The Parallel Christian Society Podcast

How Christmas Music Went From Sacred to Secular

November 21, 2023 Andrew Torba Season 1 Episode 5
The Parallel Christian Society Podcast
How Christmas Music Went From Sacred to Secular
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered about the origins of the Christmas music that's become a staple in most households during the festive season? This episode of the Parallel Christian Society podcast promises to be an enlightening foray into the evolution and impact of Christmas tunes. In this episode we trace the journey of Christmas music from its religious roots through to its modern secular incarnations. 

We'll also delve into the influence of Jewish songwriters on Christmas music, using Irving Berlin's classic "White Christmas" as one example. Throughout our exploration, we'll discuss the intriguing paradox of Christmas songs written by Jewish songwriters as a means to secularize and de-Christianize the holiday, while simultaneously expressing pride in Jewish identity. The conversation will underscore the importance of intentionality in our music choices - a powerful tool in creating a parallel Christian society. Prepare for a thought-provoking dialogue that will encourage you to contemplate the music that fills your home throughout the year and the messages conveyed to your family. This episode is bound to make you reconsider your Christmas playlist.

Article that was referenced: https://web.archive.org/web/20221218191315/https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/2012-12-10/ty-article/.premium/chemi-shalev-bar-refaelis-chrismukkah/0000017f-ef02-d0f7-a9ff-efc7ef260000

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Andrew Torba:

What's going on folks? Andrew Torba here. Ceo of GAB. com. Welcome to the Parallel Christian Society podcast. I have an awesome episode for you today. We're talking about something that we as Christians love, which is Christmas. We celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Andrew Torba:

My wife started playing Christmas music, probably about two weeks ago, around the house. I had posted this on GAB and the community was pretty divided. Some people said it was too early, some people said they were also playing Christmas music. There seems to be a little bit of a controversy here about when is the right time to play Christmas music. I wanted to dive into today something that I've been thinking about in particular this year, as I have three young children four, two and six months. As I'm thinking about how I'm raising my children, how I'm discipling my children, one of the things that struck me this year is just how Christless a lot of the most popular quote unquote Christmas music is.

Andrew Torba:

I started to dive into this a little bit. I wanted to know the origins of how we went from singing about the birth of Christ to singing about snowmen and reindeer and all of these things that have absolutely nothing to do with the birth of our Lord and Savior. I wanted to encourage you to be mindful and play and select the Christmas music especially if you have young children with intent, because these songs that you're playing for your children are going to be sort of ingrained in their mind. When they think of Christmas, are they going to think of Frosty the snowman or are they going to think of our Lord and Savior, jesus Christ? It sounds silly, it's something that. What's the harm Singing about Frosty the snowman or singing about a reindeer or whatever? What's the harm in allowing our children to listen to these things? The truth of the matter is that music has such a profound impact and it leaves such an indelible mark in our memories, especially the memories of our childhood. We want those memories of Christmas time to be about our Lord and Savior, jesus Christ, because that is what Christmas time is about. It's not about a snowman, it's not about a reindeer. When we dive into the origins of how we got here and why our culture American culture in particular, and now this culture has been exported around the world how we got to this point, how did we go from Christmas songs like O'combe, o'combe, emmanuel this is a hymn that reflects the anticipation of Jesus' coming.

Andrew Torba:

Silent Night. This is a classic that celebrates the peace and serenity of Christ's birth. Hark the Herald Angels Sing Another one. The song's lyrics are about Christ's birth, fulfilling God's promises. A little town of Bethlehem. This is a carol that focuses on the historical setting of Jesus's birth joy to the world. While this is often seen as a song about Christ's Second Coming, it could also be about Christ's birth, the First Noel. This song narrates the story of the first Christmas. Angels we have heard on high celebrating the angelic announcement of Christ's birth. A way in a manger, a simple, humble reflection on the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Andrew Torba:

All of these songs, all of these classic Christmas carols, have to do with the true meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of Jesus Christ. And so where did we go wrong? What caused this dramatic shift? Who's behind this? And I want to start out by saying that I have no ill will in my heart, I have no malice in my heart telling you the facts and educating you about how we got here and how these songs, these Christless Christmas songs, came into being.

Andrew Torba:

It's not really proper to call them Christmas songs. That's sort of the side-opinion of itself. Calling it a Christmas song is not accurate, calling Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer a Christmas song really doesn't make any sense logically when you think about it. A Christmas song has to have something to do with Christ, the birth of Christ, the kingship of Christ, and anything Songs that make zero mention of the Bible, of Christianity, these secular songs, it's really not proper to call them Christmas songs because they have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. Maybe we can call them winter songs, songs that you play in December when it gets cold out, anything, but calling them Christmas songs makes more sense, which is just logically it doesn't make sense to call these Christmas songs.

Andrew Torba:

And so I started diving into this and saying, okay, well, who wrote these songs? That's sort of the first question and what was their purpose? And what are other people saying about what their purpose is for writing these songs? And so I looked up and I found 25 different popular. I get winter songs. I'm not even going to call them Christmas songs anymore.

Andrew Torba:

Winter songs. So Winter Wonderland by Felix Bernard White. Christmas by Irving Berlin Happy holidays by Irving Berlin. I'll be home for Christmas. Walter Kent and Buck Ram and these are the writers of these songs. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow Slay, ride. Rudolph the Red Nose reindeer by Johnny Marks Baby, it's Cold Outside, silver Bells, santa Baby, and that one in particular, santa Baby. It sort of sexualizes the winter songs as well. So now we're introducing the sexualization, and this actually happened in 1953, that song was written Home for the holidays, rocking around the Christmas tree. Another one by Johnny Marks Do you hear what I hear? It's the most wonderful time of the year, a holly, jolly Christmas. Christmas time is here.

Andrew Torba:

All of these songs. They even use the word Christmas, but they have nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Some of them even use the word Christmas in the title in the song, but they have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Christmas time is here. You're a mean one, mr Grinch. You know fictional characters, even right, like Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch, a Red Nose Reindeer, like how do we get here Every single one of these songs that I just read off, and there's more.

Andrew Torba:

We're written by Jews, and so that is a factual statement, that's not a hateful statement. Again, I hate to have to preface this because we live in a world where just stating facts is hateful, but this is the reality of this situation. Is all these songs that have nothing to do with Christ, that have nothing to do with Christianity, have nothing to do with the birth of Christ, the entire reason that we celebrate Christmas. We're all written by Jews. So they have successfully secularized a Christian holiday, one of the most holy Christian holidays that we have, which is the celebrating the incarnation and the birth of our Lord and Savior, jesus Christ, and they've successfully removed Christ from Christmas songs and they've popularized these songs over the last, you know, 60, 70 years into the mainstream consciousness of American culture. And this is now what people think about when they think about Christmas. They think about Rudolph the Red Nose reindeer, they think about Frosty the Snowman. They think about, you know, silver bells, white Christmas, anything but Jesus Christ, right, and so it's interesting.

Andrew Torba:

I found this article and it's on Herets, which is a Jewish blog now, so everything that I'm going to read to you is in their own words. So you can't call me an anti-Semite or hateful or any of these things, even though I don't really care if you do, as I talked about on previous episodes, you know I don't care what you call me. I'm going to speak the truth boldly and, you know, those who want to listen, those who have ears to hear, will hear, and whatever you want to call me, so be it, but these are the facts. Okay, so, this article is Supermodel Barr Refeli in a Santa suit.

Andrew Torba:

As part of a proud Jewish tradition, christmas and Hanukkah have evolved into central elements of Jewish American life. The new book A Kosher Christmas Tis the Season to Be Jewish, explores how this article is from December 11th 2012,. Okay, so, and keep in mind, this article is on a Jewish blog. Okay, so, anything that I'm reading here is not my own words. This is from a Jewish author, jewish journalist on a Jewish blog, talking about a Jewish book written by a Jew. Okay, so, keep that in mind. Christmas, as Platt shows, has become an occasion for Jewish volunteerism in a wide variety of areas, most notably feeding the hungry and providing other charitable assistance to the poor and the homeless. And so it continues on here, and it says Christmas, as a renowned historian, jonathan Sarna, notes in a forward to the book, has changed over the years from being a religious holiday that minorities are not a part of to a national holiday that can encompass all Americans, christian or not.

Andrew Torba:

If, as a famous advertisement once declared, you don't have to be Jewish to love Levi's real Jewish rye. Sarna writes then, by analogy, you don't have to be Christian to love Christmas. In addition to the brightly lit streets, ornate shop windows, christmas songs and holiday cheer that appeal to many American Jews, they have developed their own distinct rituals for Christmas Day, including celebrations of Jewish culture at museums and galleries, christmas Day singles dances, going to the movies, enjoying a night of comedy or, most famously, going out for Chinese food. Tracing the long history of Jewish fascination with Chinese cuisine back to the teeming immigrant tenants on Manhattan's Lower East Side a century ago, Plout shows how eating Chinese on Christmas has become a sacred tradition in which even the Orthodox Jews partake. And so you know, this is how these things have come about. You know, we even see this played out in the famous movie A Christmas Story, where they go out for Chinese right, and that is a Jewish ritual.

Andrew Torba:

According to this article, plout, ordained reform rabbi, who is the executive director of American Friends of the Rabin Medical Center, devoted his doctorate at New York University to the issue of Jews and Christians, jews and Christmas, rather, and is now considered a foremost expert on the subject. In this short, informative, illuminating book, plout traces not only the changing attitude of American Jews to Christmas, but the holiday's symbionic influence on Hanukkah as well. The eight-day Jewish festival has evolved over the past century and a half from a relatively minor holiday to becoming one of the most important landmarks on the Jewish year and a permanent feature of America's national calendar. Funny how that works, interesting. They even admit here that Hanukkah was a minor holiday, a relatively minor holiday, and out of nowhere it became the most important landmarks of the Jewish year and a permanent feature of America's national calendar. Isn't that interesting? America, a Christian nation, is celebrating Hanukkah, a holiday that Jews, in a Jewish magazine, admit was a minor holiday up until they needed it to become a major holiday in American culture. Isn't that interesting? Ever since President Jimmy Carter participated in an official menorah lighting ceremony in 1979, the presidential ceremony marking Hanukkah has assumed ever greater public prominence, moving inside the White House under Bill Clinton, turning into an annual reception for Jewish leaders under George Bush and culminating for the time being with an official presidential proclamation, which Barack Obama issued each year in both English and Hebrew. Wow, incredible, incredible, how this happened. In a Christian nation, it takes this relatively minor Jewish holiday and turns it into this prominent holiday that is celebrated in our White House. Isn't that something? Isn't it something? How fast that happened too.

Andrew Torba:

So in his book, plout recalls the American clash between 19th century German Jews who embraced Christmas and placed Christmas trees in their homes Even Theodore Herzl's home in Vienna and this guy, theodore Herzl, is sort of like the father of Zionism, it turns out and in the 20th century Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, for whom Christmas was a day of dread and fear for Christians, seeking to take revenge on quote Christ killers, eastern European Jews not only refrained from mentioning Jesus' name explicitly, but they also resorted to euphonisms. Isn't that interesting? They wouldn't even say his name, isn't that? And then they developed euphonisms to talk about our Lord and Savior, jesus Christ. Isn't that interesting? So what else here? Let's continue on.

Andrew Torba:

In any case, jewish children have come a long way since the Ford newspaper complained a little over a century ago that there's nothing sadder than a Jewish kid at Christmas. Jews were quick to absorb the Christmas tradition and subvert it, if you're asking me, because that's what it sounds like what happened here. Jews were quick to absorb the Christmas tradition. Here we go and actually turned things on their head by instituting not just one, but eight days of gift giving during Hanukkah, making Jewish kids the envy of their Christmas friends. Incredible. Hanukkah itself was fortified by the symbolism of the Zionist struggle. Ah, so that's why this minor holiday which these aren't my words, this is their words Again, I'm reminding you here that I'm reading from a Jewish author in a Jewish magazine here Okay, hanukkah itself was fortified by the symbolism of the Zionist struggle, now cast as Latter-day Maccabees fighting for independence and liberation from oppressors in Palestine, and by Israel's triumph in the Six Day War, which boosted the self-confidence and tribal identification of American Jews.

Andrew Torba:

At the same time, however, and increasingly in recent years, the Festival of Lights has also become another symbol of universal battle for democracy and religious rights, as Obama noted in this year's message and this was again, this was written in 2012. So this is an old article, so let's, let's continue on here. In much the same way, christmas itself has depleted has been depleted of its theological underpinnings in the public arena, unlike in the churches and homes of devout Christians by, by the separation of church and state, by the commercialization of the holiday and by what anti-Semites may describe as a devious Jewish plot. Yeah, noticing these things makes you an anti-Semite right and, using their own words, right, let me just read that again. Christmas itself has been depleted of its theological underpinnings in the public arena by the separation of church and state, by the commercialization of the holiday and a devious Jewish plot. This is, this is. This is their writing. This is not me saying this.

Andrew Torba:

This is the most popular Christmas song after all, like Christmas, which was written by Jewish songwriter Irving Berlin and described by author author Philip Roth as a song that de-Christ Christmas and turns it into a holiday about snow. So this is them bragging about this. Right, it's incredible, and if I pointed out, then I'm an evil anti-Semite. If you pointed out makes you a bigot and an anti-Semite. But when the Jews themselves point this out, it's something to be boastful about, something to be boastful about that the commercialization of the holiday and, in their own words, something that de-Christ Christmas and turns it into a holiday about snow, is a good thing. It's a great thing for American Jews, right, this is. This is, again, this is not me saying this, this is their own words in their own article, in their own publication.

Andrew Torba:

Okay, I was surprised to learn in the book that two of my other favorite Christmas songs were also written by Jews. Johnny Marx wrote Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and Sammy Kahn and Julie Stein wrote let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Thus, not only was a Jew responsible for Christmas in the first place, but Jews have now come around full circle to embrace Christmas by turning it into a holiday entirely of their own, one in which they share the holiday spirit with Christian Americans, but do so in a way that expresses pride in their own identity. Gone are the days when the Jews feel left out of the festivities while Christians around them celebrate it. Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable. And so, again, it's really important. You know, again I don't say this to be hateful, I don't say this to be malicious, I say this from a place of love that if you are discipling your children and you're listening to these songs, then you're helping to perpetuate the secularization and the decrusting, as they say, of Christmas, to make it into a holiday about snow, about reindeer, about snowmen, about anything but Jesus Christ. And so I would encourage you now knowing this and understanding where this came from, and understanding the agenda behind it, and the agenda they could not make more clear here in this article is to decrice Christmas and make it into a holiday about snow, and holiday that allows American Jews to express pride in their own identity. End quote.

Andrew Torba:

Okay, and so, knowing this, how can you allow your household to be filled with this music during this time of year? There are plenty of other options. Plenty of Christmas carols, you know. I read off some of them before Silent Night, hark the Herald Angels Sing A Little Town of Bethlehem. Joy to the World, the First Noel Angels we have Heard on High Away in a Manger Mary, did you Know God? In Breasty Mary. Gentlemen, there are plenty of Christmas carols that talk about our Lord and Savior, jesus Christ. These are what should be filling your home.

Andrew Torba:

If you are discipling young children right now in your home, these are the songs that they need to be hearing. These are the songs that when they hear these songs, they think of Christmas. Okay, it shouldn't be Frosty the Snowman, it shouldn't be the Grinch, it should be Jesus Christ, and I don't think it's hateful to say that, and I'm sorry if the facts about this situation and the history of how this happened offends you. I don't really care. This is the reality of the situation and now that you understand this, maybe you know before you were ignorant of this, maybe you didn't know, like I didn't right, cause I was. I had no idea. I had no idea that.

Andrew Torba:

You know, basically, a bunch of Jews wrote all of these songs to De Christ Christmas so that they could express their pride and celebrate and subvert a holiday that a holy holiday that is about the birth of our Lord and Savior, jesus Christ, whom they reject as the Messiah. And again, you know, are you allowing this stuff to fill your home during this time of year and are you allowing your children to be discipled by the Grench and by Frosty the snowman and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, or are you filling your home with Christmas carols that reflect the anticipation of Jesus' coming, celebrate the peace and serenity of Christ's birth? You know, these are the two choices that you have, and you know I'm not gonna tell you how to raise your kids, but if we're gonna build a parallel Christian society, we need to be focused on discipling our kids and the music that we are listening to and the music that, therefore, our kids are listening to, it matters. It matters, and, you know, going beyond Christmas too. What is the music that you're listening to? You know, not just around Christmas, but the entire year. Are you filling your home with music that glorifies God, that glorifies Christ, or are you filling your home with secular trash? Okay, because it matters, it really does, because your children are going to be discipled by not only by just going to church once every Sunday. You know, the music that you're listening to is going to have an influence on them and is going to disciple them, and if we wanna build a parallel Christian society, you know we need to examine these things and we need to think critically about the choices that we're making, about the music, about the TV shows, about everything that we're allowing into our home. So you know, again, it's not something that it's not something that I knew, but now that I know, you better believe that I'm going to be making wiser choices when it comes to the Christmas music that has played at my home and in front of my children, and so I encourage you to do the same.

Andrew Torba:

So that's the episode for today. You know, be sure I'm gonna encourage you, while you're still listening, to subscribe. Subscribe to the podcast so that you get new updates and new episodes, and tell a friend about it too, if you're enjoying it. And, of course, get on gabcom, the home of free speech. You know we have a fantastic community. Maybe you're listening to this and you don't know what gab is. Gab is a free speech social network. We're building a parallel Christian society. We're building a parallel economy. We have a great community of millions of people from around the world who are using gab to speak freely, engage in fellowship, engage in commerce with one another. It's a great place. Go check it out. Tell a friend about it. Thank you, guys, for tuning in, thank you for listening and remember to speak freely.

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