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22# Behind the song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon

4 min read

Here’s the surprising history behind your favorite Christmas Carols!
What if “The Red-Nosed Reindeer”, Frosty and the “One Horse Open Sleigh” had nothing to do with Christmas?
Singing Christmas songs goes hand in hand with baking Christmas treats, listening our favorite Christmas tales, watching our favorite Christmas movies, and not only.
Like everything around this period of the year, everything has a story.
From songs that have been saved from being erased forever to not really knowing for sure where a song came from, here is the history of a few Christmas Carols you know and sing still today!

Enjoy our Advent Calendar 2022!

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🎄🎅🏻 THERE ARE ONLY 3 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS 🎅🏻🎄

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It’s not often that you get one of your favorite holiday song that’s also an anti-war ballad, but it’s not often you get an artist like John Lennon!
And his holiday track, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” showcases all his ability.

Released in 1971, the song is officially a single by the Plastic Ono Band, which was comprised of John Lennon himself and his wife, Yoko Ono, and includes the Harlem Community Choir singing delightful harmonies and background.
The single was the seventh released John Lennon song post Beatles.
It reached No. 4 in the United Kingdom, where its release was delayed until November 1972.
In 1980 when Lennon died (he was murdered), the song peaked again at No. 2 on the U.K. Singles Chart. Moreover, in a U.K. poll by ITV in December 2012, it was voted “The Nation’s Favorite Christmas Song”.
Of course, baked into the song is an anti-war message, more specifically targeting the Vietnam War.
Despite that, or perhaps because of that, the song has since become a classic on holiday radio stations and it is in all Christmas playlists.

The indelible tune came after two years of peaceful protesting by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
After the success of 1971 hit, “Imagine,” he had a personal realization that, in part, led to his Christmas song. John Lennon literally said, “Now I understand what you have to do: Put your political message across with a little honey.”
From 1963 to 1969, the Beatles had issued special recordings around Christmas directly to members of their fan club. However, after the group broke up in 1970, John Lennon was the first to release an original Christmas tune.
Later George Harrison released “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” in 1974, and Paul McCartney “Wonderful Christmastime” in 1979. Ringo Starr released his album, I Wanna Be Santa Claus, in 1999.
And our “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” began in October 1971, with a simple demo that John Lennon recorded in his suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, where he and Yoko Ono lived.
Yoko Ono received songwriting credit but she does not appear on the original demo. A second demo of the song was made later that month when they moved to another NYC apartment in Greenwich Village.
To record the track, as he’d done for prior songs, Lennon called in producer Phil Spector.
The Beatles’ Apple Records released “Happy Xmas (War Is Over”) as one side of a 7″ with the Plastic Ono Band track and “Listen, the Snow Is Falling” on the other side, in 1971, and It came out on transparent green vinyl. A dispute between John Lennon and a music publisher delayed the release in the United Kingdom until late November 1972.
In terms of the track’s content, the song begins with Yoko Ono and John Lennon wishing their children season’s greetings. Yoko whispers, “Happy Christmas, Kyoko”, and John whispers, “Happy Christmas, Julian.” And It is not, as some transcriptions have said, “Happy Christmas, Yoko. Happy Christmas, John.”

From there, John Lennon croons:
“So this is Christmas and what have you done?
Another year over, a new one just begun.
And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun,
The near and the dear one
The old and the young”

The chorus then hits and subsequently lasts in your mind forever thanks to the children’s choir:
“A very merry Christmas
And a happy new year,
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear”

John Lennon continues singing, now about the end of war, about rich and poor, Blacks and Whites and the long road ahead.
But there is one major point: stop fighting.
Let peace reign. Isn’t that the point of Christmas?
Isn’t that why we’re all celebrating it, bringing joy, trying to be good citizens?

The children’s choir continues to sing as if to jog the minds of adults:
“War is over
If you want it
War is over now

Happy Christmas!
Happy Christmas!
Happy Christmas!”

Over the years, many artists have performed cover versions of the track, including Sarah McLachlan, The Fray, Andy Williams, Celine Dion, Vanessa Carlton and Maroon 5.

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🎄🎅🏻 THERE ARE ONLY 3 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS 🎅🏻🎄

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MORE STORIES
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2018
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2019
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2020
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2021

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