Rudolph got his start in advertising
snomedia/Shutterstock In 1939, with the Great Depression starting to fade and World War II lurking, Christmas cheer was in short supply. Montgomery Ward department store HQ took it upon themselves to get children and families into the holiday spirit by creating a free book for kids. Adman Robert May came up with the idea of a reindeer as his main character. According to History.com, “As he peered out at the thick fog that had drifted off Lake Michigan, May came up with the idea of a misfit reindeer ostracized because of his luminescent nose, who used his physical abnormality to guide Santa’s sleigh and save Christmas.”
As a limerick writer, May loved alliteration; he brainstormed different names that began with the letter “R” like Reginald and Rodney. Luckily Rudolph stuck because singing about “Rollo the Red-Nosed Reindeer”—another of his tries—just wouldn’t be the same. The book was a huge success for Montgomery Ward, but they signed over the copyright to May in 1947. Two years later, May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks, a songwriter, put Rudolph’s story to music life. History.com notes that Bing Crosby was given the first crack to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” but Gene Autry recorded the song after Crosby turned it down. That was a big mistake since two million copies were sold and the song continues to be one of the best-selling of all time. Check out these true stories of Christmas miracles.
Sleigh rides in July
Andrzej Fryda/Shutterstock It’s been 60 years since Leroy Anderson wrote “Sleigh Ride,” yet it remains one of our favorite Christmas songs. The song has been named the most popular piece of Christmas music in the United States every year between 2009 and 2012, and again in 2015 by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. That’s pretty impressive considering Christmas isn’t even mentioned in the lyrics. According to LeroyAndersonFoundation.org, “Leroy didn’t set out to write a Christmas piece when he wrote ‘Sleigh Ride.’ His intentions were to convey the entire winter season through the imagery of a sleigh ride, much in the way that Mozart did with his piece of the same name,” shared the composer’s widow Eleanor Anderson. Despite that, singing “Sleigh Ride”—just as baking Christmas cookies and other holiday traditions—has become synonymous with spreading cheer.
Christmas in July anyone? The inspiration for the song didn’t even occur during the winter. It was during a July heat wave and drought, while Leroy was working out in the yard of his summer home in Connecticut, that the idea came to him. The song premiered on May 4, 1948 by the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston. Read more about the history of 10 Christmas traditions.