Welcome to the holiday season!!!!! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Joyous Festivus to everyone! It’s been a while since an update here, but the holiday parties are in full swing and it’s been difficult to devote some time to here! Earlier this week, I went to watch a choir sing and it was a bit of a sing-a-long and some of the holiday lyrics really got me thinking? Like who was Parson Brown? What is a-wassailing? Gloria in Excelsis Deo means what? Well, thanks to Google, all these Christmas Carol lyrics stumblers will be answered!
Let’s start with my main inspiration for this entry… Here We Come A-Wassailing (or Here We Come A-Caroling). Many of us now this as here we come a-caroling but have also heard it as A-Wassailing. Easy to figure out the wassailing means caroling. Ah, but there are other definitions. First enjoy one of my favorite versions of the song from A Muppet Family Christmas.
So where does the term wassailing come from? There are two definitions I found. The House-Visiting wassail, very much similar to caroling, is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols. The Orchard-Visiting wassail refers to the practice of singing to trees in apple orchards in cider-producing regions of England to promote a good harvest for the coming year. Both fairly good peaceful customs, however it has not always been so innocent. In early New England wassailing was associated with rowdy bands of young men who would enter the homes of wealthy neighbors and demand free food and drink in a trick-or-treat fashion. This can be seen in a couple lyrics such as “bring us some figgy pudding” and “good cheer”, without which the wassailers in the song will not leave, “we won’t go until we’ve got some.” You think this is what Bert and Ernie wanted when singing to Kermit and friends? You know, I wouldn’t put it past them. Take a look below at few lines from the song and you can surely see the song is more about begging for food, beer and good cheer:
We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door;
But we are neighbours’ children,
Whom you have seen before.
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.
We have got a little purse
Of stretching leather skin;
We want a little of your money
To line it well within.
Hmmmm? Wassail is also known as a drink (some kinda of hot punch or beer beverage)… So, after all this, I think I will go a-wassailing door to door this weekend and demand booze from neighbors!
Now, who was Miss Fanny Bright (Jingle Bells) and Parson Brown (Winter Wonderland)? I can’t find much of anything on Fanny Bright but apparently Parson Brown is a Protestant Minister. When this song was written, parsons (now known as Protestant ministers) often traveled among small rural towns to perform wedding ceremonies. This makes sense to the song.
…. then pretend that he is Parson Brown.
He’ll say ‘Are You Married?’ We’ll say ‘No man….
Now the next couple come from more traditional carols. One lyric that I was certain referred to God is: Gloria in Excelsis Deo… but what does it mean. This is a simple one: it is Latin for Glory to God in the highest. I also wondered who Emanuel was. In Hark the Herald (oooh, what’s a Herald) Angels sing there is a line that says Jesus our Emmanuel. Well, after a quick search, Emmanuel means “God is with us”. Another simple one! These ones were easy!
Finally, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. With little tin horns and little toy drums, rooty-toot-toots and rummy-tum-tums. Well, we figured out that since Santa is flying all over the world on one night eating cookies and milk and a plethora of other treats left out by excited children, he might get an upset stomach which cause him to have the rooty-toot-toots of which he’ll need to take rummy-tum-Tums.
Happy one week until Christmas eve and during the hustle and bustle of the next few days remember:
- Treat every day like Christmas.
- There’s room for everyone on the nice list.
- The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.
Until next time…
Update: A herald is an announcer… so Hark The Hareld Angels Sing means, Listen, the announcing angels wanna tell us something!