Christmas Can Be Cool – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

9 Dec

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a sad Christmas song that almost nobody realizes is a sad Christmas song. This is mainly because its saddest lyric (“Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow”) has been altered to a happy one (“Hang a shining star upon the highest bough”) in most versions. But the definitive version – the one Judy Garland sings in Meet Me in St. Louis – is a sad song sung by a sad person to a sad child in a sad scene. In the film, the central family is spending one last Christmas in St. Louis before they move to New York, far away from the city they know and love. The song itself is an attempt of Garland’s character to cheer her sister up by painting a picture of happy future Christmases, but Garland’s own, more grown-up melancholy bleeds through anyway. It’s about how we pin our hopes and dreams on the future, especially at Christmas, a time for joy and self-reflection: even if this Christmas isn’t a good one, next year’s will be. It’s an idea reflected in many Christmas specials/movies/music, but it’s still heartrending when done well, and here’s one of its best displays.

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