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The Holly Bears a Berry (The Sans Day Carol)

[ Roud 514 ; Ballad Index K091 ; Bodleian Roud 514 ; trad.]

The Watersons sang The Holly Bears a Berry in 1965 on their first album Frost and Fire. This recording was also included on the Topic CD sampler The Season Round. A live version from a Christmas radio programme recorded in December 1980 at Crathorne Hall, Crathorne, North Yorkshire, was published in 2005 on the CD A Yorkshire Christmas. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Another spring carol, proper to the period between Passiontide and Easter. In it the evergreen holly is celebrated along with the dying and resurrected god. In tradition this carol lasted longest in Cornwall. It shares some verses with the better known Holly and the Ivy.

Sandy Denny sang The Sans Day Carol in Alex Campbell's house at 19 Rupert St, Glasgow on August 5, 1967. This was published in 2011 on their CD 19 Rupert St.

Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band sang Now the Holly Bears a Berry (The Sans Day Carol) in 1987 on their Saydisk album A Tapestry of Carols, in 1998 on their Park Records CD Carols at Christmas, and in 2005 on their Park Records CD and DVD An Evening of Carols and Capers.

BACCApella (the singers of Bacca Pipes Folk Club; amongst them at the time were Maggie Boyle, Lynda Hardcastle, Fay Hield, Mike and Helen Hockenhull, and Tim Moon) sang The Sans Day Carol in 1999 on their privately released CD The Haworth Set.

The Albion Christmas Band sang The Sans Day Carol in 2011 on their CD A Sound in the Frosty Air.

Kate Rusby sang this carol as First Tree in the Greenwood on her 2011 Christmas album, While Mortals Sleep.

Andy Turner sang The Holly Bears a Berry as the April 03, 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

The Watersons sing The Holly Bears a Berry Maddy Prior sings Now the Holly Bears a Berry

Now the holly she bears a berry as white as the milk,
And Mary she bore Jesus who's wrapt up in silk.

Now the holly bears a berry as white as the milk,
And Mary she bore Jesus all wrapt up in silk.

Chorus (after each verse):
And Mary she bore Jesus, our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree that's in the green wood
It was the holly.
Holly, holly,
And the first tree that's in the green wood
It was the holly.

Chorus (after each verse):
And Mary she bore Jesus, our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood
It was the holly.
Holly, holly,
And the first tree in the greenwood
It was the holly.

Now the holly she bears a berry as green as the grass,
And Mary she bore Jesus who died on the cross.

Now the holly bears a berry as green as the grass,
And Mary she bore Jesus who died on the cross.

Now the holly she bears a berry as black as the coal,
And Mary she bore Jesus who died for us all.

Now the holly bears a berry as black as the coal,
And Mary she bore Jesus who died for us all.

Now the holly she bears a berry as blood it is red,
And we trust in our Saviour who rose from the dead.

Now the holly bears a berry as blood it is red,
Then Mary bore Jesus who rose from the dead.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of the Watersons by Garry Gillard