In case you haven't already picked up on it from every music blog around, Paul Simon has released a free MP3 download of a new Christmas song as a foretaste of his coming album. Iit's all over the Web, but if you pick it up here you can read the lyrics as well.
But what, I wondered, is Simon, a Jew, doing writing about Christmas? Well, it turns out he's part of a long tradition. About half the most popular Christmas songs - including perhaps the all-time favourite, White Christmas - are by Jewish songwriters. You can read the stories of some of them here - including how Irving Berlin, composer of White Christmas, did not himself enjoy the holiday after one of his children died on that day. And there are plenty more songs not in the list, including Elvis Presley's Santa Claus Is Back in Town, written by the brilliant Jewish duo Leiber and Stoller.