Wonder Tidings

Wonder Tidings

A 15th Century poem describing the splendor of the Incarnation was set to music by composer Stephen Paulus and titled Wonder Tidings.

What tidings bringest thou, messenger,
Of Christ’s birth this jolly day?

A babe is born of high natureNativity
The Prince of Peace, that ever shall be
Of heaven and earth he hath the cure
His lordship is eternity
Such wonder tidings ye may hear,
That man is made God’s peer
Whom sin had made but fiend’s prey.

A wonder thing is now befall;
That King that formed the star and sun
Heaven and earth and angels all
Now in mankind is new begun:
Such wonder tidings ye may hear,
An infant now of but one year,
That hath been ever and shall be ay.

That seemeth strange to us to see,
This bird that hath this babe yborn
And Lord concieved of high degree
A maiden is and was beforn;
Such wonder tidings ye may hear,
That maiden and mother is one in fere,
And she a lady of great array.

Thou loveliest gan greet her child,
Hail, son! Hail, brother! Hail, father dear!
Hail, daughter! Hail, sister! Hail, mother mild!
This hailing was on quaint manner:
Such wonder tidings ye may hear
That hailing was of so good cheer
That man’s pain is turned to play.

The Holly and the Ivy

The Holly and the Ivy

Appearing in print in the early 19th Century, this traditional British carol uses foliage as symbols for Christ and the Virgin Mary. The holly resembles the Crown of Thorns that Jesus was forced to wear to his crucifixion. As an evergreen, ivy represents eternal life and faithfulness which are representative of the Virgin Mary.

holly and ivyThe holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown

O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a blossom,
As white as lily flow’r,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To be our dear Saviour

O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To do poor sinners good

O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a prickle,
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
On Christmas Day in the morn

O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a bark,
As bitter as the gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
For to redeem us all

O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown

I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

The snow is snowing and the wind it is blowing
But I can weather the storm
What do I care how much it may storm
I’ve got my love to keep me warm
I cannot remember the worst December

Just watch the icicles form
What do I care if icicles form
I’ve got my love to keep me warm
Off with my overcoat off with my gloves
Who needs an overcoat I’m burning with love
My heart’s on fire and the flame grows higher

So I will weather the storm
What do I care how much it may storm
I’ve got my love to keep me warm
I thought you ought to know my heart’s on fire
The flame it just leaps higher
So I will weather the storm
Why do I care how much it storms
I’ve got my love
To keep me warm
I’ve got my love to keep me warm

Irving Berlin, 1937

Pork and Sauerkraut

Pork and Sauerkraut

Happy New Year! I can’t think of anything more traditional for New Year’s Day than good ol’ Pork and Sauerkraut!

Me on 01JAN16Where I grew up was on the border between the outskirts of Philadelphia and the eastern reaches of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. This led to two different traditions in my household. The Mummer’s Parade or the Tournament of Roses in the morning followed by Pork and Sauerkraut for supper.

Well, nowadays I’m the dad and we have a little tradition of our own. My sons’ Boy Scout Troop 624 holds an annual Pork and Sauerkraut dinner at Schuylkill Lodge 138 in Orwigsburg, PA. Every member of the troop shares KP duty serving up the holiday fare. It’s a wonderful time to get in touch with the community and share some fellowship with the troop families.

So, why Pork and Sauerkraut? Well, tradition holds that pork is lucky because pigs root forward rather than backwards like chickens and turkeys. As such, pigs are considered to be symbols of progress and are indicative of the promise of a New Year. Traditionally, when cabbage was harvested and preserved at the end of October it would take about eight weeks for the fermentation of sauerkraut to complete. This made the sauerkraut available right in time for New Year’s. They added on the symbolic meaning of the shreds of cabbage. The long shreds are meant to symbolize long life. In either case, the tart sauerkraut is a wonderful flavor pairing with the fatty, salted pork.

Here’s a video recipe that I hope you’ll enjoy.

Gloucestershire Wassail

Gloucestershire Wassail

In the English countryside, each village and region would have their own traditions regarding wassailing. This version is noted as early as 1813 in the Times Telescope. As described in the song, a band of wassailers would take a decorated bowl from house to house and sing for food and drink. The bowl might be used to hold charitable donations, a small Christmas tree or even wassail. Wassail is a either a spiced ale or mulled wine.

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our horse, and to his right ear,
God send our master a happy new year:
A happy new year as e’er he did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e’er I did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e’er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our cow, and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer: I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear.

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all.

Be here any maids? I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone!
Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

In The Bleak Midwinter

In The Bleak Midwinter

In 1872, Scribner’s Monthly published a Christmas poem by Christina Rossetti placing the Nativity in a snowy landscape familiar to most American readers. The poem was set to the music of Gustav Holst in the 1906 English Hymnal. The tune, named Cranham, reflected the quiet simplicity of the poem and the serene beauty of the Nativity.

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone:
Snow had fallen, snow on snow
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter,
Long ago.
Our God, heaven cannot hold him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.
Enough for him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay:
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.
Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air –
But only his mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the beloved
With a kiss.
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give him –
Give my heart.

Gaudete

Gaudete

The title of this song is from the Latin word for “rejoice”. It is thought to have been composed in the 16th Century.

Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.
Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
Ergo nostra concio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.

Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248

Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248

Johann Sebastian Bach composed this oratorio for the Christmas season of 1734. It is presented in six parts pertaining to the Christmas story.

Part 1 is about the Birth of Christ. Part 2 is the angelic host addressing the shepherds. Part 3 is the adoration of the shepherds at the site of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Part 4 is the circumcision and naming of Jesus. Part 5 is the journey of the Wise Men. Part 6 is the adoration of the Wise Men at the site of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

The Children’s Friend

The Children’s Friend

This poem was published anonymously as a booklet in 1821. Clement Clarke Moore drew from the themes and ideas of this poem to craft his own “Visit from Saint Nicholas”.

Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night,
O’er chimney tops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.

The steady friend of virtuous youth,
The friend of duty, and of truth,
Each Christmas eve he joys to come
Where love and peace have made their home.

Through many houses he has been,
And various beds and stockings seen;
Some, white as snow, and neatly mended,
Others, that seem’d for pigs intended.

Where e’er I found good girls or boys,
That hated quarrels, strife and noise,
I left an apple, or a tart,
Or wooden gun, or painted cart;

To some I gave a pretty doll,
To some a peg-top, or a ball;
No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets,
To blow their eyes up, or their pockets.

No drums to stun their Mother’s ear,
Nor swords to make their sisters fear;
But pretty books to store their mind
With knowledge of each various kind.

But where I found the children naughty,
In manners rude, in temper haughty,
Thankless to parents, liars, swearers,
Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers,

I left a long, black, birchen rod,
Such as the dread command of God
Directs a Parent’s hand to use
When virtue’s path his sons refuse.

Xmas Heroes – Parents

Xmas Heroes – Parents

What would Christmas be without parents? As much as Christmas has become a child-focused affair, it really depends on the parents to bring the magic to the holiday. Having been on both sides of the spectrum, I can say this is completely true.

My parents did such a wonderful job of making Christmastime special for my sister and me. My mother spent weeks ahead of the big day baking cookies. It was a great time for togetherness. She put on the Bing Crosby album and stacked up the Chipmunks behind it and we began making and baking the cookies that would go into Tupperware containers until family and friends came by. My father got out the electric racetrack and we raced our little cars for hours on end. We all sat together and watched Christmas specials and holiday movies on TV. We all got together and played board games and cards. Weather permitting, we went out and had snowball fights and built forts. It was such a wonderful experience and gave me a lifelong love for the holiday season.

On the flip side, as a parent I get no greater joy than burying my wife and kids in presents and watching holiday movies together. Creating a place where my kids can enjoy the magic of the holidays is an annual challenge and goal for me. If you’re anything like me, the thrill of finding a 24×7 Christmas music station is a harbinger of marvelous things to come. I’m no Clark Griswold, but I do like things to be a bit over the top for the holidays. I like having decorations in every corner of the house. I like having all the tastes and smells of the season available throughout the month of December and even the weeks before and after.

Honestly, I miss the days of counting down the days until Christmas and having a mountain of presents mysteriously appear beneath the tree. That was a real treat. It made the holidays genuinely magical for me. That being said, I never cease to be amazed at just how the magic continues to apply. As the parents, it is our job to make those presents mysteriously appear for Christmas morning. The amazing thing is that we actually put it together. Having slowly gathered and wrapped the presents for our munchkins, we tuck them away to await the big reveal. Stepping back from our late night Santa stand-in, we’re nearly just as thrilled and amazed as if we were the ones receiving the presents. It is a truly enchanting sight. The twinkling lights of the tree cast a special glow over the stack of presents we’ve assembled for the kids. It’s enough to give me a chill of delight just looking at it.

I’m so pleased to have shared this week of Christmas Heroes with you. Thank you for following our series. For the Twelve Days of Christmas this year, I have assembled a variety of obscure yuletide entertainments. I hope you will enjoy them as much as you have our Christmas Heroes and Historical Grinches.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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