Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas


By Jock Lauterer

The first Christmas after E.B. Hyder’s wife died, the 88-year-old Rutherford County nurseryman found himself at a loss for how to cope with the holiday. So, he went out and got himself a little Christmas tree — sort of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree — humble, but very sincere. And he had himself “a merry little Christmas.”

Mr. Hyder’s story of resilience comes from a 1978 interview, part of a collection of oral history published by Algonquin Press titled “Runnin’ on Rims,” available at Flyleaf Books of Chapel Hill with sales going to benefit this newspaper.

All these years later, thinking about Mr. Hyder’s “merry little Christmas” and how he triumphed over despair, led me to wonder about that very song, whose words of hope strike me as if they were written expressly for this Christmas 2020. Read them again:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
From now on
Our troubles will be miles away

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

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.

Songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine penned the classic lines of hope/encouragement in 1944 when the country was slogging through the dark days of World War II. The songwriters could never have guessed how 76 years later their lyrics would ring so true.

Written for the movie musical, “Meet Me in Saint Louis,” the song was popularized by singer Judy Garland, who starred in the movie and whose voice implores us to take heart during these dark times.

After enduring a wretched year ourselves, we all could use “a merry little Christmas now.” Take another listen.



Jock Lauterer began selling newspapers for Jim Shumaker and Roland Giduz on the streets of Chapel Hill at the age of 8. For the last 20 years, he has served as a senior lecturer and adjunct professor at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, teaching photojournalism and community journalism.

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2 Comments on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

  1. There’s no greater song re this time of year than Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Thx, Jock.

  2. I’ve been thinking about this song myself and did some google sleuthing. The original lyrics make the song even more melancholy: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it could be your last!” Later, Frank Sinatra changed the line “until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” to the more optimistic “hang a shining star upon the highest bough.” Whichever version you go with, you and Rob are right that it’s the perfect song for this holiday of 2020.

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