In Praise Of Christmas

Pieter BreugelWinter scene with bird trap

Pieter Breugel
Winter scene with bird trap

Traced back to 1681, To Drive the Cold Winter Away, has a simple haunting melody and interesting lyrics that express a wonderful holiday greeting.

The song is popular with folk artists, Celtic performers, Medieval Renaissance reenactors, and small traditional groups. A variant of a traditional English Christmas carol, Drive The Cold Winter Away, was published in Wit And Mirth: Or Pills To Purge Melancholy, a large collection of songs by Thomas d’Urfey, 1719.

I am surprised that it hasn’t been taken up by “pop” musicians, or the “big names”. Perhaps I have just not found them. Here are four delightful versions.

1. All hail to the days that merit more praise
Than all the rest of the year,
And welcome the nights that double delights
As well for the poor as the peer!
Good fortune attend each merry man’s friend
That doth but the best that he may,
Forgetting old wrongs with carols and songs
To drive the cold winter away.

2. Tis ill for a mind to anger inclined
To think of small injuries now,
If wrath be to seek, do not lend her your cheek
Nor let her inhabit thy brow.
Cross out of thy books malevolent looks,
Both beauty and youth’s decay,
And wholly consort with mirth and sport
To drive the cold winter away.

3. This time of the year is spent in good cheer
And neighbours together do meet,
To sit by the fire, with friendly desire,
Each other in love to greet.
Old grudges forgot are put in the pot,
All sorrows aside they lay,
The old and the young doth carol this song,
To drive the cold winter away.

4. When Christmas’s tide comes in a like a bride,
With holly and ivy clad,
Twelve days in the year much mirth and good cheer
In every household is had.
The country guise is then to devise
Some gambols of Christmas play,
Whereat the young men do the best that they can
To drive the cold winter away.

Loreena McKennitt, a Canadian singer from Stratford Ontario, is known for her refined, clear soprano vocals. She is also a composer, harpist, accordionist and pianist who writes, records and performs world music with Celtic and Middle Eastern themes.

The Irish Descendants are a folk group from the Atlantic province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. All the members, born of Irish emitters, were workers in the Newfoundland fishing industry before forming the band in 1990 out of the remnants of two former Newfoundland bands – The Descendants and Irish Coffee. The group helped to popularise traditional Newfoundland music to a wider Canadian audience in the early 1990s, along with other bands such as Great Big Sea.

Gian Castello This mutli-instrumentalist performs a pleasant mix of Celtic and Baroque prog with Italian vocals. The music features extensive flute used in a very ethnic style and delicate harpsichord chords.

Owain Phyfe (1949-2012) was a vocalist, instrumentalist, composer, and the founder of Nightwatch Recording, which concentrates on Renaissance and Medieval music. He lived in Berkley, Mich., often playing at O’Mara’s Restaurant when he wasn’t traveling the Renaissance circuit.

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