Friday, December 25, 2009

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

A Christmas song I particularly like is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Written in 1943 by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin, first performed by Judy Garland, the song does not suggest that Christmas will take away the troubles of one’s personal life and of the world. Rather it suggests that the holidays offer a brief respite from misery: “from now on, our troubles will be out of sight”; “from now on, out troubles will be miles away.” The song hearkens back to “olden days, Happy golden days of yore.” What these are, the song does not say, but the idea is that in comparison to a happier past the present day is a time of difficulty and woe. When I hear this song, I hear an underlying sadness and sorrow, a sense of diminished expectations, that the holiday season may enable one to forget briefly, but not to leave behind. The song’s final stanza suggests the tenuousness of life. The holidays are a time when family and friends come together “through the years” but “only if the fates allow.” Written during the years of the Second World War, this Christmas song reflects sadness and anxiety on the American home front. But its sober appraisal of the ephemeral nature of holidays against the more realistic problems that beset human experience makes it singular.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

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