor columns with vitriol, and of course trolling social media.  So much for the season of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.

Happy Holiday was the opening number of the Irving Berlin movie musical Holiday Inn 

Irving Berlin penned the song Happy Holiday for the 1942 Paramount musical Holiday Inn staring starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, with Marjorie Reynolds, and Virginia Dale.  It was a frothy confection thin on plot but featuring a dozen of Berlin’s holiday themed songs including the introduction of the secular classic White Christmas and Easter Parade.  The song Happy Holiday commonly regarded as a Christmas song, was performed as the movie’s opening number on New Year’s Eve, and expressed a wish to enjoy “happy holidays” throughout the entire year.  Recorded many times by various artists it was called the plural Happy Holidays as often as not.

It is unclear if Berlin, a very secular Jew married to a Catholic woman, had a broader sense of holiday inclusion when he wrote the song.  But many have embraced Happy Holidays as a cheerfully inclusive seasonal song.

But it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the song became a staple of holiday albums.  Jo Stafford was the first to release it on a Christmas album in 1955.  In 1963 Andy Williams sang it in a medley with The Holiday Season Kay Thompson on his album and it has become an oft-played staple of specialty Christmas radio.

Peggy Lee's Happy Holiday album cover as re-mastered for stereo.

Two years later sultry jazz chanteuse Peggy Lee included it as Happy Holliday on her album of the same name.  It became her seasonal signature song and was repackaged on several other albums.  The version we are sharing today features a charming animation that is currently making the rounds.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays plural!

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