The most popular Christmas carol in America is different from many other Christmas songs in a number of ways. It’s not happy or upbeat, there are no magical characters, and it's not religious. Instead, it’s melancholic, sad, wistful and full of longing for bygone days.
Irving Berlin’s 'White Christmas' was first played on a radio show on Christmas Day, 1941. But the feeling of longing and coziness of the song had a much deeper meaning that day. Families tuning in to that broadcast were thinking about the tragic event that happened just 18 days before: the Pearl Harbor attack. By the following winter, young American troops again found themselves overseas during the holidays. To comfort them and remind them of what they were fighting for, Armed Forces radio played 'White Christmas' over and over to remind them of home.
Bing Crosby recorded the song for distribution in 1942. When Crosby traveled overseas to perform for the troops, the carol was always the most requested. By the end of the war, White Christmas was the best-selling song of all time and held that distinction for another 56 years, and was only surpassed by Elton John’s remake of “Candle in the Wind” which was recorded when Princess Diana died in 1997.
After 72 years, it’s still the best-selling Christmas song of all time.