Pennsylvania Has Inspired Many Christmas Classics; Its Musical Stars Have Shined Singing Them

Entertainer Perry Como rehearses on set of his TV show "Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall" in New York. (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

By Patrick Abdalla

December 18, 2020

From Perry Como to Taylor Swift and “Winter Wonderland” to “Home for the Holidays,” Pennsylvania has enjoyed the spotlight.

Legend has it that Richard Smith was battling tuberculosis when he looked out the window of a sanitarium and saw kids playing in the snow.

The image jogged a memory of his childhood in Honesdale, in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Soon, he was writing the lyrics, “Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?”

Smith’s lyrics for “Winter Wonderland” were paired with Felix Bernard’s music, and in 1934 a hit was born.

Sadly, by the time the song became an annual classic, Smith had died from his disease.

But his legacy lives on through the song’s many memorable performances by the likes of Johnny Mathis and the Eurythmics. 

That’s not the only holiday classic with a Pennsylvania connection. Many holiday songs have mentioned The Keystone State, been inspired by it, or sung by its famous natives.

Pennsylvania Stars Shine Bright

Many popular musicians from the state have sung poppy Christmas hits, joyous Christmas carols, and mellow holiday love songs.

Of course, any song sung by classic crooner Perry Como, a Washington County native, is immediately connected to the state.

Como shared a hometown with Bobby Vinton. The Polish Prince also had several holiday hits, including “Christmas Eve in My Hometown.”

Fred Waring, from Tyrone, Blair County, was a popular band leader from the ‘20s through the ‘60s who was known as “The Man Who Taught America How To Sing.” He had several Christmas specials on radio and television and was featured on albums with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and other stars.

Several modern Pennsylvania-born stars, from Joan Jett, who is from Wynnewood, a suburb of Philadelphia, to Ed Kowalczyk, of York County, have performed Christmas music.

Even Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale, a native of Red Lion, York County, has gotten into the act. 

P!nk, who grew up in Doylestown, Bucks County, and her daughter Willow sang a version of “The Christmas Song” during a Disney sing-along this year.

Of course, Taylor Swift is one of the biggest music stars today. The native of West Reading, Berks County, has performed several Christmas songs, including a cover of Wham’s “Last Christmas.”

Pennsylvania Takes the Spotlight

Several songs mention Pennsylvania in their lyrics, including one Swift wrote herself. She wrote a tune about her childhood growing up on a Christmas tree farm.

It features the lyrics: 

In my heart is a Christmas tree farm

Where the people would come

To dance under sparkling lights

Bundled up in their mittens and coats

And the cider would flow

And I just wanna be there tonight

It’s not the only popular Christmas song that features Pennsylvania.

“(There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays,” written by Robert Allen and Al Stillman, features the memorable lines “I met a man who lives in Tennessee. He was heading for Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie. From Pennsylvania, folks are traveling down to Dixie’s sunny shore.”

The most famous version of the song is Perry Como’s, while other versions like The Carpenters’ also remain popular.


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