Song Spotlight: “Blue Christmas”

Bare Christmas TreeSometimes the holidays are hard.

As much as we’d all love to live up to the pictures and stories we see on the holiday cards, jewelry store ads, and made-for-TV movies, that just really doesn’t happen to most of us, and definitely not every year.

Sometimes all the lights and decorations and red and green and cheesy sweaters and ho-ho-ho-ing just don’t make us feel cheery and bright. They’re oppressive or harsh, adding insult to the injuries we’re suffering, with loved ones who are sick or who have died, with lost jobs or broken relationships or Kodak moments that will just not ever happen again.

Sometimes we’re sad. Angry. Anxious. Guilty. Depressed.

Sometimes we’re blue.

If that’s the case this year, maybe “Blue Christmas” is the perfect holiday tune for you.

Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson, this song was popularized in 1949 by Ernest Tubb, Hugo Winterhalther with his orchestra, and Russ Morgan with his orchestra. Of course, the most famous version of this song is probably the one by Elvis Presley.

Okay, so maybe this song seems cheesy from the sheer numbers of times you’ve heard it, but like many classic songs, the lyrics read differently depending on the circumstances of the listener. This is a song about unrequited love – a song for a lover who chooses not to be near – but in the lyrics, I also hear the words of someone who has lost a spouse or whose children aren’t coming to visit this year:

I’ll have a blue christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me

I appreciate the songwriters’ acknowledgment of how painful it can be to be missing someone at this time of year. Whatever the traditions or special trinkets are for you and yours – the stockings to hang on the mantle, the handmade ornaments to go on the tree, the special cookie recipe that only comes out once a year – if you don’t get to share that special thing with those special people, it really hurts.

Decorations of red on a green christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me

By sharing this song, I just want you to know that you are not alone. If you are having a blue Christmas this year, it is okay. Those feelings are real, and they are valid. You don’t have to make the season merry, and you’re not a Grinch or Scrooge for feeling this way. It is okay if you just focus on getting through the holiday.

If this Christmas is feeling too hard to handle, it may also be time to seek support from a mental health professional. I am just one of many professionals who want to help you get through this season of life.

I do wish you a very happy holiday season this year, but even if it won’t be happy this year, know that I’ll still be here to see you again in January.

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4 thoughts on “Song Spotlight: “Blue Christmas”

  1. Jessica says:

    I am a music therapist in a rehabilitation facility (older adults) where people are displaced from their homes. The holidays have been very trying for this population. They are currently struggling with being away from home and dealing with the loss of loved ones. This will be such a wonderful song to share with them because it matches exactly how they are feeling. They are not feeling “merry” “Bright” or “jolly.” We rewrote Silver Bells and it may just be the saddest version you’ll ever hear. I love your blog, thank you for the inspiring ideas 🙂

  2. musicsparks says:

    This is a frequently requested song in the assisted living facilities I visit. It is often followed by free shares of the challenging memories of the holidays. Acknowledging these emotions seems to lift the energy and emotion of the individuals and groups.

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