Advent Calendar | Dec. 13

12 Days Until Christmas

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bibleSCRIPTURE

“…after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” (Matthew 27:29)
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THE HOLLY AND THE IVY

LYRICS

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
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
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 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 of 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 of the choir.

 

Holly & Ivy
The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any 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 of the choir.

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

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ABOUT THE CAROL

1. The symbolism of this anonymous carol relates to ancient fertility mythology and the association of the male with holly and the female with ivy. It may have accompanied some sort of ritual mating dance.

2. In Celtic mythology, the winter solstice (the time at which the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon and marked by the day of the year with the least amount of daylight), was strongly linked to holly. Sprigs of the plant were worn in the hair during the mistletoe rituals performed by the priests of the Celts, the Druids, at the winter solstice observances. The pointy leaves of holly were thought to afford magical protection against evil spirits. Holly sprigs were also brought into their dwellings during the cold-weather months in the belief that they afforded shelter to fairies, the tiny spirits of the forest.

3. The “Oak King” and the “Holly King” were twins in Celtic mythology, pitted against each other in a never-ending fight for supremacy. Oak trees, sacred to the Celts, are deciduous, while the English holly (Ilex aquifolium) native to their lands is evergreen. As cold weather approached, the Celts marveled at how the evergreen holly trees, hidden amongst the leafy oaks the rest of the year, now stood out prominently on an otherwise barren landscape.

4. For the Romans, holly was used to honor Saturn, god of agriculture, during their Saturnalia festival held near the time of the winter solstice.

5. For Christians, the prickly leaves of Christmas holly trees came to be associated with Jesus’ crown of thorns, while their berries represented the drops of blood shed for humanity’s salvation.

6. The text of “The Holly and the Ivy” was first published in a broadside dated 1710, and may have originated somewhere in the Cotswolds. In 1861, it appeared in a collection of carols edited by Joshua Sylvester.

7. The tune was collected by Cecil Sharp, who heard it sung by Mary Clayton of Chipping Campden in 1909.

Sources:

 

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praying-hands-columnPRAYER

Your crown of thorns, prickly as holly leaves, blood-red as holly berries, signify your place as the King of our hearts. Amen.
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