In late October 2023, a viral TikTok post referred to the lyrics of the popular Christmas song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as an example of the “Mandela Effect,” wherein people collectively misremember a fact or event.
“The I'll be home for Christmas Mandela Effect. what are the correct [lyrics]?,” the caption of the TikTok post said. At the time of this writing, the post had 2.4 million views on the social media platform.
We also found similar posts about the lyrics on Reddit.
In the TikTok post, the person played several versions of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” including those performed by artists Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and the Carpenters. The person was searching for a version of the song that used the lyrics, “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me,” because Crosby, Como, Sinatra, and Presley all said "plan" instead. The person finally found what they were looking for in the Carpenters’ version of the song, in which “count” was sung instead of “plan.”
So was this a case of the Mandela Effect? The short answer is no, and we explain why below. The original copyrighted lyrics to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” state that the lyric is, “You can plan on me.” Beginning in the late 1950s, however, artists who covered the song began to use “count” instead of “plan.” Some modern artists still use “plan” in their versions of the song, however.
Lyrics in Copyrighted Version of 'I'll Be Home for Christmas'
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was copyrighted by composer Walter Kent and lyricist Kim Gannon in August 1943. We found the copyrighted sheet music on the Library of Congress website, which said the copyrighted lyrics to the song were:
I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love,
Even more than I usually do.
And although I know it’s a long road back,
I promise you
I’ll be home for Christmas,
You can plan on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams.
I’ll be home for Christmas,
If only in my dreams.
A few months before "I'll Be Home for Christmas" was copyrighted by Kent and Gannon, songwriter Buck Ram had copyrighted a song titled, “I’ll be home for Christmas (Tho’ just in memory)” in December 1942. Ram later sued, claiming Kent and Gannon had stolen the song from him after he had shared it with the two other musicians around the same time his copyright was filed. A judge ruled that he should receive credit and royalties for the song, according to a blog post by the Library of Congress.
At the time of this writing, we found no evidence that using “count” instead of “plan” in “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” arose from Ram’s version of the song. The Library of Congress blog post said the lawsuit found the two songs bore almost no lyrical similarities and no musical similarities in their content.
Lyrics in Early Versions of 'I'll Be Home for Christmas'
In 1943, singer Bing Crosby was the first artist to record the song, which as we previously mentioned, used “plan” in its lyrics.
We found Reddit comments that claimed Crosby had performed the song using “count.” While we found YouTube videos that alleged to be Crosby performing the song this way, there was no evidence to confirm it, at the time of this writing.
The only such video we found that gave further information about its recording was one titled, “Bing Crosby - I'll Be Home For Christmas (Capitol Records 1943).” While Crosby’s version was indeed recorded and released in 1943, he was signed to Decca Records at the time “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was released (not Capitol). He recorded the song for Decca, according to the Library of Congress. (If we find evidence that this or other such videos are legitimate, we'll update this article.)
In the 1940s and ‘50s, we found popular artists who recorded versions of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” used “plan” instead of “count” in the song. For example, Como, Sinatra, and Presley all recorded their versions of the song using the word “plan.” Como’s version of the song was recorded in 1946, while Sinatra and Presley’s versions were both recorded in 1957.
Lyrics in Later Versions of 'I'll Be Home for Christmas'
The first version we found of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” that used “count” instead of “plan” was by singer Johnny Mathis, who recorded it in 1958. We reached out to Mathis for comment about whether he knew of any other artist that had used “count” instead of “plan” in the song before him — as well as why his version made the change — and will update this article if we receive a response.
We found most recorded versions of the song used “count” instead of “plan” in the song. Some examples from famous musicians include the Carpenters’ 1978 version (as played in the TikTok post), Vanessa Williams’ 1996 version, and Babyface’s 1998 version of the song.
Singers Kelly Clarkson’s 2012 version and Camila Cabello’s 2021 version of the song also used “count” instead of “plan.” Those two later versions of the songs previously charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
However, we found a few modern versions of the song that used “plan” instead of “count.” Singer Michael Bublé’s version of the song that was first recorded in 2003 used “plan” instead of “count,” as did Reba McEntire’s 1987 version and Kacey Musgraves and Lana Del Rey’s 2019 version. (We found a YouTube video posted to McEntire's account that showed her performing the song using “count” instead of “plan," proving she has used "count" instead of "plan" at least once while performing her version of the song.)
Whether using “count” or “plan,” most of the artists mentioned above made some sort of change to the lyrics from what appeared in the copyrighted version.
Crosby’s version of the song, for instance, skipped the entire first verse, instead beginning the song at the second verse. The versions of the song by earlier artists like Como, Presley, and Mathis all sang the lyric “and presents on the tree.” Clarkson changed the lyric to “presents under the tree,” while Bublé sang “presents by the tree.”
So, could “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” be an example of the “Mandela Effect?” A researcher from the University of Chicago told CNN that there’s no one clear explanation for the effect showing up across “different types of experiments,” and that future research is needed to find its cause. But in the case of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” it appears people remember different lyrics to the song because of individual changes artists have made over the years, as well as what version(s) of the song people have heard the most.
We’ve previously written about the Mandela Effect, including whether the “Fruit of the Loom” logo containing a cornucopia and an iconic piece of dialogue from the “Star Wars” franchise were both examples of the effect.