Blog Caroling 2017 -- The Holly and the Ivy


Joining footnoteMaven's annual tradition of Christmas blog caroling!  I've chosen one of my favorite carols to present:



"The Holly and the Ivy" is an English carol that probably had its origins in the 18th century.  Holly is an ancient symbol for Christ, sometimes referred to as "Christ's thorns," and the berries stand in for drops of blood.  The holly and the ivy together represent Jesus and the Virgin Mary.  The use of holly and ivy as decorations predates Christ, however -- they go back to Roman times and pagan celebrations.  

The melody is simple and sweet.  



Why does the ivy appear so little in the song?  Folklorists guess that it's a holdover from older songs like "The Contest between the Holly and the Ivy," in which the holly represents the masculine and the ivy the feminine.

The symbolism is embedded in the lyrics.

1
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.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.
2
The holly bears a blossom,
As white as the lily flower,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To be our sweet Saviour.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.
3
The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to do us sinners good.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.
4
The holly bears a prickle,
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.
5
The holly bears a bark,
As bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.


Please enjoy this beautiful, simple Christmas carol.

The Holly and the Ivy

I wish you a Merry Christmas, if Christmas you celebrate, and Happy Holidays, if you don't.  And I offer a Christmas angel to watch over you as you sleep.



Comments

  1. I love this carol, too. It's strange that until you pointed it out, I didn't notice that the ivy is mentioned only once in the song. And such a beautiful rendition of the song. I love the singer's British accent.

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