I think it’s fair to say, whatever your situation or circumstances, that this hasn’t been up there with the top christmassy weeks of all time. Each day has brought more and more bleak and depressing news; new infectious strains, hospitalisations rising day by day, tiers and tears, all culminating last Saturday evening with Boris Johnson effectively cancelling Christmas for millions. This was followed by scenes of mayhem at Dover as France closed its borders leaving hundreds of lorry drivers stranded and fears for food supplies, countless other countries preventing entry, and more restrictions incoming on Boxing Day. Oh and the world’s worst Brexit deal about to be approved.
There is no way to dress this up; this year has been well and truly shit for too many.
As Christmas Eve rumbles on irrespective of the impending apocalypse (not helped by the floods – maybe now is the time to pull a Noah and escape while we still can), one of my favourite christmas songs sums it up better than I can: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
It’s been covered countless times by all the greats, young and old, traditional and modern. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Buble and Sam Smith. Boris Johnson even tried to have a crack at it last week (quite comfortably the worst rendition in the song’s 75 year old history). But the lyrics largely stay the same. And ring true more this year than most. Here goes:
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Our troubles will be out of sight
Well, this part isn’t strictly true. Unfortunately, despite the promise 2021 offered a few weeks ago (Biden’s victory and the rollout of vaccine good news), from now on our troubles are not totally out of sight. We are going back into lockdown for who knows how long – January, which is rarely a bundle of joy in a normal year, isn’t showing too much promise right now. BUT, crucially, we do have a working vaccine. And although I have zero confidence in the car crash that is Matt Hancock, the NHS have started the long rollout process, which is very welcome news indeed.
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
This verse takes on a whole new meaning in an era of social distancing. Faithful friends do not physically gather near to us. In tier 2 North Essex-land, you can only go to a pub if you sit outside and buy a substantial meal (three small dishes in the Tem, the local Spoons suffices here). Previous Christmas eve’s in crowded pubs, throwing arms around each other and sharing drinks feels a long ol’ way away.
Instead, faithful friends who are dear to us send messages like ‘how are you’ and ‘hope everyone is doing ok.’ Which although a lot less fun, is still a pretty good substitute and probably a lot more important this year.
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
The song was written in 1943, and first performed by Judy Garland the following year in the film Meet Me In St. Louis. The song exploded in popularity, partly because of US soldiers abroad unable to send Christmas with their families.
75 years later, many families will be spending Christmas apart; this time as a result not of a global conflict, but a global pandemic. For many, it won’t be the ‘happy Christmas’ promised by politicians, but a much smaller affair. Here’s hoping this time next year, Christmas is bigger and better for everyone, if the fates allow. But as much as you can, (everyone join in), have yourself a merry little Christmas now.