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The Story Behind the Song: White Christmas

The most popular Christmas song of all time was written on the eve of America’s entry into World War II.

In 1940, hit composer Irving Berlin, best known for “God Bless America,” was commissioned to write a Christmas song for a new movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.

Berlin found the assignment a challenge for two reasons: As a Jewish man who had grown up in an Orthodox household, he had no real experience with Christmas. And 12 years earlier, his three-week-old son had died at Christmastime.

But Berlin persisted, and when he was finished, he told his secretary, “Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote.”

On Christmas Day, 1941, popular crooner Bing Crosby debuted the song on the radio just a few weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Throughout the war, it was the most requested song from soldiers abroad. Berlin won an Academy Award, and “White Christmas” went on to be the bestselling song of all time.

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