World War II dampened everyone’s creative Christmas spirit, although Irving Berlin wrote what is considered the greatest of all contemporary Christmas songs—“White Christmas”—for one of the most popular holiday movies of all time—“Holiday Inn,” which premièred in 1942.
Thirteen years later, “Happy Holidays,” another song in the movie, would be recorded by Jo Stafford. In “Holiday Inn,” the song was performed as part of New Year’s Eve festivities, but Stafford turned it into a traditional Christmas song.
When the boys came home from the war, rationing was lifted, the baby boom began and the modern Christmas that we still celebrate shifted into high gear.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” hit the big screen in 1946 and the Nat King Cole Trio recorded “The Christmas Song” that year. Cole’s solo version, the one that we have come to know and love, would not be recorded, however, until 1953.
Woody Herman also took Sammy Cahn’s “Let It Snow” to the top of the Billboard charts in 1946.
The following year, 1947, “Miracle on 34th Street” celebrated the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and tugged at our heartstrings. Ironically, the movie was not released during the Christmas season, but six months earlier on May 2.
That same year, Gene Autry, who we often forget was a talented songwriter and recording artist, hit the airways with “Here Comes Santa Claus,” while Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters each had hits with “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” a tune that had been written in 1934 and originally recorded by Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra.