Losing baby teeth is a natural process that everyone goes through in their lifetime. On average, children begin to lose these teeth around 5 or 6 years old. The first to fall out are normally the central incisors, aka the two, front teeth at the bottom. Soon to follow at the age of 7 or 8 are the two, front teeth at the top, which can leave children with a “toothless grin”. I’m sure you can recall a time that you had to pose for a photo without your front teeth.
This natural process would go on to inspire the famous holiday song “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”. This song has been around for many years with many more years to come. But what exactly is the meaning and background of this unique song? LTBS decided that we wanted to find out more about this iconic, holiday song.
In 1944, around the holiday season at an elementary school in Smithtown, New York, music teacher Donald Yetter Gardner was substituting a second grade classroom for his wife, Doris, and spent the day engaging with different students throughout the day. When asking the children, “What do you want for Christmas this year?”, he found that the replies were paired with a lisp, with most students having at least one front tooth missing. Second graders are at the perfect age range where the central incisors will naturally fall out, and having a significant gap in the teeth can temporarily impair speech. Gardner, feeling inspired by the whole ordeal, went home that day and wrote, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” in about thirty minutes.
Smithtown Elementary would go on to perform this new song annually and its holiday pageant, but it would take several more years until it finally went into publication. On December 6, 1948, Spike Jones and the City Slickers first recorded the holiday song for the public. The song rose to the number one spot on the Pop Charts some time later in 1949, and it sold nearly one and a half million copies in less than two months. The song has since been recorded by numerous artists: such as Alvin and the Chipmunks, the cast of Sesame Street, Mariah Carrey, and Nat King Cole (rumored to be Gardner’s favorite version).
Later on in life, Gardner became a music consultant for a major music publisher in Boston, Ginn & Company. During his time at this company, he wrote songs for music textbooks and composed numerous hymns. His published hymns include “Man Shall Not Live by Bread Alone but by Every Word of God” and “Oh, Give Thanks Unto the Lord.” In a 1995 interview, Gardner said, “I was amazed at the way that silly little song was picked up by the whole country.” Gardner also went on to become a member of the American Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers.
“All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” continued to pay Gardner royalties for the next half century until he died in 2004. He died at the age of 91 at his home in Needham, Massachusetts, outside of Boston.