How old is the 'Sans Day Carol'?

This beautiful Cornish carol first came to light during the 19th century. A Mr WD Watson, so the story goes, heard it sung in St Day – Sen Day in Cornish – a village named after a Breton saint. Watson wrote down the first three verses and chorus, naming the carol after the village. With an added fourth verse, it was soon published as ‘Ma gron war’n gelinen’ and translated into English.

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The Sans Day Carol is also known as 'The Holly Bears a Berry' carol.

'Sans Day Carol' lyrics

Now the holly bears a berry as white as the milk,
And Mary she bore Jesus, who was wrapped up in silk:

Chorus: And Mary she bore Jesus our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree that's in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly! Holly!
And the first tree that's in the greenwood, it was the holly!

Now the holly bears a berry as green as the grass,
And Mary she bore Jesus, who died on the cross:

Chorus

Now the holly bears a berry as black as the coal,
And Mary she bore Jesus, who died for us all:

Chorus

Now the holly bears a berry, as blood is it red,
Then trust we our Saviour, who rose from the dead:

Chorus

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We named the 'Sans Day Carol' one of the best Christmas carols of all time