This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

Christmas songs explained - Deck the Halls

Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
'Tis the season to be jolly

This is a very old melody, and like most Christmas songs, the lyrics were written in the 1800s. The English language has changed a bit in 150 years, and the words of this song are a mix of words from the 1800s and words trying to sound even older. Like most of the Christmas songs that we are familiar with, the idea was to make a brand new lyric sound ancient and traditional. Nowadays we call that doing a design that is *retro*.

First of all, a bough is just an old-fashioned word for a branch. We don't see much holly anymore, but it used to be a very popular Christmas decoration. Using the term *deck* to describe decorating (yes, the words are related to each other) has gone out of style, and describing the interior space of a house as *halls* really isn't used much anymore.

And the fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la just shows that even in the 1800s, sometimes lyricists couldn't think of any words. The *fa*, by the way, is an attempt to make the lyrics sound even older than it was, similar to the use of the word *ye* in many Christmas songs. People in the 1800s didn't say *ye* any more than they said *thee* or *thou* - that's 17th century stuff!

Don we now our gay apparel
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Another expression that isn't used much anymore is to *don apparel*, which just means putting on clothing. Department stores use the term apparel, but you don't see it anywhere else. And before the late 20th century, *gay* just meant festive and cheerful.

Troll the ancient yuletide carol

Trolling didn't have anything to do with evil spirits or mischief. It just mean moving along in a gentle way in an attempt to catch something. The term still exists in modern use with fishing, where a lure is moved along slowly. Yuletide is a 15th century winter celebration. And, of course, a carol is a song. So, as you sing this song, you are hoping to catch a little bit of that ancient spirit of Christmas.
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