Betcha didn’t know: One of the most popular Christmas songs is really about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis


The following contains partial editorial content which is the opinion of the author.

A fascinating report in Smithsonian Magazine has shed some light on one of the most popular Christmas song, long a favorite of this author, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

One of the more popular versions features the legendary Bing Crosby singing the classic, which paints a picture of the Nativity through the eyes of a little lamb. One of the iconic lines in the song is, “Pray for peace, people everywhere.” Great words.

The only thing is, Smithsonian notes is that the song wasn’t in fact about the Nativity…it was about the Cuban Missile Crisis, the October, 1962 debacle that brought the U.S. and the Soviet Union as close to nuclear war as has been experienced in the post-World War II era.

The song was written by the husband and wife team of Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne, who collaborated on the lyrics, according to Reba A. Wissner writing in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. A journey through the lyrics paints a picture which shows the double meaning of the words.

For example, one of the lyrics speaks to “a star, dancing in the night, with a tail as big as a kite,” which on its face seems to represent the Bethlehem star, which guided the Magi to the holy city.

However the secondary (and intended) meaning of the image is that of an ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) soaring through the heavens.

In a 2019 interview, Gabrielle Regney, daughter of the lyricists, told WGBH’s Curiosity Desk that “the star was meant to be a bomb.”

For those unfamiliar, the Cuban Missile Crisis took place after ICBM bases placed by the Soviet Union were placed in Cuba, a mere 90 miles from the United States.

President John F. Kennedy, in the preeminent moment in his brief term as president, demanded the Soviets remove the missiles from the communist island due to its proximity to the United States.

Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev refused to back down. Warships from both nations were engaged in a tense standoff, only miles from each other. One misstep would have led to war, probably World War III and with it the potential Armageddon spoken of in Revelations.

According to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Kennedy addressed an apprehensive nation on October 22, 1962, and warned the American people the seriousness of the situation, and how much danger they would be in should the missiles, with advanced capabilities be launches.

While this was going on, Regney was asked to write a song which would be located on the “B” side of a single record, or 45 as they were known back then. Regney, who was born in France but was recruited by Germany during the Second World War was able to escape and joined the French resistance. That experience left a mark which would follow him throughout his life.

Gabrielle recalled that experience had a profound effect on her father, scarring him.

“He had to do some pretty hard things to get himself out of that,” she said. “Things that I think really much scarred him.”

Regney was concerned about the events taking place only 90 miles away from the Florida coast. One day in New York City, as he was leaving a recording studio in the city he started considering the request to write the song, with the threat of nuclear war hanging over the country and on the mind of he and a majority of Americans.

He also had great dislike for what he felt was the recent commercialization of the Christmas holiday.

Regney passed by women pushing strollers down the street, the innocent children sitting inside, looking at each other, and smiling as they passed. That was the inspiration for the song’s first line, reported The Atlantic in 2015- “Said the night wind to the little lamb.”

“Enroute to my home, I saw two mothers with their babies in strollers,” Regney recalled. “The little angels were looking at each other and smiling.”

The thought occurred to Regney about what would happen to those innocent children if the Unites States were attacked. Upon arriving home, Regney had the song already written inside his head. Moreover, he liked the lyrics, but didn’t like the melody he had written.

Typically, Regney wrote the melodies for songs they produced while Shayne wrote the words. In this case, they swapped roles, with Regney writing the words and Shayne the music, he told the New York Times in a 1985 interview.

Reba Wissner, writing in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a musicologist at Columbus State University, noted the lyrics in the song all had “a double meaning or serves as an allegory for something else.”

“…the child shivering in the cold referring to the children who would almost certainly be killed in a nuclear attack, silver and gold as the human cost of war.”

She noted the song has a number of elements found in traditional Christmas songs, with “every stanza of text [is] set to the same music,” call and response elements and shifts in volume and pitch in each stanza,” which she said hid the meaning of what the song truly represents.

According to Gabrielle Regney, so much did her parents feel the impending doom of the Cuban Missile Crisis and with it the carnage that could possibly follow if nuclear war broke out, they couldn’t even get through singing the song without crying.

The song was first recorded by the Harry Simeone Chorale, the same group which sang “The Little Drummer Boy,” with an initial pressing of some 250,000 copies which sold out only weeks after the song’s release. Fortunately, only days after the song was released, cooler heads prevailed and World War III was averted, although the threat of nuclear war was still ever present.

The most famous version of the song was the one mentioned at the beginning of this article, that of Bing Crosby one year after its initial release. The song remain one of the most popular Christmas songs, and sold over one million copies when it was released.

Most people today don’t know the song’s origins, and until today neither did we. In a 1985 interview with the New York Times, Regney said:

“I am amazed that people can think they know the song, and not know it is a prayer for peace. But we are so bombarded by sound and our attention spans are so short that we now listen only to catchy beginnings.”

“Do You Hear What I Hear” was a timely song in 1962 when it was written, and it is as important and poignant today as it was back then.

Today, the so-called “Doomsday Clock” sits at 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been to nuclear Armageddon.

“Pray for peace, people everywhere!”

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In case you missed it, below is a recent report we filed about war drums sounding with Russia (the former Soviet Union). For more on that, we invite you to:


UKRAINE- Around a week ago, our illustrious president Joe Biden called Russian president Vladimir Putin and “warned” him against launching an invasion against Ukraine.

On Sunday, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz said Putin responded by giving Biden what amounted to a double-barreled middle finger, deploying an additional 10,000 troops to Russia’s border with Ukraine. Such is what Putin apparently thinks about Biden.

After all, Biden was vice-president when then-President Barack Obama issued his infamous “red-line” admonition against Syria, a warning that went largely unheeded. Clearly, Putin has no worries that Biden will respond if Putin doesn’t back down and does in fact invade Ukraine.

Now, according to Britain’s Express, it appears that Ukraine has come to the realization that it’s not a matter of if, but when that Putin attacks that country. The outlet reports that the Eastern European nation has opened bomb shelters in the capital city of Kyiv as Russia continues to saber rattle.

The outlet reports that this past Wednesday, a Ukrainian minister, and former top spy expressed his belief that should Putin indeed invade Ukraine, there is a strong possibility the conflict could lead to a global-wide war.

According to Major General Laputina, “The spreading of war in case of Russian invasion to Ukraine—will be much wider than Ukraine. If Russia will invade you know, you should also take care about the Balkans,” he said.

“What Russians are doing now in Serbia—they try to provoke a situation in the Balkans. But we also take into account [the beginning of] World War II.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration, when they’re not busy destroying the economy and forcing Americans out of work who refuse to subject themselves to what amounts to an experimental jab, warned that Putin will bear the blame for Russian soldiers “coming home in body bags” if he invades Ukraine.

On Friday, according to the Washington Examiner, a senior administration official told reporters that “The Russian people don’t need a war with Ukraine.”

“They don’t need their sons coming home in body bags. They don’t need another foreign adventure…so we hope that President Putin will take this opportunity for diplomacy and will also listen to the needs of his own people.”

In Moscow, a proposal referred to as a “draft treaty” has been put forward as a possible resolution to the standoff, which has increased exponentially over the past several weeks as Putin has deployed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border.

However the proposed draft would appear to be a non-starter, as it demands NATO agree to never admit Ukraine to the regional defense alliance, and even more, it demands removal of U.S. and Western European forces from Central and Eastern Europe—a de facto breakup of the organization.

That demand was dismissed outright by at least one Baltic official, who told the Examiner on condition of anonymity that, “If a country wants to leave NATO, then, of course, it’s a sovereign decision by any democratic country…it’s not a decision that’s up to Russia.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, according to the Examiner, pushed American officials “to regard the Russian proposals with the utmost seriousness” to mitigate the risk of a military outbreak.

“The global situation remains rather tense, and it in our best interests to find ways to resolve this,’ he said via state media. “We are interested in peace and stability on the European continent. Russian President Putin has repeatedly stated that we do not need conflicts.”

The senior administration official, who was not named by the Examiner, lay blame for the potential conflict squarely on Putin.

“We remain gravely concerned with the large and unprovoked Russian buildup on Ukraine’s borders. If there is any further aggression against Ukraine, that will  have massive consequences and will carry a high price.”

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Meanwhile, Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said earlier this month:

“Our intelligence analyses all scenarios, including the worst. It notes that the likelihood of a large-scale escalation from Russia exists. The most likely time to reach readiness for an escalation will be the end of January.”

More ominous, it appears Russia has found a new partner in a proposed security alliance…China. On Wednesday, the two countries announced the formation of such an arrangement.

China’s President Xi Jinping, in addressing the deal said:

“At present, certain international forces under the guise of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ are interfering in the internal affairs of China and Russia and brutally trampling on international law and recognized norms of international relations.

“China and Russia should increase their joint efforts to more effectively safeguard the security interests of both parties.”

Meanwhile, Putin told the Chinese president:

“A new model of cooperation has been formed between our countries, based among other things, on such principles as non-interference in internal affairs and respect for each other’s interests.”

In light of that new alliance between Russia and China, it appears that any move by NATO against Russia involving Ukraine is likely to lead to a global conflagration such as has never been seen.

This is especially true since previous global conflicts, such as World Wars I and II took place largely away from the American homeland.

Given the fact that both Russia and China have been aggressively modernizing their nuclear arsenal and developing delivery systems such as hypersonic missiles, the insinuation that it would only be Russia sending people home in body bags is disingenuous at best and ignorant at worst.

Putin views the addition of countries such as Poland and Estonia to NATO as a security threat to Russia and was done in violation of promises made decades ago not to expand NATO. Western officials, however deny that such a promise was made, an assertion backed up by former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Meanwhile, Ryabkov asserts that claims by NATO leaders that countries seek admittance to the alliance to protect against possible Russian invasion is absurd.

“This stance doesn’t help,” he said on Friday. “We put forward proposals, the other side puts forward ultimatums, and dangerous activity is being continued under the pretext of these ultimatums and dangerous activity which has a negative impact on our security interests. We can’t tolerate it any longer.”

Under the current Russian proposal, it calls for U.S. and Western European withdrawal of military forces from a number of NATO member states:

“The Russian Federation and all the Parties that were member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as of 27 May 1997, respectively, shall not deploy military forces and weaponry on the territory of any of the other States in Europe in addition to the forces stationed on that territory as of 27 May 1997.”

Under that proposal, 10 countries that joined NATO after that date would lose their allied military presence. The significance of that date marked the signing of the NATO-Russia Founding Act and predates two rounds of NATO expansion.

“There are no different layers of security among NATO member-states,” the Baltic official said, who is affiliated with one of seven countries who joined NATO in 2004. “It goes against NATO principles and probably even the NATO treaty, so it can’t be even on the negotiating table.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration accuses Russia of making disingenuous proposals. “There are some things in those documents that Russians know will be unacceptable,” the official said. “They know that. But there are other things that we are prepared to work with and that merit some discussion,” the Examiner reported.

The official notes that a number of demands contained within the Russian document suggests that country is seeking a pretext for an attack on Ukraine.

“If Russia wants to invade Ukraine, it has to build up public opinion [to be] less hostile to the invasion,” the official said. “So one of the steps is to show: ‘Look, we proposed we don’t feel secure, we had security concerns we proposed to the West, but the West didn’t listen to us.’”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appears to have been pushing that narrative, noting that if countries have a right to join NATO, Russia therefore must be “able to define its own interest go guarantee their security.”

On Friday, the Biden administration stated “that de-escalation is absolutely essential” if Russia is looking to have serious discussions about security issues.

“We are consulting with allies and partners now, including at NATO, on the issue of formats and how to address the menu of issues of interest to Russia, as well as the menu of issues of interest to us,” the senior administration official said.

“But again, we will have also, I would guess, quite a list of our own concerns about Russia’s posture and behavior that we will want to bring to the table as well.”

Clearly, both Russia and China have recognized the ineptness and weakness of Joe Biden, along with his dearth of support from the American people. Should the United States choose to somehow get involved in this Ukraine mess, Biden’s poll numbers now would look immense compared to where they would be.

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