Holly Bears a Berry, The
DESCRIPTION: "The holly she bears a berry as white as the milk/And Mary bore Jesus who was wrapped up in silk"; similarly "... berry red as the blood/...to do sinners good", "green as the grass/...who died on the cross."
EARLIEST DATE: 1929 (Dunstan)
LONG DESCRIPTION: "The holly she bears a berry as white as the milk/And Mary bore Jesus who was wrapped up in silk", similar verses for "The holly bears a berry as red as the blood/...to do sinners good", "green as the grass/...who died on the cross." Cho.: "And Mary bore Jesus Christ our Saviour for to be/And the first tree that's in the greenwood it was the holly"
KEYWORDS: religious Christmas Jesus nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (10 citations):
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 91, "'Ma Grun War 'n Gelynen [The Holly Bears a Berry]" (1 text, 1 tune)
Dearmer/VaughnWilliams/Shaw-OxfordBookOfCarols 35, "Sans Day Carol" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wells-TheBalladTree, pp. 198-199, ("Nay, Ivy, hyt shall not be, iwys") (1 text, which looks like a combination of this song with a poem about the rivalry between holly and ivy)
Bronson 54, "The Cherry Tree Carol" (version #27 contains "The Holly Bears a Berry")
Ritchie-FolkSongsOfTheSouthernAppalachians, p. 42, "The Holly Bears a Berry" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greene-TheEarlyEnglishCarols, #135, pp. 93-94, "(no title)" (2 texts, of which "A" is "Nay, Ivy, It Shall Not Be, Iwys," for which see "The Holly and the Ivy"; "B" is the forerunner of "The Holly Bears a Berry")
cf. Rickert-AncientEnglishChristmasCarols, pp. 264-265, "A Song on the Ivy and the Holly" (1 text, which contains several verses of this although in a different context)
cf. "The Holly and the Ivy" (theme, lyrics)
Sans Day Carol
NOTES [171 words]: This clearly derives from the same roots as "The Holly and the Ivy," and a strong case could be made that they should be considered one song. [Indeed, Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland lumps them. - PJS] As, however, both are circulated in fairly fixed forms, I decided to separate them. - RBW
Agreed. Norma Waterson, incidentally, places this as a spring carol, appropriate between Passiontide and Easter. Kennedy's Cornish words are a revivalist translation from the English. - PJS
According to the Oxford Book of Carols, the title the "Sans Day Carol" does not mean "Carol Without a Day," nor is it a reference to [All] Saints' Day; rather, the song was taken down as St. Day in Cormwall.
Jean Ritchie learned this in the United States, but it was not from her family tradition; I have not listed it as found in the Appalachians, because she does not give full details about the source of her version.
For the relationship between holly and ivy, and more history of this song, see the notes to "The Holly and the Ivy." - RBW
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