by Matushka Valerie Zahirsky
We hear the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” so often during this season that we may not think much about the words. But among the variety of things on the internet is the story of the song’s original lyrics, which are quite different from the ones we hear today.
Written for the movie Meet Me in St. Louis, the song has to do with the reaction of the daughters in the Smith family to their father’s announcement that they are moving from St. Louis to New York for his new job. They are all deeply distressed at this unexpected upheaval. The youngest daughter, Tootie, expresses her impotent grief and anger by rushing out into the night and destroying all the snowmen she had happily built in the backyard.
Her older sister, played by Judy Garland, comforts her by singing the song with lyrics that acknowledge the sorrow of leaving familiar places and people. The one comforting line is: “But at least we all will be together, if the Lord allows.”
When Garland and others involved with the movie deemed the song’s original version too depressing, most of the words were changed, and this line became, “Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.”
The changes were intended to make the song more cheerful, but it’s hard to see how replacing “the Lord” with “the fates” could cheer anybody. The fates are classically depicted as goddesses who sit and weave a tapestry in which human destinies are determined. Why would anyone choose these grim deities over a loving Lord Who allows us to determine our own destinies, Who only asks us to come to Him, and Who leaves us perfectly free to respond to His invitation?
Fearful of having a “religious-sounding” word in the song, Hollywood bigwigs replaced it with a word that’s scary in its deterministic implications. But we know better. We know — and we should tell everyone we know — that the Lord gives us free will. We know and should tell everyone we know that with perfect confidence, we can “commend ourselves and each other and all our life unto Christ our God.”