What Star Is This, With Beams So Bright

What Star Is This, With Beams So Bright

The Gospel of Matthew 2:9-11

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Every bit as famous and central to the story of Epiphany as the Wise Men is the star they followed to find the Christ-child.

Three Wise MenWhat star is this, with beams so bright,
more lovely than the noonday light?
‘Tis sent to announce a new-born King,
glad tidings of our God to bring.

‘Tis now fulfilled what God decreed,
“From Jacob shall a star proceed;”
and lo! the eastern sages stand,
to read in heaven the Lord’s command.

While outward signs the star displays,
an inward light the Lord conveys,
and urges them, with force benign,
to seek the giver of the sign.

True love can brook no dull delay;
through toil and dangers lies their way;
and yet their home, their friends, their all
they leave at once, at God’s high call.

O, while the star of heavenly grace
invites us, Lord, to seek thy face,
may we no more that grace repel,
or quench that light which shines so well!

To God the Father, God the Son,
and Holy Spirit, three in One,
may every tongue and nation raise
an endless song of thankful praise!

This Endris Night

This Endris Night

The earliest manuscript containing this traditional carol is from 1475 in the period of the later reign of Henry VI and the beginning of the reign of Henry VII. “This endris night” is a term from the period meaning something that happened recently.

NativityThis endris night I saw a sight
A star as bright as day;
And ever among a maiden sung,
“Lullay, by by, lullay.”

This lovely lady sat and sung,
And to her Child did say:
“My Son, my Brother, Father, dear,
Why liest Thou thus in hay?”

“My sweetest bird, thus ’tis required,
Though Thou be King veray;
But nevertheless I will not cease
To sing, By by, lullay.”

The Child then spake in His talking,
And to his mother said:
“Yea, I am known as Heaven-King,
In crib though I be laid.

“For angels bright down to Me light:
Thou knowest ’tis no nay:
And for that sight thou may’st delight
To sing, By by, lullay.”

“Now, sweet Son, since Thou art a king,
Why art Thou laid in stall?
Why dost not order thy bedding
In some great kingès hall?

“Methinks ’tis right that king or knight
Should lie in good array:
And then among, it were no wrong
To sing, By by, lullay.”

“Mary mother, I am thy Child,
Though I be laid in stall;
For lords and dukes shall worship Me,
And so shall kingès all.

“Ye shall well see that kingès three
Shall come on this twelfth day.
For this behest give Me thy breast
And sing, By by, lullay.”

“Now tell, sweet Son, I Thee do pray,
Thou art my Love and Dear—
How should I keep Thee to Thy pay,
And make Thee glad of cheer?

“For all Thy will I would fulfill—
Thou knowest well, in fay;
And for all this I will Thee kiss,
And sing, By by, lullay.”

“My dear mother, when time it be,
Take thou Me up on loft,
And set Me then upon thy knee,
And handle me full soft.

“And in thy arm thou hold Me warm,
And keep Me night and day,
And if I weep, and may not sleep,
Thou sing, By by, lullay.”

“Now sweet Son, since it is come so,
That all is at Thy will,
I pray Thee grant to me a boon,
If it be right and skill,—

“That child or man, who will or can
Be merry on my day,
To bliss Thou bring—and I shall sing,
Lullay, by by, lullay.”

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.

Xmas Heroes – Gayla Peevey

Xmas Heroes – Gayla Peevey

The 1950’s were a great time to be a kid. In the wake of the Second World War, America was expressing a new sense of optimism and can-do attitude. Industry that had ramped up to facilitate the war effort was converting to a peacetime footing. Jobs that had been so scarce in the Great Depression that preceded the war were now plentiful and looking for returning veterans to fill them. This bounty led to new families in new houses starting a Baby Boom. As these kids began to mature, popular culture began to accommodate this new and highly valuable demographic.

TV shows like “Lassie”, “Leave it to Beaver” and “Howdy Doody” were created to celebrate the abundance of children in the country and to idealize family life and joyous childhood. Since Christmas had been increasingly focusing on childhood, it’s only natural that Christmas would be tremendously child-focused in the Boom era. Wonderful classic toys like the Daisy Model 1938 Red Ryder youth BB gun that Ralphie so desires in “A Christmas Story” and the Radio Flyer wagon became cultural legends.

With all the focus on children, Columbia Records signed a precocious singer from Oklahoma to sing a variety of novelty songs. Aged 10 years old, the very talented Ms Peevey debuted with the song “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”. Naturally, it was a hit. Because it caught on and because Gayla was a local talent, the Oklahoma City Zoo started a fundraising campaign to get her a live hippo for Christmas in 1953. They had recently completed a fundraiser with children putting pennies in jars to buy the zoo an elephant, so they thought they might be able to do the same for a hippopotamus. They succeeded. Gayla was presented with a baby hippo named Matilda who she donated to the zoo. Matilda lived until 1998.

Gayla performed a variety of other comical holiday hits like this one.

Gayla’s performances represented the way that children were seen in the fifties. Kids were cute, optimistic and silly. It was a time to believe that all things were possible and that society at large was set up to make that happen.

In 1959, she changed labels and began recording under the name Jamie Horton. She moved on with her life after age 19 when she married her husband, Cliff. She graduated San Diego State University and became a teacher, advertising executive, wife, mom and proud grandmother.

Even today, Gayla is the embodiment of everything that is great about being an American. Gayla is a wonderful living Christmas legend and the season is that much more enjoyable because of her music and joyous attitude.

Ms. Peevey talks about her experiences with the song that launched her to childhood fame.
The Oklahoma City Zoo shares in a sing-along with Gayla Peevey by video conference
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