Last week, as I was casually glancing through the headlines showing on CNN, I noticed the name Irving Berlin. Now, a quick history of my family will allow you to understand my infatuation with Irving Berlin, the composer of the songs from the movie/musical White Christmas. My family celebrates Christmas, and the beginning of our Christmas season begins Thanksgiving night... with the viewing of and singing along with White Christmas. Boys, girls, old, young... it doesn't matter. The 36 of us - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents - sit and watch it together every year.
This year is the first Christmas I will spend with my new husband, and we watched it last weekend (for the second time in just these few weeks). My husband declared, "You don't have to celebrate Christmas to love this movie," and as someone who is celebrating his first Christmas this year (he's Jewish), he is right. The next day I got texts from two cousins informing me that the movie was on AMC and the quoting texts ensued... "Mutual I'm sure" followed by a "Let's just say we're doing it for a pal in the Army".
So, when I saw the article come up, I just had to read it... and was surprised to find that the first line of the article is: Who walks away from $10 million? The answer - Irving Berlin.
Irving Berlin was a Jewish Immigrant who came to the United States from Russia when he was 5 years old. Although many of the songs he is famous for are showcased in White Christmas (yes, you heard that right... a Jewish man wrote the song White Christmas), his most famous song is perhaps one you don't associate with him directly. That song is God Bless America.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Diwali... the spirit of this time of year is giving, and Irving Berlin gave a whopper. In 1938, he was asked to write a song for a CBS radio program, and he delivered with a song that provided an outlet for his love of America, and brought a nation on the brink of war to a patriotic high.
Now, where does the $10 million come in? As it turns out, when Berlin wrote the song, he wanted to make sure that because he wrote it for America, that America got the reward. He set up a fund so that every penny earned from the song would be given to make America's future bright. Every cent went to needy troops of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. This would explain why God Bless America is on the list of Boy and Girl Scout songs. Now, 73 years later, we are still reaping the benefits of this beautiful song... and hearing the message loud and clear. This is the true meaning of the season.
You can read the initial article here, and for more information on Irving Berlin and the history behind God Bless America, click here. We can learn a lot from Irving Berlin, the first lesson being that no matter what you celebrate, we can all celebrate this wonderful country we are blessed to call home.