O the Holy Holly

The traditional lyric of O the Holy Holly is an interesting mix of two songs relating aspects of Jesus’ birth and childhood: “The Cherry Tree Carol” and “The Holly and the Ivy.” It was collected by Thomas Miners of Camborne in Cornwall from a Mr. Landry and published without a tune in the Journal of the Folk Song Society. Alison Burns composed this tune, and we have adapted her arrangement for voices and instruments.

Oh Joseph and Mary in the garden did walk
Where there were cherries and berries and all sorts of fruit

     And sing, O the holy, holy, and sing O the holl
     And of all the trees that are in the wood, it is the holly

Then up bespoke Mary, so meek and so mild
Pluck me some cherries, Joseph, for I am with child

Then up bespoke Joseph with words so unkind
Let him pick cherries, Mary, that brought thee with child

Then whisperèd Jesus all in his mother’s womb
Bow down, gentle cherry bush, that my mother may have some

The holly bears a berry so red as the blood
And Mary bore our sweet Savior to do sinners good

The holly bears a prickle so sharp as a thorn
And before the next morning our sweet Savior was born

We shall all be as dead as a stone in the lane
And in the next world we shall all live again

© Golden Hind Music