1. Home
  2. Stories
  3. 2021 as told by Christmas songs

2021 as told by Christmas songs


The last year has been an interesting one, to say the least. With the first promises of COVID-19 vaccines to the rise of new variants like Delta and Omicron, 2021 has seen a lot of ups and downs.

As we begin to wind down and enter the holiday season, we want to recap the year for you. But we know you‘re all sick of hearing pandemic news and would rather just hear holiday songs.

So here‘s 2021 re-told through some holiday classics!

“All I Want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey

January and February 2021 saw the promise of COVID-19 vaccines and what seemed like the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. It‘s almost as if everything we wanted for Christmas in 2020 was coming true, as captured by Carey‘s flawless falsettos.

That is until March.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Frank Sinatra

Things might have started looking up when the news of vaccines hit the stands, but by March and April, things started to take a bit of a grimmer turn. Rich countries hoarded more vaccines than they needed, meaning most of the world didn‘t have any access to the new vaccines. It felt like the world was taking a step backwards instead of forwards. The excitement and hope that kicked off the year were replaced by sentiments of worry and concern, as characterized in Sinatra‘s somber, soulful voice in his version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

We hate to say we told you so, but we did. We predicted this pandemic purgatory, with new variants, lockdowns, and all of the same worries that we‘re living with now — all because we didn‘t distribute vaccines equally from the start.

“Feliz Navidad” by Jos Feliciano

Spring 2021, however, wasn‘t all bad. In March 2021, the IMF approved the allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). SDRs are reserve assets that countries can use to help them during tough financial times — like a pandemic and global economic downturn! Finally, the world was showing some solidarity and realizing we‘re all in this together. This happy news, like Feliciano‘s happy tune, was a glimmer of hope throughout a year that had already seen a few ups and downs well before the halfway mark. Learn more about SDRs and the economic impact of the pandemic.

“Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms and “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley

The holiday tune that best characterizes June, July, and August was dependent on where you lived. In rich countries like the US, Canada, UK, and most of Europe, things started to feel a bit more normal. Restaurants, shops, and bars reopened. Families and friends finally could travel to see each other again. Celebratory sentiments like those in “Jingle Bell Rock” were felt throughout countries as vaccine programs continued to roll out and things started to finally re-open.

But that wasn‘t the case for those living in low-income countries. Rich countries had hoarded enough vaccines to inoculate their populations two times over, while low-income countries were still waiting on first doses. Presley‘s “Blue Christmas” captures those somber sentiments, as it seemed like Christmas really would be “blue” this year for people around the world waiting for vaccines.

“Rockin‘ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee

Despite all of the COVID-related ups and downs during the first half of the year, July 2021 brought some good news following the Global Education Summit. African leaders once again outdid G7 country leaders in their commitments to creating a better future for kids everywhere. They stepped up on financing education through the Kenyatta Declaration. That news was really “rockin” and a major step forward in global education. And a needed one, as overall commitments for global education fell $5 billion short during the Global Education Summit.

“I‘ll be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby

Just when things in some parts of the world started to look up, they took a variation of turns. By July 2021, the Delta variant of COVID-19 had become the dominant strain globally. Suddenly, the thought of a return to normal felt more like a “dream,” as sung by Crobsy.

“It‘s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas” by Perry Como

This Christmas classic symbolizes the excitement as Christmas approaches. And the world felt some of that excitement in September when world leaders finally agreed to global targets to end the pandemic by 2022. But just agreeing to these targets won‘t end the pandemic. We need countries to actually deliver if we truly want “it to look a lot like Christmas.”

“Last Christmas” by Wham!

As the year winds down and the news of the Omicron variant continues, things are starting to look a bit more like “Last Christmas,” and we really don‘t want to go back there.

So “this year, to save me from tears,” demand that leaders commit to vaccinate the world by 2022 and end the pandemic once and for all. Add your name to our petition.

Up Next

3 reasons why Africa needs a bigger seat at the global table

Here’s what Africa Day means to young African activists

Here’s what Africa Day means to young African activists

What is activism? Here are 5 misconceptions

What is activism? Here are 5 misconceptions