“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is probably my favorite Christmas song simply because of its emotional ambivalence. It resonates closely with so many of the feelings I have around the Christmas season. The lyrics open up that uneasy longing for that unattainable ideal of Christmas that so many of us want. The holidays can be hard.
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York
No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more
But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now
My emotions during the holidays weigh heavily. Christmastime brings a contemplative melancholia that I actually revel in, and there is a wistful type of comfort in accepting this. In knowing that the season is steeped in nostalgia and want for a better time and place. In accepting that my memories will grow a little dimmer with the passing of the year. In acknowledging that our world can be unraveled, changed, and built back up with little of our own control. In understanding that friends, family, or loved ones are gone from our lives – for good. I feel akin with the folks who recognize that Christmas can be complicated, emotionally irresolute, and inherently blue.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was originally written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and first sung by Judy Garland in the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis. In the film Judy Garland’s character, Esther, sings the song to cheer up her despondent five-year-old sister on account of their father’s plans to move the family to New York City for a job promotion. According to Wikipedia:
When presented with the original draft lyric, Garland, her co-star Tom Drake and director Vincente Minnelli criticized the song as depressing, and asked Martin to change the lyrics. Though he initially resisted, Martin made several changes to make the song more upbeat. For example, the lines “It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past” became “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight”. Garland’s version of the song, which was also released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among United States troops serving in World War II; her performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears.