Cody Johnson Recorded Merle Haggard’s ‘If We Make It Through December’ After Poignant Moment With Wife in 2010

by Jim Casey

Cody Johnson released his first holiday album, A Cody Johnson Christmas, on November 19.

The 10-song offering features original tunes like “Hat Made of Mistletoe” and “Christmas All Year Long,” as well as classics such as Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper,” José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad,” and Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December,” among others.

Vocally, Cody felt so strong after recording his 18-song Human The Double Album, which he released on October 8, that he decided to crank out the new holiday album without much planning.

“I was in such a good place vocally that I was like, ‘Man, you got to make hay while the sun shines,'” says Cody Johnson to Outsider. “I suffer from really bad allergy problems and traveling across the United States, different regions, different seasonal changes. A lot of times, I had to really play the longevity game. And so, when I was singing so well and everything felt so great in the studio, I thought, ‘Man, let’s just knock out a Christmas album.'”

One song that Cody knew had to be on the holiday album was Merle’s “If We Make It Through December.”

Haggard’s Classic Hit

Merle wrote and recorded “If We Make It Through December” for his 1973 holiday album, Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present. After its release in October 1973, “If We Make It Through December” hit the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart on December 22. The tune stayed at No. 1 for four weeks.

The single was so popular—not only as a Christmas tune, but also as a song of socioeconomic importance—that Merle made it the title track to his 1974 album, If We Make It Though December.

Since then, a number of country stars, including Alan Jackson, Marty Robbins, and the Pistol Annies have covered the classic song.

Cody Shares His ‘Thank God Christmas Moment’

Cody told Outsider that “If We Make It Thought December” was part of a “Thank God Christmas moment” he shared with his newlywed wife, Brandi, in 2010.

‘”If We Make It Through December’ was a special song because in 2010, when we got married, Brandi and I . . . I didn’t realize that I’d done this, but I’d given our last $20 in a Christmas card to a relative,” says Cody to Outsider. “On the way home, I asked her what was wrong. And she said, ‘That was our last $20.’ And I was like, ‘Well, we can go by the bank.’ And she said, ‘No, I wasn’t going to say anything, but we’re overdrawn and we’ve got bills that are due.’ We were very young and didn’t really have a pot to pee in. And, ‘If We Make It Through December’ came on the radio and we both cried and didn’t say a word.

“We got home, and I checked the mailbox for some reason. My first two checks from [performance rights organization] ASCAP had come in, and they were about $2,500 a piece. And it was just a ‘Thank God’ Christmas moment. So I had to record that, it was just such a wonderful story behind it.”