Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by a choir and folks dressed up like Eskimos. Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright. Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep tonight. They know that Santa’s on his way. He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh. And every mother’s child is gonna spy to see if reindeer really know how to fly. And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to ninety-two, although it’s been said many times, many ways, “Merry Christmas to you.”
Originally written in the summer of 1944 to try to cool off by Robert Wells and Mel Torme, this song was recorded the first four times by the Nat King Cole Trio between 1946 and 1961. It was Cole who insisted on the addition of strings which has been such an iconic part of this song’s identity. And the rest, as they say is history. This song remains one of the main standards we all want to hear, year after year, without fail.
As I child, I grew up listening not only to Nat King Cole, but also to a live rendition of his music by the Miller & Eaton Trio in St. Louis. Marion Miller and Eddie Eaton were long-time friends of my parents. Now, I still love to hear the sound of Cole’s voice, since the only recordings I had of Eaton were on cassette tapes and lost when we sold my parents house. There is a soulful beauty there that is next to impossible to be defined and it reminds me of home.
I honestly think that’s what this song does for all of us. The lyrics remind us of all the very best of what the holiday can bring: the magic, especially as seen through the eyes of a child.
Many of us may have forgotten what that feels like. I get it. Life is hard. Life is painful. Holidays only exacerbate those feelings. And in many ways, we just want to be left alone to crawl in our little hidey-hole.
My hope for all of us this year is that whether it is hearing Cole’s beautiful voice singing this wish or witnessing a child see the wonder for the first time or any way in between – I hope that all of us find some way, some how that we can honestly accept the request at the end of this song into our hearts for at least a moment. And see the magic ourselves again.