Column, Living the Dream

Revisiting ‘White Christmas’

By Merisa Sherman

“Vermont must be beautiful this time of year …all that snow.”

What a great way to trick your best friend into heading up to Vermont for the holidays! The phrase gets repeated over and over again throughout the movie, as Danny Kaye successfully manipulates Bing Crosby into changing their plans from New York to Vermont. Crosby’s character repeatedly protests the change of plans, arguing they have work to do and commitments to keep. He’s cranky, having to pay for his tickets twice while two beautiful blonde sisters take over his sleeping compartment.

But Danny Kaye is quick to remind the ornery Bing that Vermont must be beautiful this time of year, all that snow. And, as they say, repetition is the key to changing one’s thoughts and patterns, because Bing slowly starts to change his tune when seated at a small table in the club car with two of the most beautiful women of the era: Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney. He finally gives in:

“It might not be bad at that, you know. The snow covered slopes, the skiing, the christianas, and the stemming and the platzing and the schussing. Hot buttered rum — light on the butter. And snow!”

And then the four of them break into a song that, to this day, pops into my head as I lay myself down to sleep the night before a powder day. While I have never washed my hair with snow, I do seem to recall being introduced to the wonderful tradition of a white wash on my birthday one year. You know, where a friend takes a bunch of fresh snow and rubs it in your face while screaming “happy birthday” with such glee that you cannot help but laugh even as your face freezes.

“White Christmas” is, in my mind, the most greatest holiday movie of all time. It’s the basis for every single Hallmark Channel movie: cranky New Yorker is forced to spend the holidays at a quaint Vermont inn and reluctantly falls in love. And, of course, when they get to Vermont, there isn’t any snow at all. “We haven’t had snow since Thanksgiving,” the train guy says at the station. And I always laugh at that. Everything is stark brown — until the final scene when the snow comes pummeling down and everything is wonderful again.

Could this movie get any more Vermont-y? Wasn’t that just what happened this past week? My car literally had mud up to the windows from the rain; back to mud season… There was no snow to speak of, except for the white stripes that the snowmakers had made. And then we piled 12 inches of fresh powder on top of that. More often than not, we do have that White Christmas we’re always dreaming of — but remember a few years ago when we were wearing shorts and flip flops?

I just love it so much. The song “White Christmas” was written in 1942 by Jewish immigrant Irving Berlin for the unfortunately racist film, “Holiday Inn.” It was the first secular Christmas song and its inclusivity has stood the test of time over the years, and Bing Crosby’s melancholic version became the No. 2 song of the 20th Century (after “Somewhere over the Rainbow” with Judy Garland). Written during World War II, the troops overseas loved the song for its nostalgia and the remembrances of their families back in the states. Crosby would sing the song at U.S.O. shows throughout the war, while G.I.s had tears running down their faces. It defined a generation, but also their children and grandchildren.

When the movie “White Christmas” came out in 1954, audiences were primed and ready. The opening scene pays tribute to the song’s origins, having Bing sing to his fellow soldiers in the middle of a war zone. It’s eerily quiet as the accompanying music comes from a wind up box. And then to take the storyline from that moment to skiing in Vermont, with all that Christmas snow … now that is some movie magic!

And what’s even cooler? Living here means that we get to live that movie and that song every single year. As all the snow melted under the rain last week, I actually found myself mumbling, “Vermont must be beautiful this time of year … all that snow.” But then I look at the 14 foot tall Christmas tree at the Birch Ridge Inn, I can see the snow falling down behind it, just like the final scene in “White Christmas.” The treetops glisten, and this Wednesday children will listen to sleigh bells as Operation Santa Convoy parades through the region.

As Bing Crosby so artfully sang, “I’d love to stay up with you but I recommend a little shut eye. Go to sleep. And dream. Of snow, snow, snow snow, snow!”

From my family to yours, may all your Christmases be white!

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