Forty years ago, when the late songwriter Johnny Marks penned his first draft of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," he was unhappy with it - so unhappy he thought it was the worst song he ever wrote.

In fact, Marks' dissatisfaction was such that he put the song aside and didn't get back to it until the following year.But in 1949, while humming the melody during a walk near his home in New York's Greenwich Village, the composer hit upon a solution:

Instead of having the notes in the unsatisfactory opening bars dropping down the scale, he reversed the progression and had them go up.

Asked how long it took to complete the new version, Marks replied:

"It took me only two weeks, but 20 years of songwriting to learn what to throw away."

Since then, "Rudolph" has been a spectacular success.

According to one record industry source, it has been translated into nearly every language and sold approximately 150 million records, more than 8 million copies of sheet music and 25 million copies of 200 arrangements for orchestras, bands and choral groups.

Gene Autry first recorded it and gave the first live performance of the song at a rodeo at New York's Madison Square Garden, changing the finale of his show from "Ghost Riders in the Sky" to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

Marks, who died in 1985, often was called "Mr. Christmas of the music world." Among his other holiday compositions were "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas."

Perhaps the most memorable of Christmas songs, however, is "White Christmas."

Sung by Bing Crosby in the 1942 movie, "Holiday Inn," it became Irving Berlin's greatest hit and resulted in the 1954 movie "White Christmas," starring Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.

Written during World War II, Berlin has said "it was nostalgic for a lot of boys who weren't home for Christmas." It's been a lot more than that, perhaps the second most popular Christmas song ever, to "Silent Night."

In 1973, the International Society of Santa Claus gave its first award to Marks, for "Rudolph," and Berlin, for "White Christmas," in recognition of their contribution to the spirit of Christmas.

Another Christmas song, "Silver Bells," was written by Jay Evans and Ray Livingston for Christmas sequences of a Bob Hope film comedy, "The Lemon Drop Kid" (1951). It became the biggest seller for the song-writing team.