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Classic Christmas Songs

Silver bells, red-nosed reindeers and a walks in a winter wonderland. It takes just a few bars of these Christmas classics to know that time of year is again upon us.Many songs that started out life as pop releases have since become Christmas standards and provide revellers with alternatives to traditional carols. These Christmas classics steer away from the religious aspect of the occasion, instead sparking holiday cheer with songs of parties, romantic sleigh-rides and of course, Santa Claus!

Dreamy classic Silver Bells was written as a small duet for the 1950 film The Lemon Drop Kid. Composed by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, it started its life with the dubious title Tinkle Bells, which was quickly changed when Livingston's wife pointed out the word's double meaning. Before the release of The Lemon Drop Kid, Silver Bells was released by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards. The song became such a hit that producers of the film called the actors back to refilm a longer and more elaborate version of the number. Silver Bells differs from many other Christmas songs in that it depicts the holiday in the city, rather than in the country. The writers drew inspiration from the Salvation Army bellringers who would stand outside department stores collecting for charity. Today, the song remains a firm favourite among revellers because of its glitzy and romantic depiction of Christmas in the big city.

It seems as though Rudolph has been part of Christmas forever, but the little red- nosed reindeer didn't appear until 1939. Rudolph first joined our Christmas celebrations in the form of a book by Robert May. Ten years later, May's brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks adapted the story into the song we all love today. The track was recorded by Gene Autry in 1949 and had shot to number one on the charts by Christmas. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is now firmly entrenched in pop culture, featuring in cartoons, comic books and even a feature-length movie!

After Gene Autry's recording of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer rocketed to number one, he went searching for another Christmas hit. This came the following year, in 1950, in the form of Frosty the Snowman. Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson wrote the song, which peaked at number 7, but has continued to inspire books, cartoons and TV specials throughout the years. Oddly enough, despite being a holiday classic, Rollins and Nelson's original lyrics don't make any reference to Christmas! To counter this, many cover artists have changed the last line "I'll be back again some day" to the more specific "I'll be back on Christmas Day!" Today, Frosty the Snowman even has his own MySpace page. Each year the site is flooded with messages from children all over the world wanting to share the Christmas spirit with the much-loved snowman.

It took a case of tuberculosis to bring about Christmas classic Winter Wonderland. While lyricist Dick Smith was recovering in the West Mountain Sanitarium, Pennsylvania, he was inspired to pen the song after seeing a snow covered park close to the hospital. Co-written with composer Felix Bernard, the first recording appeared in 1934 and has since been covered by over a hundred different artists. Like Frosty the Snowman, Winter Wonderland makes no direct mention of Christmas, simply referring subtly to "sleigh-bells" and conjuring up a happy, celebratory atmosphere. Particularly for those who celebrate the holiday without snow, the song invokes the magic of the fabled white Christmas and is guaranteed to remain a classic for many years to come.

Rudolph and the countless other great Christmas classics disappear from our lives for most of the year. But we know without fail, when the holly comes out and the turkey is roasted, these songs will again find their way onto our stereos and airwaves. We know that just like Frosty himself, they'll be back on Christmas Day!