Dreaming of a White Christmas

Quoting a holiday classic to share the sentiments of the season.

One of the most famous holiday songs of all time captures a happy moment from holidays past, and the yearning for that moment. It’s timeless, and yet it was introduced at a difficult time early in the Second World War by American singer/actor, Bing Crosby.

In December 1941, the Americans join the Second World War after they are attacked at Pearl Harbor. The Canadians sent to Hong Kong, including members of the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada, also find themselves under attack by the Japanese. As the holidays approach, nearly 1,000 Winnipeg families keep their ears to the radio and their eyes to the newspapers to get the latest news of the battle, hoping and praying for their loved ones caught up in the fighting. In movie theatres, the horrors are all too real in the newsreels of the attack on Pearl Harbor, images to make their blood run cold.

On Christmas Eve, as the Battle of Hong Kong rages and the future is uncertain, Bing Crosby introduces a new song on his radio show. It’s White Christmas. In the moment, the song captures a common experience. People are nostalgic for happier times like the ones they used to know. They long for them, and for their loved ones overseas.

Ironically, Christmas 1941 becomes known as Black Christmas as the Canadians are defeated, and survivors are taken prisoner. Many families will not know of the fate of their loved ones for months.

The song endures. White Christmas is included in a 1942 Irving Berlin musical called Holiday Inn. It wins the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1943.

When a fellow Winnipeg Grenadier and dear friend of one of the Dickies From Gunton: Canadian Brothers in Two World Wars, is returning home in the fall of 1945, a girl sings him some of the popular songs he has missed. White Christmas brings tears to his eyes.

In 1954, the song becomes the title track of another Irving Berlin musical, White Christmas. This holiday season, all of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who defended Hong Kong are gone, but both the song and the movie continue on as holiday classics.

“May your days be merry and bright. And may all your Christmases be white.”