Who Was Parson Brown?

snowman03“Winter Wonderland” is a pop standard written in 1934 by Felix Bernard (composer) and Richard B. Smith (lyricist). It has been recorded many different times by such artists as Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Karen Carpenter, and Cyndi Lauper.

Smith, a native of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, was reportedly inspired to write the song after seeing Honesdale’s Central Park covered in snow. The original recording was by Richard Himber and his Hotel Carelton Orchestra on RCA Bluebird in 1934. At the end of a recording session with time to spare, it was suggested that this new tune be tried with an arrangement provided by the publisher. This excellent “studio” orchestra included many great New York studio musicians including the legendary Artie Shaw.

Due to its seasonal theme, “Winter Wonderland” is often regarded as a Christmas song on the Northern Hemisphere, although the holiday itself is never mentioned in the lyrics.

The following lyrics compose the musical bridge 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!”

Given that a Floridian orange grower was the only well-known person by the name of “Parson Brown” at the time the song was composed, one can assume that “Parson” is used as a first name rather than a title. In the period when this song was written, parsons (now known as a Protestant ministers) often traveled among small rural towns to perform wedding ceremonies for denominational followers who did not have a local minister of their own faith. It is therefore likely that the children are pretending that their snowman is a parson with the surname “Brown” who would be visiting the town again in the future.

[source – Wiki]

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10 thoughts on “Who Was Parson Brown?

  1. Hi Nancy, very educational! I love that song but always knew that Parson Brown was Preacher Brown, in Oklahoma when I was a kid, they called the ministers Parsons. Does that sentence make sense? Cute card too.

    Frances, wishing to make a nice comment but failing.

  2. Hey Nancy! Thanks so much for the background on this beloved song! I’ve always assumed it was a courting couple who was singing it, not children, and grew up with the Catholic version (“We’ll pretend that he is Father Brown”); I still remember how surprised I was to learn that those weren’t the actual lyrics! Incidentally, we were listening to The Carpenters’ double Christmas album just this morning. I kind of missed the whole Carpenters thing back in the day, and I know plenty of folks who cringe at the mention of their name, but the Christmas album is great!

  3. Jingle Bells also doesn’t mention Christmas so I feel quite comfortable singing it and Winter Wonderland any time of the winter. But I do get odd looks.

    Thanks for the history!

  4. I am looking for an answer to a question I have been asked in a contest that nobody seems to know the answer to….the question goes as follows……Name two christmas songs with Parson brown inthe lyrics……help,help,help

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