The History of We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Most of our traditional Christmas carols hold deeply religious meaning, but some like, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” have a more humorous twist. The song itself has quite a history, which reflects the wit of the Victorian Era carolers and their love for a traditional Christmas dessert.

1 History

The songs composer and author remains unknown, however, it is believed to be a sixteenth century West Country English carol. The song itself was meant for carolers who were hired to entertain the wealthy, in turn, the carolers would receive treats.

2 Lyrical Meaning

The lyrics hold significant meaning from the carolers. The line, “we wish you a merry Christmas,” was simply to greet the household. The lines, “oh, bring us some figgy pudding; we won’t go until we get some,” actually meant the group wanted the treats they often received for payment and they would keep singing until they got them.

3 Caroling Origins

The tradition of caroling was brought about because of its ban in churches during the middle ages. Church-goers then got together and went from door-to-door singing to keep the traditional songs alive.

4 Time Frame

Christmas carols were banned all throughout England between 1647-1660 by Protestant Oliver Cromwell, who thought Christmas should be a solemn day. It was then made popular again during the Victorian Era of the nineteenth century.

5 Fun Fact

Figgy pudding is a traditional English Christmas dessert similar to American Christmas pudding - the term figgy pudding was coined by the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Because carolers would often wait at door steps until they received their treats, they were called “waits” by the Victorian English wealthy.

Torie Combest is a freelance writer from Kentucky. She first started writing for local companies and has recently expanded to include web content. Literature is her passion and she hopes, through her writing, to pass that enthusiasm on to the next generation.