Christmas Carols

Picture courtesy of Getty

A strong memory for me, of my teenage years, was setting out one evening in the frost and snow with my Catholic chums from school, to go carol singing.

Thanks to the hard work of our parents, we lived in ‘nice’ parts of town (south London). This was the late seventies, and there was then no fear for youth walking the streets at night, and approaching strangers. Equipped with faded Gestetner’d sheets of lyrics, and the melodies in our heads, we set off on our evangelical quest, hoping to raise money for CAFOD-it had a good name in those days.

When you think about it, crossing the boundary of a stranger’s property is a great privilege, and ringing or knocking at their door, late in the day, is an even greater one. I can see that now, but silly teenager as I was then, I completely missed it.

Some of the group were already accomplished chorists. (My contribution was strictly in the rhythm’n’bass department). The responses to our efforts were manifold. Some households would throw open their front doors, and join in! These were the generous people who made ‘silent’ contributions rather than coins. Several would listen appreciatively, but when told that we were collecting for a Catholic charity, would suddenly look crestfallen, and make their excuses.

The majority would, with evident long suffering, wait for us to finish, make a small contribution, then rapidly withdraw, embarrassed, back to their hearths.

Sadly, there were some houses that we came upon that had all the lights on, but the door was not answered. A curtain might flicker.


Twenty years later, one Christmas evening, my front door bell rang , and I answered it to find two young urchins, perhaps 12 or 13 years old, standing there. They launched into a caterwauling version of “Ding Dong Merrily on High”, in the style of Chas’n’Dave* with breaking voices. After one short chorus, they stopped and thrust out their paws for their reward. They were obviously on a mission for cash. Shocked and ashamed for them, I gave them 50 pence each. “IS THAT ALL?” they both screeched at me, wearing faces of outraged innocence. They clearly thought I had committed a sin crying out to Heaven for vengeance. I closed the door, and went back inside feeling like I had just been robbed. I checked through the window to see that they weren’t collecting bricks to lob at us – we had suffered one night-time brick through the window earlier in the year.


Two true stories, separated by time and space. Nobody come to sing Carols at our door nowadays. Signs of the times, I suppose.

*The Two Ronnie did a wonderful parody of Chas’n’Dave.

About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
This entry was posted in Catholic Culture, Catholic Music, Humour, Living Catholic lives. Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Christmas Carols

  1. kathleen says:

    Yup Burrito, that was me too when I was a youngster! Going round the frosty streets with our lanterns and song-sheets, wrapped up like mummies to keep out the cold, to sing (or bawl out) the old favourite carols with a group of Catholic friends from the parish, or with girls from the Convent school I went to. It was harmless and well-intentioned, and on most doors we knocked at, we were given a few pence for our efforts. I don’t think the charities we collected for were solely Catholic ones (and if they were, we wouldn’t have let on 😉 ).

    How life has changed! Take a look at modern day carol singing in a busy shopping mall:

    Aren’t the expressions of the astonished onlookers just great?!


  2. golden chersonnese says:

    Catholicism makes life more beautiful and worth living! says Teresa.

    Teresa, Kathleen and Burrito, it might be fun to bring back wassailing (and mumming too).


  3. joyfulpapist says:

    My (Anglican) youth group used to go carol-singing around the homes of the elderly of the parish. I clearly remember, as a young woman in love, dragging my Catholic fiance on a carol-singing expedition with our group, and talking afterwards about the couples in their 70s and 80s who sat to listen to us, leaning towards one another, or even holding hands.

    I think I owe the longevity of my marriage in part to this. Many years later, I learned of research that links the survival of marriages to whether or not the spouses have pictured themselves growing old together.


  4. Brother Burrito says:


    I never knew you were a convert!


  5. Brother Burrito says:


    That video has had over 23 million viewers! Yes, I love the surprise on the audience’s faces.


  6. kathleen says:

    JP says:

    “Many years later, I learned of research that links the survival of marriages to whether or not the spouses have pictured themselves growing old together.”

    That’s just beautiful Joyful! And a very useful tip to give dating youngsters who might be thinking of marriage. Makes sense to me too.

    Oh yes, let’s bring back this wonderful old custom of wassailing (although I don’t drink anything stronger than ginger wine myself!), plus all the other similar traditions like carol singing, visiting the poor and needy with Christmas goodies, inviting lonely neighbours to share our Christmas dinner etc., that seem to have been forgotten by the crazy secularism and commercialism that prevail over Christmas these days!
    However, wiki gives more dubious possible origins to wassailing 😉 !
    BTW, also have you noticed how many people now wish you, “Happy Holidays” or “Happy Festive Season”? What do they think all the merry-making is about then?


  7. kathleen says:

    Yes Burrito, I noticed the incredible amount of hits that video has received when I posted it on here. It had nothing like that amount when my sister sent it to me a few weeks back, so it’s certainly been around 🙂

    (Edit: What I meant to infer was, how wonderful to think that millions of people will have heard it sung out in a public place that “CHRIST WILL REIGN FOREVER AND EVER!” Amen.)


  8. golden chersonnese says:

    Golden: Oh yes, let’s bring back this wonderful old custom of wassailing (although I don’t drink anything stronger than ginger wine myself!), plus all the other similar tradition. . ., concurs Kathleen.

    Luckily, Kathleen, I think ye olde wassail apple-cider-cum-spices concoction was brought to the boil and simmered, which would have meant most of the alcohol had evaporated before serving, alcohol having a lower boiling point than water.

    Here’s a modern wassail recipe (there seem to be many):


  9. golden chersonnese says:

    Burrito relates: After one short chorus, they stopped and thrust out their paws for their reward. They were obviously on a mission for cash. Shocked and ashamed for them, I gave them 50 pence each.

    Burrito, are you sure you didn’t quite in the situation? :

    We are not daily beggars
    That beg from door to door,
    But we are neighbours’ children
    Whom you have seen before.
    , from the Wassailing Song, which goes . . .

    1. Here we come a wassailing
    Among the leaves so green,
    Here we come a wandering
    So fair to be seen.

    Love and joy come to you,
    And to you your wassail too,
    And God bless you and send you a happy New Year.
    And God send you a happy New Year.

    2. Our wassail cup is made
    Of the rosemary tree,
    And so is your beer
    Of the best barley. Chorus

    3. We are not daily beggars
    That beg from door to door,
    But we are neighbours’ children
    Whom you have seen before. Chorus

    4. Good Master and good Mistress,
    As you sit by the fire,
    Pray think of us poor children
    Are wandering in the mire. Chorus

    5. We have a little purse
    Made of ratching leather skin;1
    We want some of your small change
    To line it well within. Chorus

    6. Call up the Butler of this house,
    Put on his golden ring;
    Let him bring us a glass of beer,
    And the better we shall sing. Chorus

    7. Bring us out a table,
    And spread it with a cloth;
    Bring us out a mouldy cheese,
    And some of your Christmas loaf. Chorus

    8. God bless the Master of this house,
    Likewise the Mistress too;
    And all the little children
    That round the table go. Chorus

    Words, scores, notes and MIDI download of the melody are here along with links to many other wassailing songs:


  10. golden chersonnese says:

    Of course, should be “Burrito, are you sure you didn’t quite take in the situation?”


  11. golden chersonnese says:

    Burrito, I can resist the temptation no longer (I am no St Joseph).

    Just three days before Christmas I find I must post a Chrissy carol that I like.

    It’s What Sweeter Music Can We Bring, music by John Rutter.

    The words are by Robert Herrick (1591-1674), he of Gather ye rosebuds while ye may fame and a vicar in Devonshire. I hear it was first recited before King Charles II at Whitehall, the king who restored him to his living after he lost it during the Civil War.

    What sweeter music

    What sweeter music can we bring
    Than a carol, for to sing
    The birth of this our heavenly King?
    Awake the voice! Awake the string!

    Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
    And give the honour to this day
    That sees December turned to May.

    Why does the chilling winter’s morn
    Smile, like a field beset with corn?
    Or smell like a meadow newly shorn
    Thus on the sudden? Come and see
    The cause, why things thus fragrant be:

    ‘Tis he is born. whose quickening birth
    Gives life and lustre, public mirth,
    To heaven and the under-earth.

    We see him come, and know him ours,
    Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
    Turns all the patient ground to flowers.

    The darling of the world is come,
    And fit it is, we find a room
    To welcome him, to welcome him.

    The nobler part of all the house here, is the heart.
    Which we will give him: and bequeath
    This holly, and this ivy wreath.
    To do him honour. who’s our King,
    And Lord of all this revelling.

    (Robert Herrick)


  12. joyfulpapist says:

    Beautiful, Golden Chersonnese


  13. golden chersonnese says:

    Hello joyful, yes it’s a lovely thing, isn’t it?

    The words have a quiet magic :-
    . . . and give the honour to this day, that sees December turned to May and
    . . . who, with his sunshine and his showers, turns all the patient ground to flowers.

    The December and the patient ground are of course our souls and Rutter matches all this perfectly well with his gentle strains.

    I hope others can post such beautiful carols here, joyful. There’s plenty of nice German ones for example, I know for sure. 🙂


  14. joyfulpapist says:

    I love this one:

    Go to sleep my Son
    This manger for your bed
    You have a long road before You
    Rest Your little head

    Can You feel the weight of Your glory?
    Do You understand the price?
    Does the Father guard Your heart for now
    So You can sleep tonight?

    Go to sleep my Son
    Go and chase Your dreams
    This world can wait for one more moment
    Go and sleep in peace

    I believe the glory of Heaven
    Is lying in my arms tonight
    Lord, I ask that He for just this moment
    Simply be my child

    Go to sleep my Son
    Baby, close Your eyes
    Soon enough You’ll save the day
    But for now, dear Child of mine
    Oh my Jesus, Sleep tight


  15. golden chersonnese says:

    Thanks, joyful. I see St Joseph raises his head again. He’s not at all a doubter in this song, is he?

    It’s a real St Joseph week on CP&S, isn’t it? Funny that, as St Joseph seems very much out of fashion these days, after having enormous popularity in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    A sign of the times, as Burrito might say?


  16. joyfulpapist says:

    No doubt at all, here. I’ve never thought much about St Joseph till this year, despite being a member of two St Joseph’s parishes at different times. But the more I think about him, the more I understand why he is patron and protector of the universal Church.


  17. joyfulpapist says:

    How about this one?

    Good people all, this Christmas time,
    Consider well and bear in mind
    What our good God for us has done,
    In sending His belovèd Son.
    With Mary holy we should pray
    To God with love this Christmas Day;
    In Bethlehem upon the morn
    There was a blest Messiah born.

    The night before that happy tide
    The noble virgin and her guide
    Were long time seeking up and down
    To find a lodging in the town.
    But mark how all things came to pass:
    From every door repelled, alas!
    As long foretold, their refuge all
    Was but a humble oxen stall.

    Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
    Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
    To whom God’s angels did appear
    Which put the shepherds in great fear.
    “Prepare and go”, the angels said,
    “To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
    For there you’ll find, this happy morn,
    A princely Babe, sweet Jesus born.”

    With thankful heart and joyful mind,
    The shepherds went the babe to find,
    And as God’s angel has foretold,
    They did our Savior Christ behold.
    Within a manger He was laid,
    And by His side the virgin maid
    Attending to the Lord of Life,
    Who came on earth to end all strife.


  18. golden chersonnese says:

    Aha!, joyful, the Wexford Carol from Ireland, thought to be one of the oldest Christmas songs on record.


  19. toadspittle says:

    To think that the little boy on the right, in Burrguru’s lovely ‘archive’ picture, grew up to be Mel Gibson.
    Shame, really.


  20. manus2 says:

    That’s absolutely beautiful, Joyful, thank-you.

    Toad, your obsession with Mel is getting quite disturbing, especially as we all know that the most telling anagram of Mel Gibson is: Blog’s Mine.

    Is your unconscious mind trying to tell you (and us) something … ?


  21. toadspittle says:


    is very perceptive, as always.

    The reasons Toad takes such a keen interest in Little Mel (as Dame Edna affectionately calls him) are not only his religious convictions – which are, of course, an example to us all – but also because his name is an anagram of, ‘Lob me gins.’

    Little Toad like Little Mel, is also fond of gin.


  22. manus2 says:

    I trust Mrs Toad will keep you well and truly lobbed throughout the festive season. Only after you’ve been to Mass, mind.

    Happy Christmas to Toad and All. And thank-you for a wonderful blog, O wondrous CP&S people.


  23. golden chersonnese says:

    Thank you, dear Teresa, and as the year concludes, many thanks to you and Burrito and all the others for persevering with this blog. God grant that it may grow and do all the things you mentioned. A most blessed Christmas to you there and to all here.

    I thought Brother Burrito deserved a carol in his honour as he was one of the main players in this particular Bethlehem incident, wasn’t he?

    How about John Rutter’s (again Rutter) Donkey Carol sung by Italians in the basilica in Assissi? Lerv the accent! And they do a fine job and the church looks very beautiful.

    Donkey riding over the bumpy road,
    Carry Mary, all with her heavy load;
    Follow Joseph, leading you on you way
    Until you find a stable, somewhere to rest and stay.

    Donkey watching over the Jesus child,
    See the baby, all with his mother mild;
    Hear the angels singing their song on high:
    ‘Nowell, nowell, nowell’, their caroling fills the sky.

    Donkey resting all in a manger stall,
    With the oxen worship the Lord of all.
    Hush, he lies asleep on his bed of hay
    While Mary sings so sweetly ‘Lulla, lulla, lulla, lullalay.’

    Donkey waking all at the break of day,
    See, a new light shining with brightest ray.
    Long the weary journey you soon must start,
    But you will travel gladly; God will make brave your heart.

    Donkey skip for joy as you go your way;
    Alleluia, Jesus is born today.
    Hark, the bells ring out with their message clear:
    Rejoice and sing that Christ our Saviour divine is here. – John Rutter


  24. golden chersonnese says:

    And here is one for you, dear Teresa, lover of Latin. You know the Corde Natus Ex Parentis of Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (b. 348 AD), don’t you?

    What do you think of this “meditation” on it? (You can see the English translation of Prudentius if you click on that “down arrowhead thing”.)

    And here’s the congregation singing it at the Franciscan church in Notting Hill.

    (You might have guessed I’m very impressed with this hymn.)


  25. golden chersonnese says:

    And one last one from me, Teresa, thanks to our German sisters and brothers.

    From the Christmas Vespers of Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), a Lutheran, I believe.


  26. golden chersonnese says:

    You can find the Prudentius’ original Latin ‘Corde Natus Ex Parentis’ here, Teresa.


  27. joyfulpapist says:

    Now one from New Zealand – an old tune, but new words.

    O little town of Bethlehem,
    the Southern Cross looks down,
    As once a star shone bright and clear
    above an Eastern town,

    The hearts of Bethlehem are cold,
    the streets are hushed with snow,
    The doors are locked, there is no room,
    dear Lord, where will you go?

    Oh come sweet Jesus, come to us,
    New Zealand’s shores are warm,
    And here are loving hearts enough
    To shield you from the storm.

    Come we will give you all we have,
    Each bird and flower and tree
    The breeze that stirs the mountain flax
    The music of the sea.


  28. joyfulpapist says:

    I have another couple of New Zealand carols to post – but had better do some work first. 🙂


  29. omvendt says:

    “Schütz is a Protestant, but he composed also the Angelus:”

    He Schütz, he scores!


  30. toadspittle says:

    Well, Toad doubts this will be the last time he spits before Christmas, but, if it is, then a very happy Christmas to all.
    Omvent particularly. Loved the Schutz!

    Wish I’d said that ! You, will Toad, you will!

    A great friend of mine will love the donkey carol! Yes! Rabit!

    (Imagine a protestant writing an Angelus! Who’d a thunk it!)


  31. manus2 says:

    Omvent, brilliant! Have a wonderful Christmas.


  32. omvendt says:

    Happy Christmas everybody!

    CP&S is a blessing and a joy! To learn so much, to be given so much, to be entertained so much (the ‘Mel Gibson’ exchange between Manus and Toad is comic genius!) – well, you couldn’t beat it with a big stick!

    Burro, Gertrude, Golden, JH, Joyful, Kathleen, Manus, MMVC, Raven, Rebrites, Teresa, Toad, (all ‘absent friends’) commenters and friends of this blog – God bless you all!


  33. joyfulpapist says:

    Thank you, omvendt. And may I add my best wishes and prayers for Christmas to yours. God bless you all, my friends.


  34. golden chersonnese says:

    And the very same to you, omvendt.

    I must say that you give very concrete form to Polonius’ words in Hamlet:

    . . . since brevity is the soul of wit,
    And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
    I will be brief: your noble son is mad

    That sounds to me like a very omvendtian kinda thing to say. 🙂

    Well, they do always say that Shakespeare had a very profound philosophical understanding of humans, even Norsemen.

    Still trying to work out your “Schütz” remark. Do you think that can be done with an innocent mind like mine (although I note ominously that Toad got the joke)? I thought “Schütz” had a nice meaning like protective or something like that?

    Also, one absent friend of CP&S that Toad mentioned, brother rabit: a blessed Christmas for you, I trust, after a very hard year for you. Still waiting for news on the Syrians.

    Can I give one last bit of Chrissy music that’s very apt if we’re trying to think about nativities in cattle stalls and things: Michael Praetorius’ (the “German Monteverdi”) very elaborate full-frontal fanfarish In Dulci Jubilo?

    Just right for the Christmas mood IMHO.

    (Praetorius’ real name was Schultze, omvendt 🙂 )


  35. joyfulpapist says:

    Think basketball and pronounce the name with a long uuuu sound, Golden Chersonnese.

    Here’s one last carol, and then I’m gone. Vigil Mass in a little over one hour. Talk to you again after the feast!

    Backblocks Nativity (the music is here

    They were set for home, but the horse went lame
    And the rain came belting out of the sky
    Joe saw the hut and he went to look
    And he said, “She’s old, but she’ll keep you dry”

    So her kid was born in that roadman’s shack
    By the light of a lamp that’d hardly burn
    She wrapped him up in her hubby’s coat
    And put him down on a bed of fern

    Then they came riding out of the night
    And this is the thing that she’ll always swear
    As they took off their coats and came into the light
    They knew they were going to find her there

    Three old jokers in oilskin coats
    Stood by the bunk in that leaking shack
    One had a beard like a billygoat’s
    One was frail, and one was black

    She sat on the foot of the fernstalk bed
    And she watched, but she didn’t understand
    When they put those bundles at the baby’s head
    And this river nugget into his hand

    Gold is the power of a man with a man
    And incense the power of man with God
    But myrrh is the bitter taste of death
    And the sour-sweet smell of the upturned sod

    Then they went, while she watched through the open door
    Weary as men who had ridden too far
    And the rain eased off and the low cloud broke
    And through a gap shone a single star


  36. golden chersonnese says:

    Thanks, joyful.

    You New Zealanders are not that different from those yobs across the Tasman, are you? 😉

    (Are you going to let me get away with that?)

    Thanks again for your songs, and best not to be late for First Mass of Christmas.

    I suppose you all there in NZ are the first around the world to celebrate Christmas, aren’t you, except perhaps for Tuvaluans or Kiribatians or something extraordinary like that?

    God bless all of you there!


  37. manus2 says:

    Basketball? Bah humbug! Football! Real football!

    But once again, a blessed and holy Christmas to all.


  38. toadspittle says:

    Toad, as a little ‘prezzie,’ (as Joyful would say) has set a little ‘Xmas’ quiz, to do after we have all pulled our crackers and eaten our puddings. (Or, contrariwise.) Or broken our I-Pods (batteries not included).

    Which one of this galaxy of glittering notables, has done most to enhance the reputation of the Catholic Church during 2010?

    Tony Blair
    Richard Dawkins
    Christopher Hitchens
    Mel Gibson*
    G. K. Chesterton
    Oscar Wilde
    The Pope

    *Toad has noticed that Mel Gibson is also an anagram of Glib Omens.
    Very troubling, Manus, is it not?


  39. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad, if I could convince you to lose one “t” in toadspittle, you’d get an anagram of latest I-pod


  40. kathleen says:

    Many thanks to all you wonderful people who contribute on CP&S – those in the loop and all our faithful contributers (especially Toad, Omvendt, Golden Chersonnese and Manus) – for your warm wishes for the feast of our dear Saviour’s birth. May I too send you mine for a holy, blessed Christmas.
    I feel so privileged to have been included in this beautiful mission – God has been so good to me. You will all be in my prayers at Midnight Mass tonight.


  41. manus2 says:


    Sinners the lot of ’em. Christ does virtually all, despite our best efforts for good or ill. Though the Pope and GKC are praiseworthy, of course.

    As for anagrams – what have we started ? – I hope we don’t end up with a biblical plague of them! After all, with a name like mine, all you need is a single, well-placed apostrophe.


  42. golden chersonnese says:

    After all, with a name like mine, all you need is a single, well-placed apostrophe.

    Please, Mr Secondhand, this is a family blog.


  43. manus2 says:

    Indeed, I apologise for any lowering of the tone on the eve of so great a feast. Back to anagrams then, and, erm, you, GC. Plenty of scope there, I’m sure. Excellent, initials, by the way. All that’s missing is the K in the middle …


  44. golden chersonnese says:

    Well, Mr Secondhand, I have certainly heard of the expression, he only needs to see a tone to think it wants lowering! , now that you yourself mention it.

    As for anagrams of golden chersonnese, I fancy something involving old hens would be most apt. 😉

    A most Blessed Noel to you, Mr Secondhand.


  45. manus2 says:

    And to you too, my fine friend, but I should warn you that ‘cheeses’ are unavoidable.


  46. golden chersonnese says:

    Old Cheese? Perfect!


  47. golden chersonnese says:

    kathleen at December 24, 2010 at 10:17

    Thank you. Kathleen. So good of you and that’s quite usual. 🙂


  48. toadspittle says:

    Toad is willin’ to give up as many ‘t’s’ as Golden C. chooses. All, if necessary. Even if it leaves him, somewhat curtailed, as Oadspile.

    Anyroadup, as they say in Salford, Christmas is but four hours away. Mass tomorrow followed by, not Gin, (sorry Mel!) but Vermouth, Iberian ham, anchovies, olives, and tortilla espagñol in the ‘Town Hall.’

    Toad will raise a glass of the sickly stuff to his non-sickly friends on CP&S: (Then head off for a gin!)

    “God bless us all,” said Little Nell.


  49. golden chersonnese says:

    Well Toad, I came out of Midnight Mass in these parts one and a half hours ago and I’m still feeling very much improved.

    Gin? I’m afraid that acts rather quickly on me. You don’t want to know, believe me.

    Jamon? Curried wild boar is the best I could do here. You don’t want to know, believe me.

    A very happy high feast day to you and rebrites, dear Toad, and all the little gods.


  50. Gertrude says:

    From me – a Happy and Blessed Christmas to you all, and along with others, many thanks to all our readers (all 155,000 odd of them) and contributors over the time that we have been sharing our faith with you all. And – to my friends, Burrito, Teresa, Raven, Maryla, Kathleen, Cecelia and Glyn-Benedict, and Judy -who, since we started this blog have have shared all the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ – who have sustained us all with prayers – thank you.


  51. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad’s quiz at 07.28

    I know – Tony Blair, because he’s an anagram of “Born” laity.

    Do I collect my prize?


  52. Vanessa Reynolds says:

    I have stumbled in here while looking for the words to “An Australian Christmas Carol”, music by Percy Jones. i don’t wish to be picky, but joyfulpapist has attributed the carol to New Zealand when it is actually from Australia. It was published in 1962, written by a Catholic Sister Mary Jerome (l.B.V.M.). The carol title is “An Australian Christmas Carol”. Hope you find this useful. regards, Vanessa (Melbourne)


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