GTPulse: ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ Relevant 76 Years Later

The popular Christmas classic resonates with Americans this year in a way that it has before.

Though it’s set in 1903, Meet Me In St. Louis made its film debut in 1944. The U.S. was in disarray due to World War II. Morale was low and families everywhere were separated. American cinema was churning out lighthearted films in technicolor as an effort to transport audiences, even for a moment, to a happier place.

The other day I heard the first live radio version of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.’ It was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine, but it’s Judy Garland who softly croons what some consider to be the sweetest, saddest Christmas song there ever was. The popular Christmas classic was written for Meet Me In St. Louis. In the movie, Judy’s character sings the song consolingly to her youngest sister who’s upset that they’re leaving behind their beloved St. Louis for New York City. With each passing lyric I grew more bittersweet at how relevant it feels today. 

Meet Me In St. Louis encapsulated some of the uncertainty, separation, and shaky hope that Americans were experiencing in 1944. Husbands, fathers, brothers and sons were away from their homes that Christmas, unsure when the war would end. And though the film itself wasn’t set in American wartime, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ spoke to lonely soldiers and their families back home in a warm, yet poignant way.

Filmed through the rose-colored glasses of Vincente Minnelli, Garland’s character is both beautiful and confident. She puts on a brave face for her family, despite her own dreams of falling in love crumbling. She represents the spirit of hope, a new beginning, and pressing forward as she sings, “Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

We’ve all muddled through something somehow this year, including this holiday season where many of us are separated from our loved ones just as those Americans were 76 years ago. Tired from a different kind of battle, the end of this year feels both happy and sad. On one hand, we’ve all endured great pain due to the pandemic, on the other, we’ve reached the beginning of the end. Just as our countrymen before us struggled to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I take comfort knowing the following Christmas of ‘45 was bursting with love, celebration, and togetherness.

In the movie, the family doesn’t end up moving to New York City. But, the real-life family the film was based on did make the move to NYC. I imagine that they felt apprehension towards leaving behind the hometown that they knew and loved in the same way that we’ve felt about leaving behind the pre-pandemic world that we knew and loved. 

I hope you and yours have a merry little Christmas of your own today and remember that before we know it, faithful friends who are dear to us will gather near to us once more.

Categories: GTPulse