From the recording Comfort & Joy
There is a great deal of symbolism in this song. A wreath made of holly represented the thorny crown worn by Christ and the red berries were his drops of blood. Ivy leaned more towards the pagan heritage because Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, wore a wreath of ivy. The Winter Solstice celebrations often included dancing around evergreen plants that did not die in the winter as a symbol of life everlasting. Holly was used in the Middle Ages to decorate homes and churches, for the people believed it repelled witches and tax collectors. This song has roots that go back possibly several centuries, but oddly enough, it was first collected by Cecil Sharp in his book, English Folk Carols of 1911. Beverly - hammered dulcimer; Bob - harmony hammered dulcimer and triangle.