We Wish You a Merry Christmas performed by an early Platters lineup. More than sixty singers have performed with the group over the decades and several groups still tour using that name.
you can still sing Christmas carols
after December 25. In fact, since the Christmas
season lasts until the Feast of the
Epiphany, it is both traditional and encouraged, particularly in Britain.
So today we feature one of the most widely sung carols which
entirely omits any mention of the birth of Jesus or the tale and legends about the event. We Wish You a Merry Christmas is
instead a street begging song from
the west of England that more than hints at a little extortion if
the beggar’s’ demands are not met.
song was cast in its current form by composer,
conductor, and organist Arthur Warrell
for the Madrigal singing group he
led at the University of Bristol which
first performed it in a holiday concert on December 6, 1935. The same year prestigious Oxford University Press published an
elaborate choral arrangement in four parts and under the title A
Merry Christmas: West Country traditional song.
the song certainly sounds old and accurately depicts the mummery traditions
of singing door to door for drinks and goodies on St. Stephen’s
Day—Boxing Day—and all the way to Twelfth
Night it did not appear previously in any of the notable collections
of West county songs—Davies Gilbert in
1822 and 1823), William Sandys in
1833, as well as from the great anthologies of Sylvester in 1861 and Husk
1864. It was also absent from the very
comprehensive The Oxford Book of Carols in 1928.
similar snatches of lines from old poems or songs have been found from the
early to mid-19th Century. Two variants
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year;
A pocket full of money,
And a cellar full of beer.
I wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year,
A pantryful of good roast-beef,
And barrels full of beer.
it is possible that street singers were using a version like that recorded by
Arthur Warrell but that it had somehow been missed by avid folk song
collectors, evidence suggest that Warrell may have built a new song from
the fragments of older pieces.
1992 the song was so widely popular and identified as traditional that Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott of the New Oxford Book of Carols noted that
the song was “English traditional…the remnant of an envoie much used by
wassailers and other luck visitors,” but did not list any sources for
you may ask, was the figgy pudding
so much in demand by those door-to-door hustlers? Americans think of pudding as something that
used to be peddled by Bill Cosby on TV,
a sweet, smooth desert eaten with a spoon in flavors like chocolate, vanilla,
butterscotch, or tapioca. That’s not at all what the beggars
demanded. A figgy pudding has been
described as an olden version of the modern English Christmas Pudding which is more like a rich cake. Around London
and other seaports, it was
originally made with figs. But they were
an expensive luxury that had to be imported from the eastern Mediterranean. In the rural West country figgy pudding was
more commonly made with raisins,
plums, or prunes. There were as many variations as
there were makers and it could be prepared by being baked, steamed, boiled, or fried.
we bring you a swinging version by the classic a cappella group The Drifters in the late 1950’s.