Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

This is my little Santa ornament ~ a replica of a Czechoslovakian St. Nicholas circa 1897. He looks very cold with icicles hanging from his head gear! The rabbit at his feet would have depicted a real one, rather than a toy. Rabbits were often part of Christmas scenes in Europe.

Do you remember the Christmas carol sung from childhood, "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas"?  There isn't much known about the back story of the song, but it's one I especially remember with fondness during my early years.  Here is all I could find on it:

The history of this simple, childlike Christmas carol isn't well-documented, but many historians believe that American composer, pastor, and school principal Benjamin Hanby wrote 'Jolly Old Saint Nicholas' because it was published in the mid-1800s around the same time as Hanby's Christmas song 'Up on the Housetop' and has similar musical qualities.

The music that forms the basic notes of 'Jolly Old Saint Nicholas' is 'Canon in D Major' by Johann Pachelbel.

Sometimes people credit Wilf Carter, a singer who was known professionally as Montana Slim, with writing 'Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,' because he was the first to record the song. But the song was published before Carter recorded it; albeit anonymously.

The traditional lyrics are:

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,
Lean your ear this way;
Don't you tell a single soul
What I'm going to say,

Christmas Eve is coming soon;
Now you dear old man,
Whisper what you'll bring to me;
Tell me if you can.

When the clock is striking twelve,
When I'm fast asleep,
Down the chimney broad and black
With your pack you'll creep;
All the stockings you will find
Hanging in a row;
Mine will be the shortest one;
You'll be sure to know. (Or, in some versions: "Mended at the toe.")

Johnny wants a pair of skates;
Susy wants a dolly;
Nellie wants a story book--
She thinks dolls are folly; (Or, in some versions: "She thinks they are jolly.")
As for me, my little brain
Isn't very bright;
Choose for me, old Santa Claus,
What you think is right.

The last verse has been changed in the 20th Century to:

Johnny wants a pair of skates,
Susie wants a sled;
Nelly wants a storybook –
one she hasn't read.
As for me, I hardly know,
so I'll go to rest.
Choose for me, dear Santa Claus,
What you think is best.