Column: Have yourself a Merry Christmas

A Christmas like no other in recent memory. With the coronavirus pandemic families gather virtually, in small group, socially distanced. Faced with multiple challenges, the Christmas season offers an opportunity to be the people we always hoped we would be.

Metro Newspaper Service

This year, those traditional Christmas songs have rung true again.

Many of the favorites were born when the world was ravaged by World War II. They spoke of separation, loneliness and loss.

“White Christmas” is an obvious choice of being together but perhaps only in one’s dreams. Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” from the 1944 movie “Meet Me in St. Louis” can be a sad and hopeful tune at the same time: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas/ Let your heart be light/ From now on/ Our troubles will be out of sight.”

It talks of gathering together as in olden days, “happy golden days of yore.” And being together — if the fates allow. That must have struck a chord with many a separated family during wartime. The recent pandemic is the largest disruption of many of our lives, removed as we are by the generation defined by those war years. We have our own and different kind of separation now.


A Getty Images photo stuck with me from May of this year. It captured a woman hugging her granddaughter through a plastic dropcloth which was hung on a clothesline in a Wantagh, New York, backyard. I’ve had a similar experience this year, getting a long hug from my mother on two occasions since March — our birthdays separated by six months. We used a new shower curtain.

The pandemic is changing how we celebrate Christmas but not how we think about it. Not what we want for ourselves, our loved ones, even strangers we’ve never met. It’s a time of year when we can embody at least part of, using perhaps a phrase that is overused but not fully embraced, being our best selves.

The longer you live, the more you seem to realize that the things you regret, the things that come unbidden to your mind, are things you didn’t do more than mistakes or missteps you made. It’s the injustice witnessed without speaking out, or the moment when you could have made a difference and failed to do so.


This year, we’ve learned a lot about each other — and ourselves. We may have fallen short of embracing all we hoped we could be: patient, understanding, opening a heart and a hand to a stranger in need. All those things we learned were important when we were children and that takes on even greater importance often as adults who are pressed for time, overburdened and exhausted. It’s been an exhausting year.

Christmas offers us an opportunity to remember who and what is important to us.

It’s perhaps why it’s easy to watch and rewatch “It’s a Wonderful Life” each Christmas Eve. Jimmy Stewart captivates as the part we each carry in ourselves wondering if our lives matter and if we’d made a difference after the days and then years stack up and the big dreams we may have had for ourselves didn’t materialize in the daily grind. In one of my favorite holiday movies “Scrooged,” and not just because he drinks TaB, Bill Murray has a speech. It stands out for others as it was the second search option as soon as I typed his name and the movie title together.

“It's Christmas Eve.

“It's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer; we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more.


“For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be.

“It's a miracle. It's really a sort of a miracle because it happens every Christmas Eve. And if you waste that miracle, you're going to burn for it.

“I know what I'm talking about. You have to do something. You have to take a chance. You do have to get involved.

“There are people that are having trouble making their miracle happen.

“There are people that don't have enough to eat.

“There are people that are cold.

“You can go out and say hello to these people.

“You can take an old blanket out of the closet and say, ‘Here.’


“You can make them a sandwich and say, ‘Oh by the way, here.’ I get it now. And if you give, then it can happen. Then the miracle can happen to you.”

A lot of people in the community have done that very thing this year. Stepped up. Helped to make sure others who are struggling had food on the table, or gifts to give their children this Christmas morning.

As Bill Murray says, it’s a miracle that happens every year and now if we can only make it last for more than a day or a season — that would really be something.

Merry Christmas.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
What To Read Next
Get Local