December 20, 2010: The Holly and the Ivy

by Mary Galvano

One of my favorite Christmas carols is The Holly and the Ivy. It is not very often that we get to hear this beautiful song played on the radio at Christmas time. Cecil Sharp first published the version of ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ that we are familiar with today. The Holly and the Ivy is thought to have Pagan origins and could therefore date back over 1000 years. It is most unusual for a carol like the Holly and the Ivy to have survived over the years especially during the stern protestant period of the 16th and 17th century.

It is amazing how this simple subject of nature can have so much meaning. The carol speaks for itself with the lyrics below. The next time you are around nature try to see beyond the creation into another meaning that could relate to our faith. Enjoy!

The Holly and the Ivy

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: O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of 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
The holly and the ivy
Now both are full well grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown. Refrain

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