Stan Zabka’s Classic Christmas Eve Song

December 24th, 2016

For those unfamiliar with the name, Stan Zabka, think Americana and you’ll hear on this Christmas Eve his appropriately-named holiday classic (and one of my favorite holiday tunes) – Christmas Eve In My Home Town.

Resplendent with home town images and themes, especially as it is performed by the iconic Kate Smith, the carol was written during a very difficult time when American soldiers were engaged in another foreign war. Stan Zabka, along with Don Upton, another ex-GI, wrote Christmas Eve in My Home Town in 1951 at the height of the Korean War. The song became an immediate hit with soldiers in the field and sailors at sea, eventually earning sobriquets as The Soldier’s Christmas Song, and the Official Christmas Song of Radio Free Europe during the Cold War years.

In 1966 during the Vietnam War, Kate Smith wanted to do something special for American troops by recording 36 individual messages on the Armed Forces Network, which then aired them around the world wherever our troops were stationed or on ships at sea. In her folksy and heart-warming voice, she addressed her armed forces audience: “Hello boys and girls, this is Kate Smith coming to you via Armed Forced Radio with a greeting to let you know that we are all thinking of you. I have recorded a song especially for you. It was written by a couple of ex-GIs, Stan Zabka and Don Upton, and you will be hearing it soon. Its title is Christmas Eve in My Home Town. And boys and girls, Christmas won’t be the same without you, but you can bet that you will be thought of, and prayed for, and loved just as much as if you were all here. I would like to say Merry Christmas to you and may God bless you all.”

On another occasion when our troops entered Kuwait in September 1990, the U.S. government forbade Western Christmas music to be broadcast because Kuwait was a Muslim country. However, it was Kate Smith’s special Armed Forces Network message and introduction of the song on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show that convinced the government to lift its restriction. What may have also helped to get the message out was the affable Zabka, a three-time winning composer, musician, and director, once served as an associate director with NBC-NY and for five years had a close working relationship with Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show.

This Christmas Eve if you want to experience the warm glow of the season and the sound of a more innocent time in American history, richly illuminated by the one and only Kate Smith, tune into Zabka’s nostalgic classic: Christmas Eve in My Home Town.  His homey lyrics truly capture the spirit of the season and the nostalgic long ago, an essential ingredient of AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CLASSICS.

There’s so much to remember!
No wonder I remember
Christmas Eve in My Home Town.

Carols in the square,
Laughter everywhere,
Couples kissing under the mistletoe.
I can’t help reminiscing,
Knowing I’ll be missing
Christmas Eve in My Home Town.
Nothing can erase
Mem’ries I embrace
Those familiar footprints upon the snow!
There’s so much to remember!
No wonder I remember
Christmas Eve in My Home Town.

I’d like to be there,
Trimming the tree there,
And there’s a chance that I might!
I can hear singing,
Steeple bells ringing
Noel and Silent Night.
Wise men journeyed far
Guided by a star,
But, though I’m not a wise man,
This I know:
Through dreams and just pretending,
I’m there and I’ll be spending
Christmas Eve in My Home Town.

© Big Island Music, Inc.

Stan Zabka at the piano

Stan Zabka at the piano

 

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