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From the Publisher's Desk


Dear Readers,

There's a certain magic in the air when the familiar strains of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" float through the crisp December air. This isn’t just another Christmas tune; it's a melody that wraps around our hearts, a song that has resonated with me since childhood. The lyrics, particularly the original ones sung by Judy Garland, hold a special place in my heart and, I believe, in the hearts of many who find solace in their poignant honesty.

The song first graced the world in 1944, in the film "Meet Me in St. Louis." Judy Garland, with her emotive voice, introduced it as a soothing, somewhat melancholic ballad amidst the film's colorful portrayal of a family facing a potential move away from their beloved hometown. The film itself, a picture of family life and the small yet significant upheavals it can endure, found its emotional apex in this song.

The line “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” spoke volumes. It was World War II, and the world indeed was trying to ‘muddle through’ the chaos and uncertainty. This line, full of a raw, unfiltered acknowledgment of life's struggles, resonated deeply. It wasn’t just a Christmas song; it was a testament to human resilience, a comforting arm around the shoulder during tough times.

But as with many things, the passage of time brought change. Enter Frank Sinatra, a crooner who needed no introduction, who in the 1950s wanted to include the song in his album “A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra.” Sinatra, however, felt that the song needed a more optimistic lift. He reportedly asked the song's lyricist, Hugh Martin, "Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?" Martin obliged, and thus was born the version with “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”

This change was significant. It shifted the song’s message from one of enduring through hardship to one of unbridled hope and joy. Sinatra’s version painted a picture of a perfect, picturesque Christmas, a stark contrast to the original's gentle embrace of life’s less-than-perfect reality.

Both versions, in their own right, are beautiful. The original line appeals because of its authenticity. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that sometimes life is hard, and we do, indeed, have to 'muddle through.' It speaks to a universal truth: Life isn’t always merry and bright, but we persevere, finding joy in small moments and in the promise of better times. This line, in its simplicity, encapsulates the human experience.

This original lyric has always been the one that I prefer.

On the other hand, Sinatra’s version, with its more uplifting change, offers a different kind of comfort. It’s a reminder of hope, a nudge to look up and see the brightness of the stars even in the darkest of nights. It's optimistic, forward-looking, and speaks to the spirit of the holiday season in its most idealized form.

The beauty of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" lies in its adaptability to the times and to the listener’s emotions. Whether we’re in a place where we need to ‘muddle through’ or in a space where we can ‘hang a shining star,’ this song has something for everyone. It’s a musical hug, a reminder that Christmas isn’t just about the festivity and lights, but about human connection, resilience, and hope.

As I listen to this song each year, I’m transported back to my childhood, to those moments of pure, unadulterated joy, but also to the times when the holiday season was tinged with a bit of melancholy. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is a companion through all these moments, a timeless classic that continues to resonate with its message of perseverance, hope, and the enduring power of the human spirit.

Merry Christmas,
Chris Herbolsheimer,
West Plains Daily Quill & West Plains Gazette