By Mike Whittlesey

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is a classic Christmas tune that has been a part of holiday music fare since Frank Sinatra recorded it in 1957 and released it on his album entitled “A Jolly Christmas.” No other holiday invokes feelings of nostalgia quite like Christmas. That’s why we’ve chosen to reprint the lyrics of this song on the front page of this holiday edition of The Progress Review, where they are joined by a number of traditional images that often come to mind when we think of this special time of year.
But the song we hear on the radio today, be it an instrumental version or one performed by the dozens of artists who have since covered it, is much different than the song originally written by Hugh Martin in 1944 for the motion picture “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Fans of the movie, or the musical based on the movie, recall the story is about a family living in St. Louis on the eve of the 1904 World’s Fair. Martin’s original lyrics had Judy Garland, who played Esther in the motion picture, singing the following verse:
Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas
It may be your last.
Next year we may all be living in New York.
Pop that champagne cork.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Next year we may all be living in the past.
Martin wrote these words to express the melancholy Judy Garland’s character felt about leaving St. Louis. He initially resisted the efforts of the film’s executives to change the lyrics, who felt the words were too depressing.
In his memoir, The Boy Next Door, Martin wrote that it was one of Garland’s co-stars, Tom Drake, that finally convinced him to alter the song.
“Hugh, this is potentially a very great and important song. I feel that in my guts. Now listen to me. Don’t be a stubborn idiot. Write a lyric for that beautiful melody that Judy will sing. You’ll thank me,” he wrote.
Garland’s version of the song, released as a single by Decca Records, was extremely popular with the troops serving in World War II.
Thirteen years later, Frank Sinatra asked Martin to “jolly up” the line “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow,” which he changed to “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”
While some might argue that Sinatra’s version of the song is far from jolly, the change in wording did enhance the sentimental tone that has helped make the song a beloved holiday classic, one worthy of front page billing.
As you explore the pages of this special holiday edition, we hope you’ll enjoy the messages of peace and hope shared by area pastors and the thoughts of fifth grade students at La Porte City Elementary School, who write about “What Christmas Means to Me.” We very much appreciate the time members of the clergy, students and their teachers have invested on behalf of our readers.
We also thank the number of area businesses who express their holiday greetings on the following pages. It is their commitment to the community that helps make this special edition possible.
As we count down the days to Christmas, we invite you to logon to The Progress Review’s Facebook page or website ( to view a holiday music slideshow featuring images of area homes and businesses decorated for the season.
Lest we forget, please accept our best wishes for a happy holiday and have yourself a merry little Christmas!