The song is sung from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas during World War II, writing a letter to his family. In the message, he tells the family he will be coming home and to prepare the holiday for him, and requests snow, mistletoe, and presents on the tree. The song ends on a melancholy note, with the soldier saying, "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams". The flip side of the original recording (Decca 18570B) was "Danny Boy" 
Writing and copyright
The song was written by the lyricist Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent. Songwriter and later producer and manager for The Platters, Buck Ram, who said he previously wrote a poem and song with the same title, was credited as a co-writer of the song following a lawsuit brought by Ram's publisher, Mills Music. Bing Crosby's original 1943 release of the song on Decca Records listed only Walter Kent and Kim Gannon as the songwriters on the record label. Later pressings added the name of Buck Ram to the songwriting credit.
Bing Crosby recording
On October 1, 1943, Crosby recorded the song under the title "I'll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams)", with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra for Decca Records; it was released as a 78 rpm single, Decca 18570A, Matrix #L3203, and reissued in 1946 as Decca 23779. Within a month of release, the song charted for 11 weeks, with a peak at number three. The next year, the song reached number 16 on the charts.
The U.S. War Department also released Bing Crosby's performance of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" from the December 7, 1944, Kraft Music Hall broadcast with the Henderson Choir, J.S.T., on V-Disc, as U.S. Army V-Disc No. 441-B and U.S. Navy V-Disc No. 221B, Matrix #VP1253-D5TC206. The song from the broadcast has appeared in many Bing Crosby compilations.
The song touched the hearts of Americans, soldiers and civilians alike, in the midst of World War II, and it earned Crosby his fifth gold record. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" became the most requested song at Christmas U.S.O. shows. The GI magazine Yank said Crosby "accomplished more for military morale than anyone else of that era".
1945 V-Disc release by the U.S. Army of "White Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Bing Crosby as No. 441B
Despite the song's popularity with Americans at the front and at home, in the UK the BBC banned the song from broadcast, as the Corporation's management felt the lyrics might lower morale among British troops.
Seventy-seven years after its original release, Bing Crosby's "I'll Be Home for Christmas" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (at number 50 on the chart dated January 2, 2021).
Notable history and cover versions
Elvis Presley recorded the song in September 1957, and was featured on the LP, Elvis' Christmas Album.
Singer Johnny Mathis also covered the song on his Merry Christmas album in 1958, which was the #2 Christmas album of 1963 and 1964 as there were no Christmas album rankings prior to 1963. 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. Since the incarnation of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1958, cover versions by American singers Kelly Clarkson and Josh Groban are the only versions of the song to enter the chart.
- Kelly Clarkson version
- Michael Bublé version
- Brian McKnight version
- Pentatonix version
- Seth MacFarlane version
- Josh Groban version
- Reba McEntire version
- Rascal Flatts version
- Sara Evans version
- Elvis Presley and Carrie Underwood version