2016 Anne Boleyn Files Advent Calendar

December 11: God rest you merry, Gentlemen

One of my favourite Christmas carols is "God rest you merry, Gentlemen" so I was thrilled to learn that it is thought to date back to the 16th or 17th centuries. An article from BBC History Magazine (December 2007) states:

"This is thought to have originated in London in the 16th or 17th centuries before running to several different versions with different tunes all over England. The most familiar melody dates back to at least the 1650s when it appeared in a book of dancing tunes. It was certainly one of the Victorians’ favourites."

It goes on to explain that the comma in the title goes after "merry", rather than after "you", "because the song is enjoining the gentlemen (possibly meaning the shepherds abiding in the fields) to be merry because of Christ’s birthday. It’s not telling “merry gentlemen” to rest!" An interesting nugget of trivia!

Here are two different versions of the song, a classic version sung by the choir of King's College, Cambridge, and the contemporary Pentatonix version: