Music ‘n Musings

A merry Christmas is possible in the face of sorrow


I started listening to Christmas music in October. I know the social norm is to wait until the day after Thanksgiving, but I was just too excited. Plus, we’d started rehearsing our Christmas songs in choir in September, so I was in the Christmas spirit pretty early.

What I love most about Christmas music is its longevity. I’ve listened to it all my life and have never grown tired of it. I love how there are a multitude of Christmas songs, old and new, ancient or modern, all sung and enjoyed by generation after generation for centuries. Whether it’s Frank Sinatra, Perry Como or Michael Bublé, listening to these songs fills me with a warmth that can sooth the chill of any December night.

One of my favorite songs is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” It isn’t like its other Christmas compatriots. It has a melancholy melody, and even more melancholy lyrics. It was first introduced in the 1944 movie “Meet Me in St. Louis,” and sung by Judy Garland in one of the most climactic scenes of the movie.

Esther, played by Garland, has just learned that she and her family will be moving from St. Louis, Missouri to New York City. Her youngest sister, Tootie, is distraught at the news. Esther tries to offer some comfort to the little girl by singing her this song. Sadly, the song doesn’t have the intended effect, succeeding in only upsetting the girl further and driving her to cry hysterically and lash out, as she is unable to cope with the loss of everything she has known. The emotion in this scene is palpable, and it brings me to tears every time I watch it.

It is a song of loss, of pain and sorrow, but ultimately of hope. Its lyrics are sad, and acknowledge that every year is full of pain, but also that Christmas is a time where we can be merry and happy and look with hope towards the new year. Whatever troubles we’ve faced in the last year, we can look confidently in the face of a new year, a new beginning, all the while remembering “next year, all our troubles will be out of sight.”

The Christmas season is one of joy, but that can be hard to remember if you’ve lost a loved one. This Christmas is going to be the first without my Grandpa, who passed in April due to an ongoing battle with cancer. We recently lost a Cardinal, Rashawn Haskins, and for his friends and family, this will be one of the hardest times of the year. Sometimes it feels like all we can do is “muddle through somehow.”

Even though I know this Christmas is going to be hard, I am still able to find comfort in the love and joy that is this Christmas season. No matter what, I’ll still be able to have a merry little Christmas because I will be surrounded by loved ones.

I love this time of year, even though it can serve as a reminder of those we’ve lost in the last year. Christmas is also the time of the year where we can look back at 2018, sort out the good and the bad, hold those we love the most closest to our hearts and confidently step forward into 2019, ready to face what’s ahead. It’s the bright light of energy and fun in the middle of the bleak cold of winter. Let your heart be light this Christmas season.