Your favorite Christmas song was probably written by someone Jewish

circa 1925: Russian-born US composer Irving Berlin (Israel Baline, 1888 - 1989) at the keyboard with violinist Jascha Heifetz. (Photo by Henry Guttmann Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Your favorite Christmas song was probably written by someone Jewish

It’s beginning to look a lot like… that time of the year when Christmas music is on repeat no matter where you go.

Except for maybe synagogue… but that’s not even a safe bet. As it happens, Christmas music lovers have Jews to thank. Many of those catchy Christmas tunes were written (or co-written) by Jewish artists.

White Christmas. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Let It Snow. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. Santa Baby. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

All written by Jews. 

So why would someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday be writing Christmas songs?

The simple answer: it was a straightforward way for Jews to make a living and break into the music biz. (Much like how Jews built Hollywood.)

Could it be that, despite not celebrating, Jews were happy to use their talents to write for a large popular audience? Sure. But it’s also a bit deeper than that.

Circa 1925: Russian-born US composer Irving Berlin (Israel Baline, 1888 – 1989) at the keyboard with violinist Jascha Heifetz. (Photo by Henry Guttmann Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In the first half of the 20th century, Jews weren’t welcome in many entertainment mediums, so they flocked to the industries that would take them, like comics, music and movies

The music industry was one business where Jews didn’t face overwhelming antisemitism, according to Michael Feinstein, Emmy Award-winning interpreter of American musical standards, in an interview with the Huffington Post.

Plus, you’ll notice these songs are not the ones focused on the birth of Jesus but rather the more secular themes surrounding Christmas: light, joy, snow and reindeers.

“The Christmas songs that are popular are not about Jesus, but they’re about sleigh bells and Santa and the trappings of Christmas,” Feinstein said. “They’re not religious songs.”

Christmas music became secular American music, and feels ‘patriotic’ in a sense. That’s why these Christmas songs may not sit well with some religious Christians, said Feinstein, they are now part of the fabric of our larger culture. “Any singer who is a singer of the American songbook will sing Christmas songs… We all sing them.”

As was the case with the comic book industry, Jews in music were mostly immigrants or the children of immigrants, so it’s possible that writing these arguably patriotic songs was a product of their desire to culturally assimilate.

Take, for example, Irving (Israel) Berlin who wrote “White Christmas” as well as “God Bless America.” Berlin was born in Russia and moved to the United States as a child.

Without further ado, here are 15 Christmas songs written or co-written by Jews:

Note: all the artists mentioned here are Jewish, unless otherwise noted

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Written by: George Wyle (who was born born Bernard Weissman) and Edward Pola.

White Christmas

Written by Irving Berlin

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Written by Gloria Shayne Baker (who is Jewish) and her husband, Noël Regney (not Jewish).

Let is snow! Let is snow! Let it snow!

Written by Sammy Cahn (who was born Samuel Cohen) and Jule Styne. 

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (The Christmas Song)

Written by: Mel Tormé, Robert Wells

Santa Baby

Written by Joan Javits and Phil Springer

Walkin’ In a Winter Wonderland

Written by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

By Johnny Marks

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

By Johnny Marks

A Holly, Jolly Christmas

By Johnny Marks

Run Rudolph Run

By Johnny Marks

Silver Bells

Written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston

Sleigh Ride

Lyrics by Mitchell Parish (born Michael Hyman Pashelinsky) and music by Leroy Anderson (not Jewish).

Silver and Gold

By Johnny Marks