Covid: Judy Garland's 'Have yourself a merry little Christmas' is a song for our times – Christine Jardine MP

There is a Christmas song from my mother’s childhood that she loved.

An emotional rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in a 1944 film by Judy Garland, pictured waving to onlookers at London's St Pancras Station in 1963, resonates strongly today as we face the Covid crisis but with hope for the future (Picture: PA)
An emotional rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in a 1944 film by Judy Garland, pictured waving to onlookers at London's St Pancras Station in 1963, resonates strongly today as we face the Covid crisis but with hope for the future (Picture: PA)

And while it is one of those songs which is played every year it has never, I don’t believe, had the same resonance for my generation as for those who remember Judy Garland’s original, and emotional, rendition in the 1944 movie Meet Me in St Louis.

Until now. “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” tugged at the heart strings of a generation separated from their loved ones by the Second World War.

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Its lyrics, which promised better time ahead, have been going through my head all week.

And not because I feel some extraordinarily heavy burden this year.

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A spirit of determination

Everywhere, even in the most difficult of situations I see people accentuating the positives they can find.

Certainly the past ten days, almost more than any other period in this roller coaster of a year, have seemed loaded with the cruellest of ironies.

First we celebrated the beginning of innoculations against Covid-19 and the promise of what seemed less restricted times ahead.

The lowering of Glasgow to tier three, and the news that our governments had agreed a kind of five-day amnesty over the holiday held out the promise that Christmas would provide a bright, family filled end to the year.

But that was dashed just as quickly and cruelly as it had emerged.

Yet, and here is the strangest and perhaps most moving thing of all, we really don’t seem to mind the imposition of new regulations.

Almost everyone I have spoken to has given a metaphorical shrug, smiled and said, we will celebrate when this is all over.

That one sentiment, a determination that we will not be beaten down by this, seems to sum up the spirit which has somehow carried us through this.

National unity

Have there been times when we have been cross, no furious, with our governments? Oh yes.

Have there been times when many of us have despaired over the damage being done to personal health and financial well-being by this virus? Oh so often.

But have we pulled together in a way that I have certainly never experienced in my lifetime? Yes. A thousand times yes.

I may not have experienced the dark days of the Second World War, but I remember the fleet sailing for the Falklands, and the most frightening of the Troubles in Ireland.

But never have I felt a country so together as now, and despite the circumstances, not in any dark brooding way.

It is more a feeling of unity akin to what we felt during the London Olympics, Kate and William’s wedding or when Andy Murray broke that 70-year-old hoodoo to win Wimbledon.

That sensation when you feel completely in the same emotional space as those around you and experience a sort of relief and contentment as you’re warmed by the safety of what you have in common.

But there’s also an extra dimension to that feeling of unity. Something distilled, an essence almost. A need, an urge to help and play your part for the greater good.

A powerful drive that we have seen reflected in the many community projects in the city like the work being done by the food bank at Gogarburn, the many businesses who have focussed on food delivery or heart-lifting events like the interactive nativity in Davidson’s Mains, all aimed at getting us through what could have been the bleakest of midwinters.

The joy of the first vaccines

With Christmas and Hogmanay on the horizon, many of us have a particular focus which our neighbours have already experienced through Hanukkah or Diwali.

So many religious festivals have taken on an additional new significance for us, or brought comfort.

Those religious events and New Year celebrations all bring light to our lives as the nights draw in, as houses and shops become bejewelled. Regardless of whether you’re more of a grinch than an elf, it’s an opportunity to stop and reflect on what matters and what we’ve achieved in an unprecedented and exhausting year. With the lurking, dark shadow of Brexit to boot.

Footage of Margaret Keenan receiving the vaccine, the first person in the world. The joy clear to see and able to be enjoyed again as we watched the first Scot have theirs.

A view which until very recently we daren’t hope for just in case the light at the end of the tunnel was somehow extinguished.

Though Christmas, like Hannukah and Diwali, won’t be conventional for many of us this year, there are new traditions to be made and joy still to be found.

Even though we all respect that this will be, and has been, such a difficult time for many.

Always darkest before dawn

For me an unexpected handmade card, with a heartfelt message and a Polaroid of better times wrapped up inside was a moment of joy.

A reminder of the strength of friendships, the memories I’ve been lucky enough to have made over the year, and the prospect of many more to come.

Whether it’s the prospect of a hug with someone long missed, Vicar of Dibley-style three Christmas dinners spread out through the year, or frankly just to live with a little less anxiety than we have become used to, I hope you get your wish for 2021.

It is always darkest before the dawn, but maybe this Christmas our hearts do have a reason to be light.

As the song says as it urges us to muddle through: “Next year all our troubles will be miles away.”

I hope you have a happy holiday season and the year ahead is kind to us all.

Merry Christmas.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West

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