This song was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine for the 1944 movie, Meet Me In St. Louis. The film stars Judy Garland as one of the daughters of a family getting ready to move out of St. Louis just as the 1904 World's Fair is coming to town. The authors were told to write a song that was *not* overly celebratory. According to Hugh Martin's book, The Boy Next Door, one original lyric went as follows,
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last/ Next year we may all be living in the past / Have yourself a merry little Christmas / Pop that champagne cork / Next year we may all be living in New York."
However, according to Martin, Judy Garland, her co-star Tom Drake, and the director, Vincente Minnelli, all objected to such depressing lyrics. Martin eventually did change these lines, changing "It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past" to "Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight".
In 1957 Frank Sinatra recorded his Christmas album, A Jolly Christmas. He asked Martin to change "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow." Martin changed it to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough." Since then, most versions you hear include this lyric instead of the original.
However, I'm a fan of the original, so-called "darker" version. I haven't put much emphasis on Christmas being this ultimate day of happiness since I was a kid. It is a wonderful time of the year, sure, but it isn't the be-all and end-all of everything. As I got older, I began to appreciate the season and not The Day. Specifically, as I have gotten older and seen my loved ones spread out around the world, I truly appreciate the "we have to muddle through somehow" sentiment. This touches me more than a lyric about putting another shiny ornament on a tree does. This year, especially, this sentiment hits close to home.
So here's Judy Garland singing the original, from Meet Me In St. Louis, directed by her soon-to-be husband, Vincente Minnelli.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, everybody.