“Happy Holidays To You

Happy Holidays, Happy Holidays,

While the merry bells keep ringing,

May your every wish come true.

Happy Holidays, Happy Holidays,

May the calendar keep bringing

Happy holidays to you.”

Those are the first two stanzas of “Happy Holidays,” a song that has, over the past seven decades, become a Christmas classic.

According to various websites, the song was written by Irving Berlin in 1941 and introduced by Bing Crosby in the movie “Holiday Inn” in 1942. Crosby and Fred Astaire co-starred in the movie about an inn that was open only for holidays.

The movie has been credited with the popularization of the term “Happy Holidays,” which has, at least in the commercial and marketing world, and probably because of political correctness, replaced Merry Christmas as the accepted seasonal greeting.

Of the 12 songs sung by Crosby in the movie, “Happy Holidays” and the ever-popular “White Christmas,” which won an Academy Award in 1943 for the best original song, have become mainstays for the holiday season.

I remember the movie. I saw it as a very young teenager at Napa’s Uptown Theater, and I have watched it several times on Cable TV’s Turner Classic Movies in recent years.

I found it interesting that some of the movie scenes filmed outside the Hollywood studio were actually filmed at Monte Rio on the Russian River in Sonoma County, according to movie website IMDb.

In four days, it will be Christmas. We have put up a small tree, hung a few strings of blinking lights and our CD player is playing Christmas music. So, I guess I have as much Christmas spirit as I am going to have. Actually, when you have been on this planet for as long as I have, it isn’t easy to get into any kind of spirit.

In today’s world, department stores begin to fill endless shelves with Christmas decorations and gift items right after Halloween and not later than Thanksgiving. Advertising in the print media and television is relentless in their push to get our citizens to Christmas shop early and spend money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The holiday season in my hometown of Napa has not always been so commercial. Back during the time of the movie and during my youth, the season didn’t really start until after the first of December.

At the beginning of the holiday season, stores would alter their normal operating hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, including Saturday, to staying open at night. They were never open on Sunday.

Except for a few outlying small grocery and drug stores, all commercial enterprises were downtown along Main Street from Third to Pearl and along First Street from Brown to Randolph. So, if you wanted to go shopping, you went downtown.

The main stores for Christmas shopping were Carithers, Albert’s, JC Penney, Montgomery Ward and Woolworth (the “10 cent store”) and they were all within 2 blocks of each other. Interspersed between those department stores were hardware and furniture stores, ladies and men’s clothing shops, jewelry stores, drug stores, cafes and bars.

There were no outlying shopping centers. The Bel Air, Freeway and River Park centers and the strip malls along Jefferson Street were to come later, during the 1960s.

Back in those old days, for teenagers like me and my contemporaries, the holiday season was fun. We were on Christmas vacation from school, and most of us worked part-time for the local merchants during the holidays.

After suffering through 15 years of the Great Depression and World War II, the citizens of Napa were finally able to come to terms with the terms Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men. Christmas season was once again festive.

Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays to all, and may you have a prosperous and happy New Year.

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Jim Ford can be contacted at jwford571@gmail.com.