Happy Yuletide!

A happy and joyous Yuletide to you! I am a believer in the old traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the series of festive days beginning Christmas Day (the 25th of December) and running to January 6th the traditional observation of the visit of the Magi. This period is also known as Christmastide, Yuletide or Twelvetide. That’s what the gift giving is about in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas–you know, French hens, golden rings and dancers and all. As I write this on the Ninth Day of Christmas I have Christmas music playing, loudly and happily. I try to ignore it in the stores and on the radio from Halloween to Christmas. After that you don’t hear it publicly or on the radio but I enjoy such music all through Christmastide and Epiphany. In this regard, I am terribly old-fashioned. How old-fashioned you ask? Oh, just medieval England old-fashioned.

Traditionally the Twelfth Night of Christmas is always on the evening of January 5th but the Twelfth Day can either precede or follow the Twelfth Night. In medieval England this period was one of almost constant merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night became increasingly popular with William Shakespeare’s stage play entitled Twelfth Night. Often a Lord of Misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels. Some of these traditions were adapted from older European customs, including the Roman Saturnalia and the Germanic Yuletide. Some roles and practices traditionally include the mocking of authority and the principal male lead in skits, dances and pantomime played by a woman, while the leading older female character, or “Dame”, is played by a man.

The Epiphany season is the liturgical period following the Christmas season. It begins on the day of Epiphany, and ends at various points depending on usage by various Christian denominations. In the Anglican, Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran Churches, the Epiphany season begins at Evening Prayer on the Eve of the Epiphany (which may be celebrated on January 6th or the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th ) and ends at Evening Prayer (or Night Prayer) on the Feast of the Presentation (which may be celebrated on February 2nd or on the Sunday between January 28th and February 3rd ). The Epiphany season is seen as a continuation of the Christmas season, and together they last forty days. The three events in main focus during the Epiphany season are the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’s miracle at the marriage at Cana. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity also falls within the season, allowing another seasonal theme to be that of unity.

As a gift this evening I offer the following Carol for New Year’s Day from a black-letter collection printed in 1642. If you want to sing it, the music is Green Sleeves. You have to imagine harpsichord or viola or lute.

The old year now away is fled,

The new year it is entered;

Then let us now our sins down tread,

And joyfully all appear.

Let’s merry be this holiday,

And let us run with sport and play,

Hang sorrow, let’s cast care away—

God send you a happy new year.


And now with new year’s gifts each friend

Unto each other they do send;

God grant we may our lives amend,

And that the truth may appear.

Now like the snake east off your skin

Of evil thoughts and wicked sin

And to amend this new year begin—

God send us a merry new year.


And now let all the company

In friendly manner all agree,

For we are here welcome all may see

Unto this jolly good cheer.

I thank my master and my dame,

The which are founders of the same,

To eat to drink now is no shame—

God send us a merry new year.


Come lads and lasses every one,

Jack, Tom, Dick, Bess, Mary, and Joan,

Let’s cut the meat unto the bone,

For welcome you need not fear.

And here for good liquor we shall not lack,

It will whet my brains and strengthen my back,

This jolly good cheer it must go to wrack—

God send us a merry new year.


Come, give us more liquor when I do call,

I’ll drink to each one in this hall,

I hope that so loud I must not-bawl,

But unto me lend an ear.

Good fortune to my master send,

And to my dame which is our friend,

God bless us all, and so I end—

And God send us a happy new year.


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