Thursday, December 22, 2011

(No Place Like) Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays is one of those songs that makes me happy, then leaves me wondering what planet the composer comes from. It was composed by Robert Allen, lyrics by Al Stillman, published in 1954. Perry Como recorded it shortly thereafter.

It tells about how amazing it is to come home for the holidays (I expect it meant Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year at the time). Personally, I have had a rather unusual life, and I have lived on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. Having spent large parts of my life in the US and the Philippines, it's hard to define "home" for me. When we lived in the Philippines, we were too far away to be able to afford to come back to the US for Christmas. In the US, it hasn't necessarily made sense to go to the Philippines for Christmas. Thus, I've never really been in a position to make a long trip "home" for the Christmas season. The biggest trip I've ever made at Christmas was in 2009, when I "met a man who lived in Tennessee" (as the song says), and surprised my "adopted" big sister Jill Brasfield (which involved a lot of plotting with her husband and my "adopted" big brother Andy). I left Seattle on December 26, wearing a Tennessee Vols sweatshirt. I was particularly amused that someone at SeaTac Airport asked me if I was returning to Tennessee. I said, "Sort of. I've never been there before." That confused him. :-) But never fear, my "adopted" family in Tennessee definitely made me feel right at home. I'm sure for many people who actually do go home every year, it's a refreshing time of getting caught up on family life and seeing the sights and people you knew growing up. I know I had a blast visiting "family" in Tennessee! I don't recall having pumpkin pie there...probably because I went to Tennessee and not Pennsylvania...but pumpkin pie is always one of the highlights of November and December for me. :-)

I love traveling (for the most part), and this song is definitely about that. People travel from Tennessee to Pennsylvania, from Pennsylvania to Dixie, and elsewhere. Interesting, no mention of western states (at least by name). They also fail to mention some Northwesterners (such as Justin Donnelson) who like to vacation in Hawaii in the winter. Maybe because Hawaii wasn't a state yet in 1954 when this was written (and I'm pretty sure Justin wasn't born yet, anyway).

But there's one line that baffles me: "From Atlantic to Pacific, the traffic is terrific." Traffic is WHAT?! The busiest season of the year, when everyone is out shopping for Christmas, traffic jams are backed way up, impatient drivers have taken leave of common sense...they call that terrific? Maybe it was terrific in 1954? Or maybe Al Stillman enjoyed sitting in traffic. I don't know what planet Stillman lived on, but if it was terrific then, times have changed. (Of course, in Manila where I come from, terrific traffic means it only takes an hour to get 10 miles.) :-)

Aside from the bizarre traffic comment, this is a wonderful, heartwarming song, and I'm sure it embodied the wonderful feelings the composers had in the Christmas season, and many folks have had since then traveling home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and other winter holidays (or just vacation in general).


  1. A very eastern US song isn't it? I was thinking just the same thing.

    Terrific? That's irony, tongue-planted-firmly-in-check.

    And did you get some pumpkin pie?

  2. Can't believe I forgot to mention pumpkin pie! Must fix that.

  3. Merriam-Webster lists the first meaning of "terrific" as "very bad" or "frightful." The root word is "terrible." The primary meaning in common speech has changed over the years, like "bad."

  4. I hadn't thought of that! Thanks for pointing that out.