Victorian Christmas carols: a link

I was going to shut up till next Friday, but this post at News from the Past is timely and makes me think (as if I didn’t already) that the spirit of love and joy struggles to hold its own against the spirit of outrage and complaint. It’s about Christmas carols and the great offense they caused in Victorian times. Have fun.

69 thoughts on “Victorian Christmas carols: a link

  1. Times were tough back in those days.
    I went caroling a few times in my small town back in the early fifties. We sounded pretty good. Parents would ask us in for hot chocolate and give us small treats. Don’t think anyone goes caroling anymore.

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  2. Since you like educating us poor Yanks, here’s a question that has always bugged me, from an English Christmas carol:

    Here we come a-wassailing
    Among the leaves so green;
    Here we come a-wand’ring
    So fair to be seen.
    Love and joy come to you,
    And to you your wassail too;

    What is a wassail? It seems to be taking on two contexts:
    Here we come a wassailing

    And to you your wassail too

    To quote a great American sage, “Things just don’t add up!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Neat question. A wassail’s a drink–spiced ale or mulled wine–and wassailing’s going from house to house singing Christmas carols. And, I’d assume, getting plastered on the stuff, maybe even asking for it, or demanding it, or assuming it’ll be offered at each house. Oh, those rowdy, rowdy carolers. That only leaves us to figure out what “to you your wassail too” means. Maybe offering you some of your own mulled wine? I can’t entirely make sense of it, but we’re closer than we were at the start.

      I seem to remember that someone in the village tried to revive some version of the tradition by gathering people and pouring cider (hard–almost the only kind you find here) on her apple trees and singing. It had a pagan tinge, which generally, at least to my mind, means an attempt to revive lost pre-Christian traditions by applying copious amounts of imagination. But that’s a cynic’s view. Take it with a grain or six of salt.

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      • Well, the first part makes sense, “here we come a drinking” seems to fit with that era (~1850’s or so), lots of drinking back then. Ale was healthier than water.

        But the second part? Love and joy come to you, and to you your cider too? I guess if they’re wishing them plenty of cider?

        Now, about auld lang syne? ;-D

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        • A-drinking and a singing. Don’t forget the singing. People around here are prone to sing when they drink. Maybe the second part is a promise not to drink all of the wassail they’re offered. I’m making this up as I go along, so here’s a link to a Wikiwhatsia article that may well be accurate. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassailing. Wikipedia has more or less the same accuracy record as standard encyclopedias.

          Auld lang syne? At that point, we’re into Scots and I’m completely out of my depth. I’m living in the wrong part of the island.

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          • My, how things have changed. When I taught in college we regularly rejected Wiki as a valid source for anything. Either they have raised standards and accuracy, or people have come to accept unverified postings as fact.

            I can see the promise as valid. And, yeah, Scots are a people/culture of their own. I have enough problem figuring out my Irish wife.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I have enough problems trying to figure out myself.

              I can see the point of steering clear of Wikipedia, and if I were teaching I suspect I’d do the same. When I can, I try to find some more authoritative source. But there are times when it offers a well-targeted answer to something I can’t find anywhere else. And as someone or other said, I can resist anything but temptation.

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          • Many many years ago, at the time that the Viking Eric first landed his small Kontiki boat in New York, at Sutton Loo, now called Soho, his main helmsman was a Lapp, called Rud, who had brought his favorite reindeer along for company. The reindeer was named Dolph. Unfortunately, Rud was a short-tempered and violent man, who beat his too full of Christmas spirit reindeer unmercifully with a wooden riding crop. But Eric, being a gentle man, and an animal lover, took the crop from him, and used it to smash Rud’s most highly prized Ostrich egg, gathered during a previous journey around the world. This gave him such pleasure, he then developed the game of Dolph, later known as golf by the first New Yorkers, who have a slight problem with Ds. It was practiced on that very spot ever since by the animal protection people of New York, in commemoration of the bloody nose given by Rud to the most famous reindeer of all, Rud’s Dolph, the red nosed reindeer.

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  3. There was a terrible cacophony outside our front door here, one Christmas – from what I recall it was a group formed from a young farmers’ club… maybe I should have had them fined! Haha! Good share, Ellen, thanks.

    Have a happy-whatever-you-celebrate (I forgot about Chanucah til too late, so it’ll have to be Christmas!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, they do, they do. And of course, I know better than you what’s best for you. And you probably know better than me what’s best for me. It’s so nice to make these judgements in the absence of the complicating facts.

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