“Hidden” Christmas Carols Everybody Should Know, part 2: The Holly and the Ivy

The Holly and the Ivy are not just the decorations that grace the mantle over the fireplace or are wrapped around the banister.  This is an old English carol whose origins date back to the early 1700’s. It may have emerged from some early nature songs, and some remnants of that are in the lyrics.  Many people will recognize the tune, but may be surpised to realize that it contains a bold and explicit presentation of the gospel.

Here are the lyrics:

                   The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown,

                 Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.

Refrain:
Oh, 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
 
Refrain
 
The holly bears a berry as red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good.
 
Refrain
 
The holly bears a prickle as sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in the morn.
 
Refrain
 
The holly bears a bark as bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.
 
Refrain

Listen here:

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