I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

The best Christmas songs are a vibrant mixture of melancholy and hope, a touch of darkness in the midst of the season of light. This peculiar blend of sadness and joy gives depth and reality to a season that is often characterized as frivo- lous and saccharin and even a bit cloying.

And no Christmas song gets that blend as spot on as I’ll Be Home for Christmas. It is a very simple song:

I’ll be home for Christmas You can plan on me

Please have snow and mistletoe And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me Where the lovelight gleams I’ll be home for Christmas If only in my dreams

It is the back story of the song that makes it so powerful.

The lyrics were written in 1942, as many young Americans had been stationed far and wide in a war that very few Americans wanted to be in- volved with, that is, until Pearl Harbor. And so Christmas of 1942 was particularly painful since the eventual outcome of the war was far from certain and suddenly sons and fathers and even some sisters were strewn far and wide across the globe. Instead of being a time of “tidings of great joy” and “peace on earth”, Christmas 1942 felt uncertain, unsettling and more than just a bit ter- rifying. “Great joy” was replaced with hesitancy, “Peace of earth” with World War.

The lyricist Kim Gannon (maybe one of my relations?) captured the feeling of alienation, while still clinging to a notion of hope, connection and family. The words are a wish and a prayer of a young serviceman somewhere in the world, away from home, still trying to connect with loved ones during the season. Walter Kent, the composer, knew that the song needed a sense of melancholy, yet tinted with a solid optimism and hope. (By the way, that lyric is correct: “presents on the tree.” Presents at that time were tied on to the tree instead of placed under it.)

Bing Crosby, coming off of the stellar success of White Christmas, recorded the song in time for Christmas 1943 and the song took off. It became the most requested song at Christmas USO shows in both WW II theatres.

And the song still reverberates with us today, through conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East or wherever someone works or stands guard throughout the world. It is a testament to the human spirit and the hopeful nature of the holiday season. Though it does not mention Jesus specifically, there is a prayerful nature of the song that is unmistakable.

So, if you have a loved one away during this season for whatever reason, do yourself a favor.

Crank up old Bing or Michael Buble or whoever you prefer and listen to this song again, have a good cry, and hold on to the hope, hope that is the hallmark of this blessed season.

Merry Christmas!

Father Kevin

Just ask Fr. Kevin

Do you have questions, comments or thoughts about what Fr. Kevin wrote?  Maybe you even have a different question or just wanted to ask something that has been on your mind? Fr. Kevin welcome’s your thoughts, questions or comments. Simply fill out the form below and your message will be submitted directly to him and he’ll get back with you.

Ask Fr. Kevin