Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Who Exactly Is Parson Brown?

We've all heard the holiday classic Winter Wonderland. Numerous artists have covered it over the years, from Michael Bublé to Pat Boone. Though, perhaps you haven't fully considered one of the most mysterious parts of the song.
In the meadow we can build a snowman
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say: Are you married?
We'll say: No man
But you can do the job
When you're in town
For decades we've all collectively listened to this carol, but not once have most of us considered...

Who is Parson Brown?

Well, I've got the answer.

Winter Wonderland was created in 1934 by composer Felix Bernard and the lyricist Richard B. Smith. At the time, there were preachers (typically Protestant or Anglican) whom would travel from one small town to the next. Their mission was to perform wedding ceremonies for couples whom didn't have a local minister of their own faith. These roving ministers were referred to as parsons.

If you understand the context of the lyrics in Winter Wonderland, you'll see that it's about building a snowman and imaging that he is Parson (aka Minister) Brown. From the perspective of children playing and pretending they're in a wedding (kids used to be fairly creative, believe it or not), they are going to ask Parson Brown to perform their wedding ceremony when he arrives in town.

Obviously, lyricist Smith used the surname Brown simply to make his song rhyme better, thereby putting it in unison with the word town that comes up four lines later.

Parson Brown is nothing more than an imaginary preacher snowman. How delightfully simple and sincere!

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