What are the lyrics to ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen!’?

'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!' is one of the oldest Christmas carols and a favourite for many. Here are its original lyrics

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

When was ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!’ written?

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is one of the oldest Christmas carols, dating back to the 16th century or even earlier and was first printed in 1760.

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It was famously used in Charles Dicken’s ‘Christmas Carol’ when Ebeneezer Scrooge took exception to this traditional English carol in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, reacting so furiously to it that the carol singer on the other side of the door ran away ‘in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost’. Scrooge, however, was not on our voting panel – we much were more readily seduced by its minor-key melody and rousing ‘O Tidings of Comfort and Joy’ chorus and voted it one of the best Christmas carols ever

What is the story behind ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!’?

Like many Christmas carols ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!’ celebrates the birth of Jesus

What are the original lyrics to ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen!’?

There have been a number of changes since the first publication but here are the original lyrics, which were published in the 18th century.

1. God rest you, merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas-day
To save poor souls from Satan’s power,
Which long time had gone astray.

And it is tidings of comfort and joy.

2. From God that is our Father
The blessed angels came
Unto some certain shepherds,
With tidings of the same;
That he was born in Bethlehem
The Son of God by name.

And it is, etc.

3. Now when they came to Bethlehem,
Where our sweet Saviour lay,
They found him in a manger
Where oxen feed on hay.
The blessed Virgin kneeling down
Unto the Lord did pray.

And it is, etc.

4. With sudden joy and gladness,
The shepherds were beguil’d,
To see the Babe of Israel
Before his mother mild.
O then with joy and cheerfulness
Rejoice each mother’s child.

And it is, etc.
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5. Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place
Like we true loving brethren,
Each other to embrace,
For the merry time of Christmas
Is coming on a-pace.

And it is, etc.