tree window frame_157885100Mrs. C says: “Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green, here we come a….”

Ed Elf: Er…sorry…don’t mean to interrupt your singing, Mrs. C, but what does ‘a-wassailing’ mean exactly?

Mrs. C: To go and sing a carol, in the community perhaps. You know…to go a-carolling. It’s olde worlde English.

Ed Elf: So if I put the letter ‘a’ before words or an ‘e’ after them I’ll be able to speak olde English.

Mrs. C: Well, yes…kind of.

Ed Elf: In that case, I’m ajust agonna get asome amarshmallowes for my amug…

Mrs. C: You sound Italian. Anyway, while he’s leapt off my desk for a while, we can go a-carolling. Without carols at this time of year, you might as well cancel Christmas. So it’s just as well that we have a whole section on these delectable pieces of festive heaven – from all the lyrics to more than 50 favourites to many of the stories behind the songs. So we invite you in beyond our festive window – to the warmth, the tree, the lights, the food, the wine…and most crucially the song.

Carols – A Brief History

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, marking such pagan Carolling triocelebrations as the winter solstice. Early Christians switched celebratory focus to the birth of Jesus Christ with carols sung in Latin – although it wasn’t until St. Francis of Assisi introduced the notion of Nativity plays in the 13th century that songs were sung in native languages, with audiences encouraged to join in. Communal carol singing was born. Through the ages in the UK, festive songs were given life at home, in streets and public houses by wassailers and carollers. Carols found their comfortable place in churches from the early 19th century, which was the golden era for carol creation, rescue and rearrangement. The old, traditional carol-singing period was from St. Thomas’s Day on December 21st until the morning of Christmas Day – but in modern times the festive singing starts much earlier in December.

Sing a Christmas Carol

Everyone has a festive favourite. It really wouldn’t be Christmas, would it, without hearing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” or “O Come All Ye Faithful”? Carols are at the very heart of the season, so with warmest glad tidings we are delighted to bring you more than 50 carols, their history and their lyrics.

50+ Most Popular Carols

(Click on the title to take you to the story and lyrics of your choice)

Music bauble 102178444                                                                                   1 – “O Holy Night”

The moving “O Holy Night” was composed by Adolphe Adam (1803-1856) in 1847 to the French poem “Minuet, Chretiens” by wine merchant Placide Cappeau. Adam is renowned for composing the score to the ballet “Giselle”. Cappeau is said to have written the Christmas poem (which in English means “Midnight, Christians”) to celebrate the renovation of a church organ – even though he was an atheist. This poem is known as the “Cantique de Noel”. However, the lyrics of the version we know were crafted in 1855 by minister John Sullivan Dwight.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born

O night divine, O night, O night divine

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand

So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming

Here come the wise men from the Orient land

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger

In all our trials born to be our friend

He knows our need our weakness is no stranger

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly he taught us to love one another

His law is love and his gospel is peace

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother

And in his name all oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we

Let all within us praise his holy name

Christ is the Lord! O praise his name forever

His power and glory evermore proclaim

His power and glory evermore proclaim

Music bauble 1021784442 – “Silent Night”

Austrian Franz Gruber (1787-1863) composed “Silent Night” in 1818. Father Joseph Mohr (1792-1848) wrote the lyrics for “Stille Nacht” two years earlier and their combined works were debuted on Christmas Eve 1818 at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria. Legend has it that the church organ broke down, after mice chewed through parts of it, so the tune was played on a guitar. When the organ-fixer later heard his own private rendition, he memorised it and sang it on his travels until “Stille Nacht” was finally published in 1840. However, this is more likely to be an urban myth and the beautiful song was always intended that night for guitar. In 1854, with the song now famous, Gruber was tracked down and officially recognised as the composer. He was 67, poor and died nine years later. American John Freeman Young (1820-1885) translated “Stille Nacht” to “Silent Night” in 1859. This carol was sung in German, English and French by troops in the trenches on the famous 1914 Christmas Eve ceasefire in World War I.

Silent night, holy night!

All is calm all is bright

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child

Holy Infant so Tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace

 

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight!

Glories stream from heaven afar

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!

Christ the Saviour is born!

Christ the Saviour is born!

 

Silent night, holy night!

Wondrous star lend thy light!

With the angels let us sing

Alleluia to our King!

Christ the Saviour is here

Jesus the Saviour is here!

 

Silent night, Holy night!

Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus Lord at thy birth

Jesus Lord at thy birth

Music bauble 1021784444 – “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

The prolific Charles Wesley (1707-1788), a leading figure in the Methodist movement, wrote “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and it was published in 1739. Wesley’s opening couplet reads: “Hark! How all the welkin ring; Glory to the King of Kings.” Welkin means the “sky” or the “vault of heaven”. Wesley’s colleague George Whitfield (1714-1770) changed the opening lines to the ones we know today and an initially sombre tune was replaced by Felix Mendelssohn’s “Festgesang” music in 1840, with some later adaptation by English musician and tenor William H. Cummings (1831-1915) – creating the carol we know today. Wesley, brother of Methodist Church founder John Wesley, wrote an average of around 112 carols and hymns a year in his lifetime – about 8,900 in total. Being prolific, though, ran in the family. He was the 18th and last child born to exhausted mother Susanna. German composer Mendelssohn (1809-1847) is heard on celebratory occasions throughout the year…he wrote the famous and oft used “Wedding March”.

Hark! the herald angels sing

Glory to the newborn King

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled

Joyful all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

With angelic host proclaim

‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’

Hark! the herald angels sing

Glory to the newborn King

 

Christ by highest heaven adored

Christ the Everlasting Lord

Late in time behold him come

Offspring of a virgin’s womb

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see

Hail, the incarnate deity

Pleased as Man with Man to dwell

Jesus, our Emmanuel!

 

Hark! the herald angels sing

Glory to the newborn King

Hail the heav’n-born prince of peace!

Hail the son of righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings

Risen with healing in His wings

Mild He lays His glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

Hark! the herald angels sing

Glory to the newborn King

Music bauble 1021784446 – “O Come All Ye Faithful” (“Adeste Fidelis”)

John Francis Wade (1711-1786) takes credit for this musical work because the earliest versions bear his signature – although the tune for “Adeste Fideles” has been attributed to other authors through time. The text is most likely to have come from an order of monks several centuries ago, but it has also been linked to King John IV of Portugal in the 17th century. The last verse is usually reserved for Christmas Eve Midnight Mass or Christmas Day services, making more appropriate the line: “Yea, Lord, we greet thee; Born this happy morning…” British and German troops sang this song to each other in the World War I trenches on Christmas Eve 1914: the Britons with “O Come All Ye Faithful” and the Germans with “Adeste Fidelis”. In the 1940’s, splendid detective work from Reverend Maurice Frost of Oxford and a Devonian Benedictine monk, Dom John Stephan OSB, established Wade as the original author, while also pointing to the belief this song could well have been a carefully crafted Catholic plea to France to invade Britain & Ireland and restore Catholic traditions during 18th century unrest. The “faithful”, in this instance, are the Jacobites and “Bethlehem” is code for England. Reverend Mark Lawson-Jones has more detail on this fascinating aspect of the “Adeste Fideles” story in his excellent book: “Why Was the Partridge in the Pear Tree? – The History of Christmas Carols”. The opening verse in Latin reads:

Adeste fidelis

Laeti triumphantes

Venite, venite in Bethlehem

Natum videte regem angelorum

Venite adoremus

Venite adoremus

Venite adoremus

Dominum

 

O come, all ye faithful,

Joyful and triumphant,

O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem

Come and behold Him,

Born the King of Angels!

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord

 

God of God,

Light of light,

Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb

Very God,

Begotten, not created,

O Come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord

 

Sing, choirs of angels,

Sing in exultation

Sing, all ye citizens of Heav’n above

Glory to God In the highest!

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord

 

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,

Born this happy morning

Jesus to thee be glory given!

Word of the Father

Now in flesh appearing!

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord

Music bauble 1021784448 – “Once in Royal David’s City”

British organist Henry John Gauntlett (1805-1876) set Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander’s poem to music in 1849. The tune, known as “Irby”, is one of more than a thousand he created in his lifetime. Gauntlett began playing church organ at the age of just nine in his father’s parish in Buckinghamshire. Since 1919, “Once in Royal David’s City” has been the opening hymn sung at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve. Irish-born Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) also wrote the hymns “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “There is a Green Hill Far Away” among a catalogue of more than 400. She donated the proceeds from her poetic works to an Irish charity for the deaf and dumb.

Once in royal David’s city,

Stood a lowly cattle shed,

Where a mother laid her baby

In a manger for His bed

Mary was that mother mild,

Jesus Christ her little child

 

He came down to earth from heaven,

Who is God and Lord of all,

And His shelter was a stable,

And His cradle was a stall

With the poor and meek and lowly,

Lived on earth our Saviour holy

 

And through all His wondrous childhood,

He would honour and obey,

Love and watch the lowly mother,

In whose gentle arms He lay

Christian children all should be,

Mild, obedient, good as He

 

For He is our childhood’s pattern,

Day by day like us He grew,

He was little, weak, and helpless,

Tears and smiles like us He knew,

And He feeleth for our sadness,

And He shareth in our gladness

 

And our eyes at last shall see Him,

Through His own redeeming love

For that child so dear and gentle,

Is our Lord in heaven above

And He leads His children on,

To the place where He is gone

 

Not in that poor lowly stable,

With the oxen standing by,

We shall see Him, but in heaven,

Set at God’s right hand on high

When like stars His children crowned,

All in white shall be around

Music bauble 10217844410 – “Carol of the Bells”

“Carol of the Bells” is based on a traditional Eastern European folk chant and was composed in 1904 by Ukrainian Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921), with contemporary English lyrics added in 1936 by American educator and choral conductor Peter J. Wilhousky (1902-1978). Leontovych’s work premiered in 1916 with the title “Schedryk”. Leontovych spent Christmas 1921 – celebrated in January in Eastern Orthodoxy – with his parents, but was tragically murdered there by a Soviet agent. It is believed the composer created enemies by promoting Ukraine as an independent state.

Hark how the bells,

Sweet silver bells,

All seem to say,

Throw cares away

Christmas is here,

Bringing good cheer,

To young and old,

Meek and the bold.

Ding dong ding dong

That is their song

With joyful ring

All carolling.

One seems to hear

Words of good cheer

From everywhere

Filling the air

Oh how they pound,

Raising the sound,

O’er hill and dale,

Telling their tale.

Gaily they ring

While people sing

Songs of good cheer,

Christmas is here.

Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,

Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas.

On on they send ,

On without end,

Their joyful tone

To every home

Ding dong ding…dong!

Music bauble 10217844412 – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is a traditional English carol likely dating from the mid-18th century, which was published in 1833 by British lawyer William Sandys (1792-1874) – author unknown. Ye in the title is commonly replaced by ‘you’ and the song has also been known as “God Rest You Merry People All”. It is referred to in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” of 1843 with “Bless” in the title: “At the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen…Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror…” The book “Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern” by Sandys (pronounced Sands) is credited with helping the revival of Christmas festivities in the mid-Victorian era. It included such works as “The First Noel”, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “I Saw Three Ships”.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen,

Let nothing you dismay,

For Jesus Christ our Saviour

Was born on Christmas Day,

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

 

In Bethlehem, in Israel,

This blessed Babe was born

And laid within a manger

Upon this blessed morn

The which His Mother Mary

Did nothing take in scorn

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

 

From God our Heavenly Father

A blessed Angel came;

And unto certain shepherds

Brought tidings of the same,

How that in Bethlehem was born

The Son of God by name

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

 

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,

“Let nothing you affright,

This day is born a Saviour

Of a pure Virgin bright

To free all those who trust in Him

From Satan’s power and might”

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

 

The shepherds at those tidings

Rejoiced much in mind

And left their flocks a-feeding

In tempest, storm and wind

And went to Bethlehem straightway

This blessed babe to find

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

 

And when they came to Bethlehem

Where our dear Saviour lay

They found him in a manger

Where oxen feed on hay

His Mother Mary kneeling

Unto the Lord did pray

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

 

Now to the Lord sing praises

All you within this place

And with true love and brotherhood

Each other now embrace

This holy tide of Christmas

All other doth deface

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

Music bauble 10217844414 – “Away in a Manger”

The tune “Cradle Song” was written by American William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921) for the 1895 musical “Around the World With Christmas” and married beautifully to lyrics of “Away in a Manger” – once incorrectly attributed to 16th century German Protestant reformer Martin Luther. German Lutheran colonists in Pennsylvania, USA in the late 19th century more likely wrote the lyrics. Members of the Protestant Moravian Church may have played “Away in a Manger” in their trombone choirs, which performed in church belfries in such Pennsylvania towns as Bethlehem and Nazareth, which are just four miles apart.

Away in a manger, no crib for His bed

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head

The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay

 

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes

But little Lord Jesus no crying he make

I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky

And stay by my side until morning is nigh

 

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay

Close by me forever, and love me, I pray

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care

And fit us for heaven, to live with thee there

Music bauble 10217844416 – “Coventry Carol”

“Coventry Carol” is British in origin and dates from the 16th century, author unknown. It was traditionally performed in Coventry in the English Midlands as the second of three songs in a mystery play: “The Pageant and the Shearmen and Sailors”. The carol tells of the account of infanticide by Herod the Great, King of Judea, in the Gospel according to Matthew: “Then Herod…sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem…” After the bombing of Coventry Cathedral in World War II, this carol was sung in the building’s ruins at the end of a 1940 BBC broadcast – introducing it to a wider audience and securing its place in Christmas carol folklore.

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,

By, by, lully, lullay

O sisters too, how may we do,

For to preserve this day,

This poor youngling, for whom we do sing,

By, by, lully, lullay

 

Herod the king in his raging,

Charged he hath this day

His men of might, in his own sight

All young children to slay

Then woe is me, poor child,  for thee,

And ever mourn and say,

For thy parting neither say nor sing,

By, by, lully, lullay

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,

By, by, lully, lullay

Music bauble 10217844418 – “Sussex Carol”

Ask someone to sing “Sussex Carol” and you may be met with a blank stare. Recite the first line and all becomes clear: “On Christmas night all Christians sing”. Therefore, this carol is commonly known by its opening line. The tune most often used today is that which British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) heard sung near Horsham, Sussex in the early 20th century – thus the “Sussex Carol”. It was published in 1919.

On Christmas night all Christians sing

To hear the news the angels bring

On Christmas night all Christians sing

To hear the news the angels bring

News of great joy, news of great mirth

News of our merciful King’s birth

 

Then why should men on earth be so sad

Since our Redeemer made us glad

Then why should men on earth be so sad

Since our Redeemer made us glad

When from our sin he set us free

All for to gain our liberty

 

When sin departs before his grace

Then life and health come in its place

When sin departs before his grace

Then life and health come in its place

Angels and men with joy may sing

All for to see the new born King

 

All out of darkness we have light

Which made the angels sing this night

All out of darkness we have light

Which made the angels sing this night

Glory to God and peace to men

Now and forever more Amen.

Music bauble 10217844420 – “Gaudete”

The sacred carol “Gaudete” was likely composed in the 16th century, if not earlier. The Latin text is a typical medieval chant of praise. An ‘a capella’ version of the song by British folk-rock group Steeleye Span reached number 14 in the UK singles charts in 1973. Only one other all-Latin song has made the UK top 50: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu” on two separate occasions with two different artists. Steeleye Span’s biggest hit single was “All Around My Hat”, which reached number five in the UK charts.

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine

Gaudete!

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine

Gaudete!

Tempus adest gratiæ

Hoc quod optabamus

Carmina lætitiæ

Devote reddamus

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine

Gaudete!

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine

Gaudete!

Deus homo factus est

Natura mirante

Mundus renovatus est

A Christo regnante

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine

Gaudete!

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine

Gaudete!

Ezechielis porta

Clausa pertransitur

Unde lux est orta

Salus invenitur

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine

Gaudete!

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine Gaudete!

Ergo nostra contio

Psallat iam in lustro

Benedicat Domino

Salus Regi nostro

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine

Gaudete!

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine

Gaudete!

Gaudete, gaudete!

Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine

Gaudete!

Music bauble 10217844422 – “Candlelight Carol”

John Rutter is the modern day carol master. Born in London in 1945, he is a prolific composer who has secured his place in British Christmas music history with a string of popular new carols – including “Candlelight Carol”. This is the first of four Rutter songs in our top 30 alone.

How do you capture the wind on the water?

How do you count all the stars in the sky?

How can you measure the love of a mother

Or how can you write down a baby’s first cry?

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star glow

Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn

Gloria, Gloria in excelsis Deo!

 

Angels are singing the Christ child is born

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and adore him

Seraphim round him their vigil will keep

Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Saviour

But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star glow

Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn

Gloria, Gloria in excelsis Deo!

 

Angels are singing the Christ child is born

Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger

Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay

Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation

A child with his mother that first Christmas Day

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star glow

Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn

Gloria, Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Angels are singing the Christ child is born

Music bauble 10217844424 – “See Amid the Winter’s Snow”

“See Amid the Winter’s Snow” was written by Anglican clergyman Edward Caswall (1814-1878), with music composed by British organist and composer Sir John Goss (1800-1880). Goss is best known for compositions such as “Praise My Soul the King of Heaven”. From 1827 to 1874, Goss was a professor at the Royal Academy of Music – where he taught Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan fame.

See amid the winter’s snow,

Born for us on earth below,

See the tender Lamb appears,

Promised from eternal years.

Chorus: Hail, thou ever-blessed morn!

Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!

Sing through all Jerusalem,

Christ is born in Bethlehem.

 

Lo, within a manger lies

He who built the starry skies;

He who throned in height sublime

Sits amid the cherubim.

[Chorus]

Say, ye holy shepherds, say

What your joyful news today;

Wherefore have ye left your sheep

On the lonely mountain steep

[Chorus]

As we watched at dead of night,

Lo, we saw a wondrous light

Angels singing peace on earth

Told us of the Saviour’s birth

[Chorus]

Sacred infant, all divine,

What a tender love was thine,

Thus to come from highest bliss

Down to such a world as this.

[Chorus]

Teach, O teach us,

Holy Child,

By Thy Face so meek and mild,

Teach us to resemble Thee,

In Thy Sweet humility!

[Chorus]

Music bauble 10217844426 – “The First Noel”

The word “Noel” means Christmas in French, but “The First Noel” – sometimes listed as “The First Nowell” – is a traditional English carol of Cornish origin from the 18th century. It is most commonly performed in a four-part arrangement by English composer Sir John Stainer (1840-1901), who was organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The first Noel, the angel did say

Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay

In fields where they lay keeping their sheep

In a cold winter’s night that was so deep

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel Born is the King of Israel!

 

They looked up and saw a star

Shining in the East beyond them far

And to the earth it gave great light

And so it continued both day and night

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel!

 

And by the light of that same star

Three wise men came from country far

To seek for a King was their intent

And to follow the star wherever it went

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel!

 

This star drew nigh to the northwest

O’er Bethlehem it took its rest

And there it did both stop and stay

Right o’er the place where Jesus lay

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel!

 

Then entered in those Wise men three

Full reverently upon their knee

And offered there in His presence

Their gold and myrrh and frankincense

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel!

 

Then let us all with one accord

Sing praises to our heavenly Lord

That hath made heaven and earth of nought

And with His blood mankind has bought

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel!

Music bauble 10217844428 – “Shepherd’s Pipe Carol”

British composer John Rutter makes a third appearance in our top 30 with his lively “Shepherd’s Pipe Carol” – and there’s still one more Rutter work to come. Little wonder he has been affectionately dubbed ‘Mr. Christmas’. To concentrate purely on his festive work, though, would be to overlook his grander-scale choral repertoire, like “Gloria” (1974), “Requiem” (1985) and “Magnificat” (1990).

Going through the hills on a night all starry on the way to Bethlehem

Far away I heard a shepherd piping on the way to Bethlehem

Angels in the sky brought this message nigh:

Dance and sing for joy that Christ the Newborn King is come to bring us peace on

Earth and he’s lying cradled there at Bethlehem

 

Tell me shepherd boy piping tunes so merrily on the way to Bethlehem

Who will hear your tunes on these hills so lonely on the way to Bethlehem

Angels in the sky brought this message nigh:

Dance and sing for joy that Christ the Newborn King is come to bring us peace on

Earth and he’s lying cradled there at Bethlehem

 

None may hear my pipes on these hills so lonely on the way to Bethlehem

But a King will hear me play sweet lullabies when I get to Bethlehem

Angels in the sky came down from on high

Hovered o’er the manger where the babe was lying

Cradled in the arms of his mother Mary

Sleeping now at Bethlehem

 

Where is this new King shepherd boy piping merrily is he there at Bethlehem

I will find him soon by the star shining brightly in the sky o’er Bethlehem

Angels in the sky brought this message nigh:

Dance and sing for joy that Christ the Newborn King is come to bring us peace on

Earth and he’s lying cradled there at Bethlehem

 

May I come with you shepherd boy piping merrily come with you to Bethlehem

Pay my homage too at the new King’s cradle is it far to Bethlehem

Angels in the sky brought this message nigh:

Dance and sing for joy that Christ the infant King is born

this night in lowly stable yonder Born for you in Bethlehem

Music bauble 10217844430 – “Still, Still, Still”

An Austrian Christmas carol and lullaby, “Still, Still, Still” first appeared in 1865 in a folksong collection from the State of Salzburg. In German, the first line is “Stille, stille, stille, weil’s Kindlein schlafen will!” Translated it reads: “Hush, hush, hush, for the little child wants to sleep!” One of the more beautiful renditions of this song in recent times was delivered by Welsh wonder Sir Bryn Terfel on his Christmas album.

Still, still, still,

One can hear the falling snow

For all is hushed

The world is sleeping

Holy Star its vigil keeping

Still, still, still

One can hear the falling snow

 

Sleep, sleep, sleep

‘Tis the eve of our Saviour’s birth

The night is peaceful all around you

Close your eyes

Let sleep surround you

Sleep, sleep, sleep

‘Tis the eve of our Saviour’s birth

 

Dream, dream, dream

Of the joyous day to come

While guardian angels without number

Watch you as you sweetly slumber

Dream, dream, dream

Of the joyous day to come

Music bauble 10217844432 – “Good King Wenceslas”

“Good King Wenceslas” tells the story of a king wishing to help a peasant in harsh winter weather the day after Christmas – The Feast of Stephen. Giving alms to the poor on December 26th is believed to be the way Boxing Day came to pass. The story is based on the life of St. Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia (903-935). He came to power aged just 18. His life was ended in a murderous plot, hatched by his jealous brother Boleslav. In his short reign, however, Wenceslaus developed almost saintly renown for his acts of great generosity. His trusted valet Podiven is, according to legend, the man who walked in his footprints in the snow on one of their charity missions (“Mark my footsteps good, my page…”). The fable suggests the King’s imprints stayed miraculously warm. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), an English Anglican priest and hymn writer, created the “Good King Wenceslas” lyrics set to a tune based on a 13th century spring song “It Is Time For Flowering”. It was published in 1853.

Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen

When the snow lay round about deep and crisp and even

Brightly shone the moon that night though the frost was cruel

When a poor man came in sight gath’ring winter fuel

 

“Hither, page, and stand by me if thou know’st it, telling

Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”

“Sire, he lives a good league hence underneath the mountain

Right against the forest fence by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

 

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine bring me pine logs hither

Thou and I will see him dine when we bear him thither.”

Page and monarch forth they went forth they went together

Through the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather

 

“Sire, the night is darker now and the wind blows stronger

Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer.”

“Mark my footsteps, good my page tread thou in them boldly

Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.”

 

In his master’s steps he trod where the snow lay dinted

Heat was in the very sod which the Saint had printed

Therefore, Christian men, be sure wealth or rank possessing

Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing

Music bauble 10217844434 – “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

The lyrics to “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” are attributed to Irish hymnist and British poet laureate Nahum Tate (1652-1715) and are most commonly sung in the UK to the “Winchester Old” tune. This is believed to be the only Christmas hymn approved by the Church of England in the 18th century as most other carols were considered too secular.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,

All seated on the ground,

The angel of the Lord came down,

And glory shone around.

“Fear not,” said he, for mighty dread

Had seized their troubled minds,

“Glad tidings of great joy I bring

To you and all mankind.

 

“To you, in David’s town, this day,

Is born of David’s line

A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord;

And this shall be the sign.

The heavenly babe you there shall find

To human view displayed,

All meanly wrapped in swaddling clothes

And in a manger laid.”

 

Thus spake the seraph and forthwith

Appeared a shining throng

Of angels, praising God, who thus

Addressed their joyful song:

“All glory be to God on high,

And to the earth be peace

Good will henceforth from Heaven to men

Begin and never cease.”

Music bauble 10217844436 – “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”

This popular 16th century carol hails from the English West Country and its roots lie in the tradition of wealthier people in a community giving treats to carollers on Christmas Eve. Figgy pudding is a version of the Christmas pudding eaten today. You will doubtless have heard through the years the incorrect line “Good tidings we bring to you and your King” when it is in fact “…you and your kin“.

We wish you a Merry Christmas

We wish you a Merry Christmas

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year

 

Now bring us a figgy pudding

Now bring us a figgy pudding

Now bring us a figgy pudding

Now bring some out here

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year

 

Oh, we all like figgy pudding

We all like figgy pudding

Oh, we all like figgy pudding

So bring some out here

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year

 

And we won’t go until we get some

We won’t go until we get some

And we won’t go until we get some

So bring some out here

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year

A Happy New Year

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year

Music bauble 10217844438 – “As With Gladness Men of Old”

German Konrad Kocher (1786-1872) composed the music for “As With Gladness Men of Old” in 1838 – and the same melody is used in the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth”. British hymnist William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) wrote the lyrics while suffering depression following a near-fatal illness – remarkably producing light and beauty from some of his darkest hours.

As with gladness, men of old

Did the guiding star behold

As with joy they hailed its light

Leading onward, beaming bright

So, most gracious Lord, may we

Evermore be led to Thee.

 

As with joyful steps they sped

To that lowly manger bed

There to bend the knee before Him

Whom heaven and earth adore

So may we with willing feet

Ever seek Thy mercy seat.

 

As they offered gifts most rare

At that manger rude and bare

So may we with holy joy,

Pure and free from sin’s alloy,

All our costliest treasures bring,

Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.

 

Holy Jesus, every day

Keep us in the narrow way

And when earthly things are past,

Bring our ransomed souls at last

Where they need no star to guide,

Where no clouds Thy glory hide

 

In the heavenly country bright

Need they no created light

Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown

Thou its Sun which goes not down

There forever may we sing

Alleluias to our King!

Music bauble 10217844440 – “Boar’s Head Carol”

Sacrificing a boar and presenting its head at a Christmas feast was an ancient tradition captured in this 15th century English carol. A boar’s head is carried on a silver platter, dated 1668, into the hall at Queen’s College, Oxford for an annual Yuletide feast while the “Boar’s Head Carol” is sung. Many other colleges around the world also observe this ancient tradition.

The boar’s head in hand bring I

Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary

And I pray you my masters be merry

Quo testis in convivio

Caput apri defero

Reddens laudes Domino

The boar’s head as I understand

Is the rarest dish in all this land

Which thus bedeck’d with gay garland

Let us servire cantico

Caput apri defero

Reddens laudes Domino

Our steward hath provided this

In honour of the King of bliss

Which on this day to be served is

In Reginensi atrio

Caput apri defero

Reddens laudes Domino

Music bauble 10217844442 – “Good Christian Men Rejoice”

There have been many translations from the German-Latin text of Medieval carol “In Dulce Jubilo”, including in 1837 from British composer Robert Pearsall (1795-1856) and John Mason Neale’s 1853 arrangement “Good Christian Men Rejoice”. English Anglican priest Neale (1818-1866) also translated much of the Latin text for “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.

Good Christian men rejoice

With heart and soul and voice

Listen now to what we say

Jesus Christ is born today!

Ox and ass before Him bow

And He is in the manger now

Christ is born today!

Christ is born today!

 

Good Christian men rejoice

With heart and soul and voice

Hear the news of endless bliss

Jesus Christ was born for this

He has opened heaven’s door

And we are blessed for evermore

Christ was born for this

Christ was born for this

 

Good Christian men rejoice

With heart and soul and voice

Now ye need not fear the grave

Jesus Christ was born to save

Calls you one and calls you all

To gain his everlasting hall

Christ was born to save

Christ was born to save

Music bauble 10217844444 – “I Saw Three Ships”

A traditional English carol, “I Saw Three Ships” originates from the 17th century. There are several theories as to what the three ships represent – one being they are the three kings visiting the infant Jesus.

I saw three ships come sailing in on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day

I saw three ships come sailing in on Christmas Day in the morning

And what was in those ships all three on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day

And what was in those ships all three on Christmas Day in the morning

The Saviour Christ and his Lady on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day

The Saviour Christ and his Lady on Christmas Day in the morning

 

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three on Christmas Day in the morning

O they sailed into Bethlehem on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day

O they sailed into Bethlehem on Christmas Day in the morning

And all the bells on earth shall ring on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day

And all the bells on earth shall ring on Christmas Day in the morning

 

And all the angels in heaven shall sing on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day

And all the angels in heaven shall sing on Christmas Day in the morning

And all the souls on earth shall sing on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day

And all the souls on earth shall sing on Christmas Day in the morning

Then let us all rejoice again on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day

Then let us all rejoice again on Christmas Day in the morning

Music bauble 10217844446 – “Unto Us is Born a Son”

The medieval Christmas carol “Puer Nobis Nascitur” is translated from Latin to the English “Unto Us is Born a Son” – although this song is often listed with a subtle difference: “Unto Us a Son is Born”. British Anglican priest George Ratcliffe Woodward (1859-1934) helped the popularity of the processional hymn with his translation, published in 1902.

Unto us is born a son

King of choirs supernal

See on earth his life begun

Of lords the Lord eternal

 

Christ from heav’n descending low

Comes on earth a stranger

Ox and ass their owner know

Now cradled in a manger

 

This did Herod sore affray

And did him bewilder

So he gave the word to slay

And slew the little childer

 

Of his love and mercy mild

Hear the Christmas story

O that Mary’s gentle child

Might lead us up to glory

O and A and A and O

Cantemus in choro

Cum canticis et organo

Benedicamus Domino

Music bauble 10217844448 – “Star Carol”

Another song from John Rutter’s delightful collection of Christmas works is “Star Carol”. Rutter was made a Commander of the British Empire in the 2007 New Year’s Honours list for outstanding services to music. He marked his 70th birthday with a special concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London in November 2015.

Sing this night for a boy is born in Bethlehem

Christ our Lord in a lowly manger lies

Bring your gifts come and worship at his cradle

Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary

Chorus: See His star shining bright

In the sky this Christmas night

Follow me joyfully

Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary

 

Angels bright come from heaven’s highest glory

Bear the news with its message of good cheer

“Sing, rejoice for a King is come to save us

Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary!”

(Chorus)

See he lies in his mother’s tender keeping

Jesus Christ in her loving arms asleep

Shepherds fall both to worship and adore him

Offer their heartfelt gifts before the son of Mary

(Chorus)

Let us pay our homage at the manger

Sing his praise on this joyful Christmas night

Christ is come bringing promise of salvation

Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary

(Chorus)

Music bauble 10217844450 – “There is No Rose of Such Virtue”

“There is No Rose of Such Virtue” is a 1954 work from South African-born British composer John Joubert (b. 1927), who has lived in the suburbs of Birmingham, England for more than 40 years. He also composed the carol “Torches” (Opus 7a, 1951; published 1961) among more than 160 works, including two symphonies and seven operas. Joubert says he has had carol-singers come to his door and sing his Christmas songs, without them knowing the composer lived inside.

There is no rose of such virtue

As is the rose that bare Jesu

There is no rose of such virtue

As is the rose that bare Jesu

Alleluia!

For in this rose contained was

Heaven and earth in little space

Res miranda

 

There is no rose of such virtue

As is the rose that bare Jesu

By that rose we may well see

That he is God in persons three

Pari forma

There is no rose of such virtue

As is the rose that bare Jesu

The angels sungen the shepherds to

Gloria in excelsis deo

Gaudeamus

Leave we all this worldly mirth

And follow we this joyful birth

Transeamus

Alleluia, res Miranda

Pares forma, gaudeamus

Transeamus

There is no rose of such virtue

As is the rose that bare Jesu

 

And just outside the top 50: “King Jesus Hath a Garden”; “A Child is Born in Bethlehem”; “Hob and Goblin”; “The Carol of the Angels”; “Donkey Carol”; “Torches”; “Adam Lay Ybounden”; “Whence Is That Goodly Fragrance Flowing?”; “Personent Hodie”; “Lullay My Liking”; “Hodie Christus Natus Est”; “Sleep Thou Heav’n Born Treasure, Thou”; “Calypso Carol”; “Quem Pastores Laudavere”; “Hereford Carol” (Not to be confused with “Herefordshire Carol”/”The Truth Sent From Above”)

 

Music bauble 102178444“The Shepherds’ Farewell”

French composer Hector Berlioz wrote the oratorio “L’enfance du Christ, Opus 25” in the 1850’s. It is a sacred trilogy often performed around Christmas. The idea for this work came from an organ piece Berlioz composed for his friend Joseph-Louis Duc called “L’adieu des Bergers”“The Shepherds’ Farewell”. Thus it isn’t a carol as such – but the lyrics are here for you to enjoy alongside the beautiful music nonetheless.

Thou must leave Thy lowly dwelling,

The humble crib, the stable bare

Babe, all mortal babes excelling,

Content our earthly lot to share

Loving father, Loving mother,

Shelter Thee with tender care

Loving father, Loving mother,

Shelter Thee with tender care

Shelter Thee with tender care

 

Blessed Jesus, we implore Thee

With humble love and holy fear

In the land that lies before Thee,

Forget not us who linger here

May the shepherd’s lowly calling,

Ever to Thy heart be dear

May the shepherd’s lowly calling,

Ever to Thy heart be dear

Ever to Thy heart be dear

 

Blest are ye beyond all measure,

Thou happy father, mother mild

Guard ye well your heav’nly treasure,

The Prince of Peace, The Holy Child

God go with you, God protect you,

Guide you safely through the wild

God go with you, God protect you,

Guide you safely through the wild

Guide you safely through the wild

 

 

NB: Carols (copyright) their owners. All the carols listed are purely for the purposes of the enjoyment and education of the visitors to this website and added by our team at no charge. Anyone with just cause requesting the removal of any of the listed carols should contact info@howtochristmas.co.uk with legally binding evidence and allow a suitable grace period for said item to be removed from the site. Thank you.

Music bauble 1021784443 – “In The Bleak Midwinter” (Holst)

Two versions of “In the Bleak Midwinter” make our top five. At number three is the Gustav Holst (1874-1934) setting “Cranham” and at number five the more complex Harold Darke (1888-1976) version, which is favoured by cathedral choirs. Both accompany the wonderful words of English poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). Holst is best known for his orchestral suite “The Planets”. Darke served as conductor of King’s College Choir, Cambridge during World War II – and his is the version sung in the choir’s famous Christmas Eve service.

In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan

Earth stood hard as iron

Water like a stone

Snow had fallen

Snow on snow, snow on snow

In the bleak midwinter

Long, long ago

 

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him

Nor earth sustain

Heaven and earth shall flee away

When He comes to reign

In the bleak midwinter

A stable-place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty

Jesus Christ

 

Enough for Him, whom cherubim

Worship night and day

A breastful of milk

And a mangerful of hay

Enough for Him, whom angels

Fall down before

The ox and ass and camel

Which adore

 

Angels and archangels

May have gathered there

Cherubim and seraphim

Thronged the air

But only His mother

In her maiden bliss

Worshiped the beloved

With a kiss

 

What can I give him

Poor as I am

If I were a shepherd

I would give a lamb

If I were a wise man

I would do my part

But what I can I give him

Give him my heart

Music bauble 1021784445 – “In The Bleak Midwinter” (Darke)

Two versions of “In the Bleak Midwinter” make our top five. At number three is the Gustav Holst (1874-1934) setting “Cranham” and at number five the more complex Harold Darke (1888-1976) version, which is favoured by cathedral choirs. Both accompany the wonderful words of English poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). Holst is best known for his orchestral suite “The Planets”. Darke served as conductor of King’s College Choir, Cambridge during World War II – and his is the version sung in the choir’s famous Christmas Eve service.

In the bleak midwinter

Frosty wind made moan

Earth stood hard as iron

Water like a stone

Snow had fallen

Snow on snow, snow on snow

In the bleak midwinter

Long, long ago

 

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him

Nor earth sustain

Heaven and earth shall flee away

When He comes to reign

In the bleak midwinter

A stable-place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty

Jesus Christ

 

Enough for Him, whom cherubim

Worship night and day

A breastful of milk

And a mangerful of hay

Enough for Him, whom angels

Fall down before

The ox and ass and camel

Which adore

 

Angels and archangels

May have gathered there

Cherubim and seraphim

Thronged the air

But only His mother

In her maiden bliss

Worshiped the beloved

With a kiss

 

What can I give him

Poor as I am

If I were a shepherd

I would give a lamb

If I were a wise man

I would do my part

But what I can I give him

Give him my heart

Music bauble 1021784447 – “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Inspired by a visit to Bethlehem in 1865, American clergyman Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) wrote the text for “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. The English hymn tune “Forest Green” – as adapted by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) from a folk tune associated with a ballad entitled “The Ploughboy’s Dream” – is the most common musical accompaniment to these lyrics.

O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight

 

O morning stars together

Proclaim thy holy birth

And praises sing to God the King

And peace to men on earth

For Christ is born of Mary

And gathered all above

While mortals sleep the angels keep

Their watch of wondering love

 

How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is given!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of His heaven

No ear may hear His coming

But in this world of sin

Where meek souls will receive him still

The dear Christ enters in

 

O Holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us, we pray

Cast out our sin and enter in

Be born in us today

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell

O come to us, abide with us

Our Lord Emmanuel!

Music bauble 1021784449 – “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

From a 12th century Latin work “Veni, Veni Emmanuel” based on a biblical prophecy, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is an integral Advent offering. English Anglican priest John Mason Neale (1818-1866) and American minister Henry Sloane Coffin (1877-1954) carried out the translation in the mid-19th century. Neale’s Christmas repertoire also includes “Good Christian Men Rejoice” and “Good King Wenceslas”. Coffin is buried in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

O come, O come, Emmanuel

To free your captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

 

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high

And order all things far and nigh

To us the path of knowledge show

And teach us in her ways to go

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

 

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,

Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,

In ancient times did’st give the Law,

In cloud, and majesty and awe

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

 

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny

From depths of Hell Thy people save

And give them victory o’er the grave

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

 

O come, Thou Key of David, come,

And open wide our heavenly home

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

 

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

 

O come, Desire of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind

Bid every strife and quarrel cease

And fill the world with heaven’s peace

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

Music bauble 10217844411 – “Ding Dong Merrily On High”

British composer and Anglican priest George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934) wrote the lyrics for “Ding Dong Merrily on High” to a piece of secular dance music. The tune was first recorded in a dance book by French cleric Jehan Tabourot (1519-1595) – whose pen name was Thoinot Arbeau. In 1924, along with Irish composer Charles Wood (1866-1926), Woodward published: “A Cambridge Carol Book: Being Fifty-two Songs for Christmas, Easter and Other Seasons”. It included “Ding Dong Merrily on High”. Fittingly, Woodward’s hobbies included bell ringing.

Ding dong! merrily on high

In heaven the bells are ringing:

Ding dong! verily the sky

Is riv’n with angels singing.

Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

 

E’en so here below below,

Let steeple bells be swungen,

And “io, io, io”

By priest and people sungen.

Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

 

Pray you dutifully prime

Your matin chime, ye ringers.

May you beautifully rime

Your eve time song, ye singers.

Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

 

Classic FM Radio: You will have the opportunity to vote for your favourite carol at classicfm.com late in the year each festive season. See how you can impact the station’s top 30 and listen out for the results on Christmas Day.

 

 

Music bauble 10217844413 – “Joy to the World”

“Joy to the World” is the most-published Christmas hymn in North American history. Prolific and inspirational British hymn writer Isaac Watts (1674-1748) penned the lyrics based on The Bible’s Psalm 98. The music was adapted to Watts’ words in 1839 by American composer Lowell Mason (1792-1872) from a melody originally heard in Handel’s “Messiah”. Watts also wrote such hymns as “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”. The song’s popularity in North America is illustrated by the number of iconic performers to record it: like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and The Supremes.

Joy to the world The Lord is come

Let earth receive her King

Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and heaven and nature sing

 

Joy to the earth

The Saviour reigns

Let men their songs employ

While fields and floods

Rocks, hills, and plains

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

 

No more let sins and sorrows grow

Nor thorns infest the ground

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found

Far as the curse is found

Far as, far as, the curse is found

 

He rules the world With truth and grace

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness

And wonders of His love

And wonders of His love

And wonders, wonders of His love

 

 

Carolling trio

Elf Helper: There are always variations in the lyrics we have included in our top 50 – it all depends on which version of a carol you select. Some choirs will sing abridged versions – others will sing every verse of the original text. In “Angels From The Realms of Glory”, the repeated line “Come and Worship…” is often sung in Latin (“Gloria in Excelsis Deo”). You get the idea. If you listen to contemporary, pop arrangements of some carols they can be…well, put through a wringer. But as the intention of How to Christmas is to give you a lyrical guide for a good old Christmas singsong, whatever the genre, then I’m sure you’ll find plenty in the list to keep you warbling well into the New Year.

Music bauble 10217844415 – “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”

American pastor Edmund Sears (1810-1876) wrote the poem “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and it is most commonly accompanied in the UK by the tune “Noel”, adapted from an English melody in 1874 by Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)…he of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. Their 19th century operas “HMS Pinafore” and “The Pirates of Penzance” were international hits and remain popular to this day. The title of this carol can invariably include the word ‘the’ instead of ‘a’“It Came Upon The Midnight Clear”.

It came upon a midnight clear

That glorious song of old

From angels bending near the earth

To touch their harps of gold

Peace on the earth goodwill to men

From heav’n all gracious King

The world in solemn stillness lay

To hear the angels sing

 

Still through the cloven skies they come

With peaceful wings unfurled

And still their heavenly music floats

O’er all the weary world

Above its sad and lowly plains

They bend on hovering wing

And ever o’er its Babel sounds

The blessed angels sing

 

Yet with the woes of sin and strife

The world has suffered long

Beneath the heavenly strain have rolled

Two thousand years of wrong

And man at war with man hears not

The tidings which they bring

O hush the noise ye men of strife

And hear the angels sing

 

O ye, beneath life’s crushing load

Whose forms are bending low

Who toil along the climbing way

With painful steps and slow

Look now for glad and golden hours

Come swiftly on the wing

O rest beside the weary road

And hear the angels sing

 

For lo the days are hastening on

By prophets seen of old

When with the ever-circling years

Shall come the time foretold

When peace shall over all the earth

Its ancient splendours fling

And the whole world give back the song

Which now the angels sing

Music bauble 10217844417 – “The Three Kings”

Epiphany anthem “The Three Kings” is the work of German composer Peter Cornelius (1824-1874). While living with his uncle in Berlin, Cornelius is believed to have met and befriended composer Felix Mendelssohn and fairytale scribes the Brothers Grimm.

Kings from Persian lands afar

To Jordan follow the pointing star

And this the quest of the travellers three

Where the newborn King of the Jews may be

Full royal gifts they bear for the King

Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering

 

The star shines out with steadfast ray

The kings to Bethlehem make their way

And there in worship they bend their knee

As Mary’s child in her lap they see

Their royal gifts they show to the King

Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering

 

Thou child of man, lo, Bethlehem

The kings are travelling, travel with them

The star of mercy, the star of grace

Shall lead thy heart to its resting place

Gold, incense, myrrh thou canst not bring

Offer thy heart to the infant King

Music bauble 10217844419 – “The Holly and the Ivy”

For centuries, holly and ivy have been used to decorate homes in Britain at wintertime. Holly was sacred to ancient druids, who believed it could ward off evil. Both plants’ evergreen nature served as a reminder of new growth to come – even in the dark depths of winter. Holly and ivy were also part of Roman Saturnalia celebrations, further securing their link to pagan rituals. We have more on holly and ivy on our Christmas Flowers & Plants and Trivia & Trifles pages. There is reference in the “Oxford Book of Carols” that holly and ivy may have represented the battle of the sexes: holly with masculine qualities, ivy with feminine. This is supported by the work of Edith Rickert (1871-1938), an English professor at the University of Chicago who published the book “Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700” in 1910. William Husk’s books “Songs of the Nativity” and “Holly and Ivy Made a Great Party” also have interesting takes on the relationship between holly and ivy, men and women. Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) first published the music and most of the text to “The Holly and the Ivy”. He was founding father of the revival of English folk music and, having seen Morris dancers perform near Oxford in 1899, generated interest in this dying tradition to the degree it, too, enjoyed a renaissance. Sharp’s notations on the subject were published as “Morris Books” from 1907.

The holly and the ivy,

When they are both full grown,

Of all the trees that are in the wood,

The holly wears the crown.

Chorus: O the rising of the sun,

And the running of the deer,

The playing of the merry organ,

Sweet singing in the choir

 

The holly bears a blossom

As white as lily flower

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

To be our sweet Saviour

[Chorus]

The holly bears a berry

As red as any blood

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

To do poor sinners good.

[Chorus]

The holly bears a prickle

As sharp as any thorn

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

On Christmas day in the morn

[Chorus]

The holly bears a bark

As bitter as any gall

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

For to redeem us all.

[Chorus]

The holly and the ivy,

Now both are full well grown,

Of all the trees that are in the wood,

The holly wears the crown.

[Chorus]

Music bauble 10217844421 – “In Dulci Jubilo”

“In Dulci Jubilo” means “In Sweet Rejoicing” and many now rejoice in the variety of versions of a carol that dates back to the Middle Ages. Legend has it that German mystic Heinrich Seuse (circa 1328) heard angels sing the words “In Dulci Jubilo”, praising the infant Jesus, and was drawn into a dance of worship before writing down the text. There have been many translations from the German-Latin text, including in 1837 from British composer Robert Pearsall (1795-1856) and John Mason Neale’s 1853 arrangement “Good Christian Men Rejoice” – although one critic in the early 20th century described Neale’s efforts as “musical wrong doing…” English Anglican priest Neale (1818-1866) also translated much of the Latin text for “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. An instrumental version of “In Dulci Jubilo” was a Christmas hit for British musician Mike Oldfield in 1975, reaching a chart-high position of four in January 1976.

In dulci jubilo

Now sing with hearts aglow!

Our delight and pleasure

Lies in praesepio,

Like sunshine is our treasure

Matris in gremio.

Alpha es et O!

Alpha es et O!

 

O Jesu, parvule,

For thee I long always

Comfort my heart’s blindness,

O puer optime,

With all Thy loving kindness,

O princeps gloriae.

Trahe me post te!

Trahe me post te!

 

O Patris caritas!

O Nati lenitas!

Deeply were we stained

Per nostra crimina

But Thou for us hast gained

Coelorum gaudia

O that we were there!

O that we were there!

 

Ubi sunt gaudia

In any place but there

There are angels singing

Nova cantica

And there the bells are ringing

In Regis curia

O that we were there!

O that we were there!

Music bauble 10217844423- “Gabriel’s Message”

“Gabriel’s Message” is a Basque Christmas folk carol. It was paraphrased into English by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), an English Anglican priest, and is often performed in an arrangement by Edgar Pettman (1866-1943) – published in his 1892 book “Modern Christmas Carols”. Baring-Gould would marry Grace Taylor and they had 15 children: their fifteen little angels.

The angel Gabriel from heaven came

His wings as drifted snow

His eyes as flame

“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,

Most highly favoured lady,”Gloria!

 

“For known a blessed mother thou shalt be,

All generations laud and honour thee,

Thy Son shall be Emmanuel,

By seers foretold

Most highly favoured lady,” Gloria!

 

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head

“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,

“My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name.”

Most highly favoured lady, Gloria!

 

Of her Emmanuel, the Christ was born

In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn

And Christian folk throughout the world forever saved

Most highly favoured lady, Gloria!

 

 

 

Carolling trio

 

 

 

Music bauble 10217844425 – “Angel’s Carol”

“Angel’s Carol” is another splendid work by John Rutter, who Sir David Willcocks – a great British choral conductor – referred to as the most gifted composer of his generation. Rutter founded his own choir in 1981 – The Cambridge Singers.

Have you heard the sound of the angel voices

Ringing out so sweetly, ringing out so clear?

Have you seen the star shining out so brightly

As a sign from God that Christ the Lord is here?

Have you heard the news that they bring from heaven

To the humble shepherds who have waited long?

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Hear the angels sing their joyful song.

 

He is come in peace in the winter’s stillness,

Like a gentle snowfall in the gentle night

He is come in joy, like the sun at morning,

Filling all the world with radiance and with light

He is come in love as the child of Mary

In a simple stable we have seen his birth.

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Hear the angels singing ‘Peace on earth’.

 

He will bring new light to a world in darkness,

Like a bright star shining in the skies above.

He will bring new hope to the waiting nations,

When he comes to reign in purity and love.

Let the earth rejoice at the Saviour’s coming.

Let the heavens answer with a joyful morn:

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Hear the angels singing ‘Christ is born’

Hear the angels singing ‘Christ is born’

Music bauble 10217844427 – “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree”

British composer, musician and writer Elizabeth Poston (1905-1987) set this 18th century poem to music. There was an old English tradition of wassailing or wishing health to apple trees on Christmas Eve. The accomplished Poston wrote the score to the television production of “Howard’s End” while living in the house E.M. Forster grew up in as a child, which was also the setting for his novel.

The tree of life my soul hath seen

Laden with fruit and always green

The tree of life my soul hath seen

Laden with fruit and always green

The trees of nature fruitless be

Compared with Christ the apple tree

 

His beauty doth all things excel

By faith I know but ne’er can tell

His beauty doth all things excel

By faith I know but ne’er can tell

The glory which I now can see

In Jesus Christ the apple tree

 

For happiness I long have sought

And pleasure dearly I have bought

For happiness I long have sought

And pleasure dearly I have bought

I missed of all but now I see

‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree

 

I’m weary with my former toil

Here I will sit and rest a while

I’m weary with my former toil

Here I will sit and rest a while

Under the shadow I will be

Of Jesus Christ the apple tree

 

This fruit does make my soul to thrive

It keeps my dying faith alive

This fruit does make my soul to thrive

It keeps my dying faith alive

Which makes my soul in haste to be

With Jesus Christ the apple tree

Music bauble 10217844429 – “What Sweeter Music”

John Rutter strikes again. This is the prolific composer’s fourth carol in our top 30 – and it is not the last we will be hearing from him in our top 50. He is the modern master of Christmas music with an array of enchanting carols.

What sweeter music can we bring than a carol for to sing

The birth of this our heavenly King.

Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away

And give the honour to this day

That sees December turned to May,

That sees December turned to May

 

Why does this chilling winter’s morn

Smile like a field beset with corn

Or smell like a meadow newly shorn,

Thus on the Sudden, come and see

The cause why things thus fragrant be

 

‘Tis He is born whose quickening birth,

Gives life and lustre, public mirth

To Heaven and the under-earth,

We see him come, and know him ours

Who with his sunshine and his showers

Turns all the patient ground to flowers

 

The darling of the world is come

And fit it is we find a room

To welcome him, the nobler part

Of all the house here, is the heart

Which we will give him and bequeath

This holly and this ivy wreath

To do him honour, who’s our King

And Lord of all this revelling

What sweeter music can we bring than a carol for to sing

The birth of this our heavenly King

Carolling trio

 

Music bauble 10217844431 – “What Child is This?”

British writer William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) wrote this carol out of a near-death experience. Aged just 29, he was afflicted by an illness that almost took his life. A deep depression followed. And yet during his lowest times he was able to write many hymns, including “As With Gladness Men of Old” and this cherished Christmas song set to the music of Greensleeves. The tune is based on an Italian style of composition and, therefore, unlikely to have been composed by Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn – a common misconception.

What child is this, who, laid to rest,

On Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,

While shepherds watch are keeping

This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing

Haste, haste to bring him laud,

The babe, the son of Mary

 

Why lies he in such mean estate

Where ox and ass are feeding?

Good Christian, fear for sinners here

The silent Word is pleading

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,

The Cross be borne for me, for you

Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,

The Babe, the Son of Mary

 

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,

Come, peasant, king, to own him

The King of kings salvation brings,

Let loving hearts enthrone him

Raise, raise the song on high,

The Virgin sings her lullaby

Joy, joy, for Christ is born,

The Babe, the Son of Mary

Music bauble 10217844433 – “Angels We Have Heard on High”

“Angels in Our Countryside” – that is the English translation of the French carol “Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes”. On this are based the words of “Angels We Have Heard on High”. There have been many adjustments through the years, most notably that in 1862 of Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle James Chadwick (1813-1882). He was ordained as a priest the week before Christmas 1836.

Angels we have heard on high

Sweetly singing o’er the plain

And the mountains in reply

Echoing their joyous strains

Gloria, In excelsis Deo

Gloria, In excelsis Deo

 

Shepherds, why this jubilee

Why your joyous strains prolong

What the gladsome tidings be,

Which inspire your heavenly song,

Gloria, In excelsis Deo

Gloria, In excelsis Deo

 

Come to Bethlehem and see

Him whose birth the angels sing,

Come adore on bended knee

Christ the Lord, our newborn King

Gloria! In excelsis Deo

Gloria! In excelsis Deo

 

See Him in a manger laid

Jesus Lord of heaven and earth

Mary, Joseph lend your aid

With us sing our Saviour’s birth

Gloria! In excelsis Deo

Gloria! In excelsis Deo

 

Music bauble 10217844435 – “Deck the Halls”

The 19th century lyrics are English, the 16th century melody is Welsh – together they make the uplifting “Deck the Halls”. The tune is taken from a traditional Welsh New Year’s Eve song “Nos Galan”, first published in 1794 even though it is considerably older. The English words are attributed to Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant (1799-1873) – who was fittingly christened on Christmas Day 1799.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly

Fa la la la la, la la la la

‘Tis the season to by jolly

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Don we now our gay apparel

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Troll the ancient Yuletide carol

Fa la la la la, la la la la

 

See the blazing Yule before us

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Strike the harp and join the chorus

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Follow me in merry measure

Fa la la la la, la la la la

While I tell of Yuletide treasure

Fa la la la la, la la la la

 

Fast away the old year passes

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Hail the new ye lads and lasses

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Sing we joyous all together

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Heedless of the wind and weather

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Music bauble 10217844437 – “We Three Kings of Orient Are”

American rector John Henry Hopkins Junior (1820-1891) wrote “We Three Kings of Orient Are” in 1857 for a Christmas pageant in New York City. It was published five years later. The number of Magi is not confirmed in the Gospel of Matthew, so it is from the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that an assumption has been made there were three kings.

We three kings of Orient are,

Bearing gifts we traverse afar,

Field and fountain, moor and mountain,

Following yonder Star

Chorus: O, star of wonder, star of might,

Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to the perfect light.

 

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,

Gold we bring to crown Him again,

King forever, ceasing never,

Over us all to reign

(Chorus)

Frankincense to offer have I

Incense owns a Deity nigh

Prayer and praising, all men raising,

Worship Him, God most High

(Chorus)

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume

Breathes of life of gathering gloom

Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,

Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

(Chorus)

Glorious now behold Him arise,

King and God and sacrifice,

“Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Earth to heav’n replies

(Chorus)

Music bauble 10217844439 – “Wexford Carol”

The “Wexford Carol” is a traditional Irish carol dating back to the 12th century. William Grattan Flood (1859-1928) – organist and musical director at St. Aidan’s Cathedral in Enniscorthy, Ireland – is responsible for its renewed popularity.

Good people all, this Christmas-time

Consider well and bear in mind

What our good God for us has done

In sending his beloved Son

With Mary holy we should pray

To God with love this Christmas day

In Bethlehem upon that morn

There was a blessed Messiah born

 

The night before that happy tide

The noble Virgin and her guide

Were long-time seeking up and down

To find a lodging in the town

But mark how all things came to pass

From every door repelled alas!

As long foretold, their refuge all

Was but a humble ox’s stall

 

There were three wise men from afar

Directed by a glorious star

And on they wandered night and day

Until they came where Jesus lay

And when they came unto that place

Where our beloved Messiah was

They humbly cast them at his feet

With gifts of gold and incense sweet

 

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep

Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep

To whom God’s angels did appear

Which put the shepherds in great fear

“Prepare and go,” the angels said,

“To Bethlehem, be not afraid

For there you’ll find this happy morn

A princely babe, sweet Jesus born.”

 

With thankful heart and joyful mind

The shepherds went the babe to find

And as God’s angel had foretold

They did our Saviour Christ behold

Within a manger he was laid

And by his side the Virgin maid

Attending on the Lord of life

Who came on earth to end all strife

Music bauble 10217844441 – “Angels From The Realms of Glory”

Scottish poet James Montgomery (1771-1854) wrote “Angels From The Realms of Glory”. It was first printed in 1816 and started to grow in popularity a decade later. In the United States, this carol is normally sung to a tune called “Regent Square” by English composer Henry Smart (1813-1879). But in the UK, the preferred melody is from a French carol tune “Iris”, used also for “Angels We Have Heard on High”. This is apt because when Montgomery became editor of the Sheffield Register newspaper in 1794 he renamed it the Sheffield Iris. That is where “Angels From The Realms of Glory” was first printed on Christmas Eve 1816.

Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth

Ye who sang creation’s story, now proclaim Messiah’s birth

Come and worship, come and worship

Worship Christ, the newborn King

 

Shepherds in the field abiding, watching o’er your flocks by night

God with man is now residing, yonder shines the infant light

Come and worship, come and worship

Worship Christ, the newborn King

 

Sages leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar

Seek the great desire of nations, ye have seen his natal star

Come and worship, come and worship

Worship Christ, the newborn King

 

Though an infant now we view him, He shall fill his Father’s throne

Gather all the nations to him, every knee shall then bow down

All creation join in praising God the Father, Spirit, Son

Evermore your voices raising to th’eternal three in one

Come and worship, come and worship

Worship Christ, the newborn King

Music bauble 10217844443 – “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day”

A traditional English carol, “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” first appeared in print in an 1833 publication by William B. Sandys (pronounced Sands): “Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern”. In it, Jesus Christ is speaking of his incarnation…his dancing day. The word carol comes from the French verb ‘caroller’, meaning to dance in a circle. The old French term ‘carole’ means a dance of praise and joy.

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day

I would my true love did so chance

To see the legend of my play

To call my true love to my dance

Chorus: Sing Oh! my love, Oh! My love, my love, my love

This have I done for my true love

 

Then was I born of a virgin pure

Of her I took fleshy substance

Thus was I knit to man’s nature

To call my true love to my dance

(Chorus)

In a manger laid and wrapped was I

So very poor, this was my chance

Between an ox and a silly poor ass

To call my true love to my dance

(Chorus)

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day

I would my true love did so chance

To see the legend of my play

To call my true love to my dance

(Chorus)

Music bauble 10217844445 – “Sans Day Carol”

Also known as the “St. Day Carol”, this is a Cornish Christmas carol written in the 19th century. The melody and the first three verses were transcribed in the 19th century from the singing of villager Thomas Beard in St. Day in the parish of Gwennap, Cornwall. There’s a nod to the lyrics of “The Holly and The Ivy”.

Now the holly bears a berry as white as the milk

And Mary bore Jesus who was wrapped up in silk

Chorus: And Mary bore Jesus Christ our Saviour for to be

And the first tree in the greenwood it was the holly

Holly! Holly!

And the first tree in the greenwood it was the holly

 

Now the holly bears a berry as green as the grass

And Mary bore Jesus who died on the cross

(Chorus)

Now the holly bears a berry as black as the coal

And Mary bore Jesus who died for us all

(Chorus)

Now the holly bears a berry as blood is it red

Then trust we our Saviour who rose from the dead

(Chorus)

Music bauble 10217844447 – “A Spotless Rose”

“A Spotless Rose” is one of English composer Herbert Howells’ Three Carol-Anthems: a set which includes “Here is the Little Door” and “Sing Lullaby”. “A Spotless Rose” is believed to be of 15th century origin and may first have appeared in print in 16th century Germany. There are several versions based on the anonymous poem – including 1894’s “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” by American Theodore Baker (1851-1934). A translation of the first two verses of the hymn as “A Spotless Rose” was penned by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) and was set as a carol-anthem by Howells (1892-1983) in 1919. London-born translator Winkworth was a great promoter of women’s rights.

A Spotless Rose is growing

Sprung from a tender root

Of ancient seers’ foreshowing

Of Jesse promised fruit

Its fairest bud unfolds to light

Amid the cold, cold winter

And in the dark midnight

 

The Rose which I am singing

Whereof Isaiah said

Is from its sweet root springing

In Mary purest maid

Through God’s great love and might

The Blessed Babe she bare us

In a cold, cold winter’s night

Music bauble 10217844449 – “The Truth Sent From Above”

British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams discovered a four-stanza version of this song at King’s Pyon, Herefordshire in 1909 – and thus it is also known as the “Herefordshire Carol”. Previously, Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) found an eight-verse version in Shropshire so, somewhat confusingly, this song may also be referred to in its longer form as the “Shropshire Carol”.

This is the truth sent from above

The truth of God, the God of love

Therefore don’t turn me from your door

But hearken all both rich and poor

 

The first thing which I do relate

Is that God did man create

The next thing which to you I tell

Woman was made with man to dwell

 

Then after this ‘twas God’s own choice

To place them both in paradise

There to remain from evil free

Except they ate of such a tree

And they did eat which was a sin

And thus their ruin did begin

Ruined themselves, both you and me

And all of their posterity

 

Thus we were heirs to endless woes

Till Lord the God did interpose

And so a promise soon did run

That He would redeem us by His Son

Elf Helper: With “In The Bleak Midwinter” appearing twice on the top 50 list, with its different tunes to the same lyrics, How to Christmas wanted to offer another set of lyrics – just for the children. Let’s call it 50a.

Music bauble 10217844450a: “Little Donkey”

“Little Donkey” was written in 1959 by British songwriter Eric Boswell (1921-2009) and is a children’s Nativity favourite across the UK. It has a sweet simplicity and can melt the harshest heart when sung by infants in schools and churches in the build up to Christmas.

 

Little donkey, little donkey

On the dusty road

Got to keep on plodding onwards

With your precious load

Been a long time, little donkey

Through the winter’s night

Don’t give up now, little donkey

Bethlehem’s in sight

Chorus: Ring out those bells tonight

Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Follow that star tonight

Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Little donkey, little donkey

Had a heavy day

Little donkey

Carry Mary safely on her way

Little donkey, little donkey

Journey’s end is near

There are wise men waiting for a

Sign to bring them here

Do not falter, little donkey

There’s a star ahead

It will guide you, little donkey

To a cattle shed

Chorus: Ring out those bells tonight

Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Follow that star tonight

Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Did you know…wassailing in its simplest, original form was to offer a blessing or greeting and had nothing to do with carolling? Wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase “Waes pu hael”, which means: “be in good health”. Wassailing developed by the 12th century, though, to become more of a winter celebration in communities – with alcoholic drinks aplenty. A wassailer was a merry-maker, the wassail bowl carried the cider or beer and groups of wassailers would go singing door-to-door. The next twist came in the cider-producing regions of England, where wassailers would sing to the health of trees in orchards hoping for bumper fruit harvests. The song “Here We Come A-wassailing” was first published in the 1871 “Oxford Book of Carols”:

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green

Here we come a-wandering so fair to be seen

Chorus: Love and joy come to you and to you your wassail to

And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year

And God send you a Happy New Year

 

Our wassail cup is made of the rosemary tree

And so is your beer of the best barley

(Chorus)

We are not daily beggars that beg from door to door

But we are neighbours’ children whom you have seen before

(Chorus)

Call up the butler of this house put on his golden ring

Let him bring us up a glass of beer and better we shall sing

(Chorus)

We have got a little purse of stretching leather skin

We want a little of your money to line it well within

(Chorus)

Bring us out a table and spread it with a cloth

Bring us out a mouldy cheese and some of your Christmas loaf

(Chorus)

God bless the master of this house likewise the mistress too

And all the little children that round the table go

(Chorus)

Good master and good mistress while you’re sitting by the fire

Pray think of us poor children who are wandering in the mire

(Chorus)

Carolling trio