“If We Make It Through December” written and recorded by American country music singer Merle Haggard is a feel-good song to kick off December. In October 1973, the lead single from the album Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present was released. Four months later, this was also the title track on a non-Christmas album. Through the years, “If We Make It Through December”, apart from its Christmas motif, it also uses themes of unemployment and loneliness. This track has become one of the trademark songs of Haggard’s career.
“If We Make It Through December” is a story of a factory worker who gets laid off a few days before the holidays. Then, he becomes tormented with guilt as he is unable to buy “Christmas cheer” for his daughter. At that time, unemployment and inflation were at a record high, and both oil and steel were short in supply. America was in the middle of one of its worst recessions up to date. While headlines cried of “bear markets” and “economic indexes”, Merle’s song was so timely. It got right into the heart of the issue: the people behind those headlines. More importantly, it mirrored the optimism that shone through the struggles. That can be perfectly heard in the line:
“If we make it through December, we’ll be fine”.
All of this gave the song the popularity it needed not just in December but beyond the holidays. It hit number one on the country charts that month.
A review panel with Billboard magazine gave “If We Make It Through December” a positive rating. In the review published October 13, 1973, they wrote,
“Another change of pace by Haggard, who keeps surprising us with his various styles and does so well with all. He is a complete artist”.
Spending four weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in December 1973 and January 1974 and cracking the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100, it sure got “through December”. Additionally, on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles 1974 year-end chart “If We Make It Through December” ranked number 2 as the song of the year.