The song was written for just that reason, to honor the soldiers overseas who longed to be home during World War II. The song lyrics explain that the serviceman is writing home to tell his family that he will be home for Christmas and to prepare all of the holiday “trimmings” for him.
The song ends on a melancholy note, with the soldier saying “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”
Kim Gannon wrote the song and pitched it to his friend, Bing Crosby, over a game of golf. Gannon wrote the song with composer Walter Kent. Songwriting credit was later given to Buck Ram, who’d also written a song with the same title.
Bing Crosby recorded the song in October 1943 and scored another top ten hit. The song was released on Side B of Crosby’s White Christmas. The song reached number three on the charts in 1943 and number nineteen the following year.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” became the most requested songs for the U.S.O. shows. GI magazine, said Crosby “accomplished more for military morale than anyone else of that era”.
In December 1965, astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell while on Gemini 7 requested “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” be played for them by the NASA ground crew.
The song has been recorded by a long list of artists over the years, a few of those are Johnny Cash, Amy Grant, Kristin Chenoweth, The Beach Boys, Johnny Mathis, Bette Midler, Josh Groban and The Carpenters.
Three movies with this title have been made over the years. The 1988 version starred Hal Holbrook, the 1997 version with Ann Jillian and Robert Hayes, and the 2002 version with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. A new movie with this title will be released in 2016 staring James Brolin.
Where do you long to be for Christmas?