'I'll be Home for Christmas' isn't meant to be cheery, but it could help this year

'I'll be Home for Christmas' isn't meant to be cheery, but it could help this year
Mistletoe. Source: Reusableart.com

I keep seeing references to the 1943 song "I'll be Home for Christmas" as if other writers are pointing out yes, we'll all be home, let's make our own fun. But those writers are missing the point of the song.

Here (with a little help from LyricFind.com) are the words to the song:

I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents by the tree
Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have some snow and mistletoe
And presents by the tree
Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
As explained here  by Vintage News, the song was meant to portray a U.S. soldier in World War II telling his family he'll be home from The War for Christmas -- "if only in my dreams." In a way, it's a Christmas version of "Memory," the show-stopping tune from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Cats." The singer is remembering the time he "knew what happiness was" at Christmas, not describing how happy he is.
Bing Crosby had the original hit record, but I first noticed a more recent version; my favorite performance of the song is by Alan Alda, of all people, in a 1973 episode of "MASH." Alda's character, Hawkeye Pierce, is exhausted and trying to find out who's responsible for the Korean War. He remembers several war-related songs, and his rendition of "I'll be Home for Christmas," his voice choked with tears, is appropriately heartbreaking for a character who didn't know when he would go home.
So if you can't go home because of the virus, or because there's no one left to go home to, this might just be the song for you this Christmas. Just think of that "If only in my dreams" as a variation on "Let the mem'ry live again."
Peace and comfort be with you, wherever you are this Christmastime.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.

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Filed under: Music and language

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  • If a sad song can take on a cheery association, a cheery song can also take on a sad one. Decades ago I saw a 1963 movie, "The Victors." One scene in that movie was based on the only execution of an American soldier, Eddie Slovik, for desertion in World War II. The background music as the firing squad was being assembled was Frank Sinatra singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." I can never hear that song without thinking of that tragic scene.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Oof! From happy to sad, indeed. I think I'll spare myself that movie and take your review as a warning. I'm a bit sensitive to musical associations (which probably isn't a surprise by now). Happy holidays.

  • The song implied "I'll be [coming] home for Christmas", not "I'll be [staying] home for Christmas".

  • In reply to jack:

    Well observed, Jack. Thank you. Too many people just assume that staying home was the intent.

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