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Christmas, holiday music: Secret facts about popular festive songs

Do you know the history of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" How about that the epic "Silent Night" isn't originally an English song? What was "Little Drummer Boy" originally called? Is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra really from Siberia? Spoiler: No. Here are facts about Christmas and holiday songs you probably didn't know.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

What does
Photo Credit: AP

What does "Do You Hear What I Hear" have to do with Fidel Castro? Everything, apparently. The song, which features a little lamb, a star dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite and a shepherd boy, was written in 1962 by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker as a plea for peace during the Cuban missile crisis. Castro, left, and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev hug at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 20, 1960.

Silver Bells

Silver Bells, written by Jay Livingston and Ray
Photo Credit: Flickr / Mike

Silver Bells, written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. The original title? "Tinkle Bells." The title was changed when Livingston's wife told him about the double meaning of tinkle.

Silent Night

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Wilfried Wittkowsky

"Silent Night" is one of the most recognizable songs at Christmas Mass and on a radio playing non-stop holiday music. While most people recognize the lyrics "Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright," the original lyrics are "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, alles schlaft, einsam wacht." The song was originally written in German in 1816 by Father Joseph Mohr, a Catholic priest in Austria. Two years later, it was set to music by Franz Gruber. It was translated into English by John Freeman Young of Manhattan's Trinity Church. Pictured is the legendary Roger Whittaker, who performed "Silent Night" in German. He is seen at a concert given at the Weser-Ems-Hall at Oldenburg in Lower Saxony, Germany in 1976.

Jingle Bells

The song
Photo Credit: AP

The song "Jingle Bells" was written in the 1850s for a Unitarian church by James Lord Pierpont, but it wasn't written for Christmas. It was originally written for Thanksgiving, and called "One Horse Open Sleigh." Pictured aren't horses, however. Those are dogs getting in on the fun at the 2010 Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Little Drummer Boy

Photo Credit: Frank Boston

"Little Drummer Boy" was originally called "Carol of the Drums." Katherine Davis wrote the song based off a Czech carol in 1941. It became famous 17 years later when it was recorded by the Harry Simeone Chorale.

White Christmas

Photo Credit: AP

"White Christmas" is the top-selling Christmas song of all time. The song was written by Irving Berlin, a Russian Jewish immigrant who also wrote "God Bless America."

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Trans-Siberian Orchestra are well known for their holiday-themed
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Anna Webber

Trans-Siberian Orchestra are well known for their holiday-themed rock operas, including the wildly popular on radio "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo," "Christmas Canon" and "Wizards of Winter." The band is not from Siberia or Sarejevo. They're based in New York, and were conceived by Paul O'Neill of Manhattan. O'Neill began his career as a guitar player for the touring productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair, according to the company's official website.

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