The New Strangeness Of White Christmas

Certain songs bring you back, to a memory of a bygone place or time. One holiday song in particular does this and will continue to do that for the foreseeable future: Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”

The reason goes in two, very opposite directions emblematic of Trump’s America: one represents the “Make America Great Again” philosophy of white pride while the other represents future leaning liberal people’s cry to combat climate change.

For context, “White Christmas” was written by Irving Berlin and made a hit by Bing Crosby. The song was first performed on the radio in 1941 and went on to become “the best-selling single of all time.” The success came from tickling homesick and longing Americans during World War II, reminding people that, yes, home waits for you, snuggly and snowy, full of Christmas joy.

(While there was a movie of the same name featuring the song this reading of “White Christmas” is strictly of the song.)

This brings us to the first theory of “White Christmas”‘ new context: it represents Trump’s dialing back the clock and focusing in on “the old days.” The time this song came out was before The Civil Rights Act, at a time when Americans of color fought for the country despite a lack of equality. This was a time for certain women to excel at work but represented their struggles despite advances. Flash forward to today, looking at Trump’s incoming White House, and it becomes clear what this song could represent: a return to old America, where the emphasis on “White Christmas” is on the color instead of the attitude. It all suggests that which we have to push hard against: “Make America White Again.”

On the flip side of this, “White Christmas” represents a different type of nostalgia: for a time when it actually could snow. It’s a song that now represents a part of time when Christmases were white instead of wet or sweaty. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” Crosby sings. “Just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten and children listen, to hear sleigh bells in the snow.” Could this still happen? Yes, maybe—but not in the same way, not in a “normal” way.

The song carries a different type of nostalgia for people born before 2010, who lived when weather was relatively “normal” before heating or cooling to the point that we’re at. Yes, there is still a probability of white Christmas happening in some areas but Christmas is melting, we’re living in the warmest years ever, and the coldest, most traditionally “white” parts of the globe are disappearing. As Crosby sings about this dream of a snowy holiday then, now we are in a time when a snowy holiday could be exactly that: a dream, a memory, a symbol of the past lost, to never return.

Regardless, climate change is killing traditional Christmas. If that doesn’t urge conservatives to take the war on Christmas in a new direction, I don’t know what will.

“White Christmas” is a song infused with memories for everyone and it will continue to evolve, likely toward a nightmare. Be it a backhanded white pride anthem or a mourning of our environment, you can’t listen to the song in 2016 without a cold, sweaty shudder suggesting that times are weird. It’s a bitter reminder of how things “once were” and will be, all smothered by the weight of American history.

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