On Christmas Day


In the words of Sir Nodrick Holder of Wulverrampton… “IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!”

Jon says, “I’m bringing a bit of fire and brimstone gravitas to proceedings… Happy Christmas by the way. No ploughing though you lot, OK?”

I say… Seasons greetings, whoever or whatever you believe in. Special wishes to our regular contributors who have helped fill in the first half of the story. Special wishes to Jon (and family and colleagues too), for great entertainment, inspiration, teaching and the gift of song. A thought spared for those for whom the wassail bowl is empty and a harsh rebuke for the knaves that make it so. But as we know, it’s the season to feast and I have slain the mighty nut to prepare for my family. I have an ambitious menu to cook, but will log in just to make sure you’re all enjoying yourselves. Finally, as we know, it’s not actually Jesus’ birthday today, so I’d like to wish Happy Birthday to Alastair Cook, who will hopefully still be tonking the kookaburra round Australia with élan, and to redress the balance Darran, a hale and hearty Australian fellow I work with. Cheers!
You can buy the December digital album now from all good download stores.


45 Responses to “On Christmas Day”

  1. StephenH says:

    Merry Christmas to the good ship AFSAD and all who sail in her. Thanks very much to Jon and Simon and all those who have contributed to the merriment. It has indeed been a marvellous accomplishment so far – very much appreciated. So, Happy Christmas, Merry Yuletide and Wes du hal.

  2. StephenH says:

    One more thing, Simon, I think the line “A thought spared for those for whom the wassail bowl is empty and a harsh rebuke for the knaves that make it so. ” has all the makings of a great song.

  3. Jane Ramsden says:

    Mighty sad, that lovely song, on this snowy morn. I feel sorry for the farmer who would surely not be ploughing on Christmas Day if his wassail bowl were full? Another mean old scene…

    But I think we can safely say there will be no ploughing today! The country has been at a standstill for lack of ploughs. If we had some, the snow would not be such an unnecessary problem due to ‘those knaves that make it so’ again!

    A beautifully sung mid-way point, Jon, in the much-appreciated AFSAD venture calendar. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, One and All!

  4. Jane Ramsden says:

    It may be Christmas Day, but still time for a quick ‘anorak’! I cannot find anything out about this song. I wonder if it is a very early one, as ploughing was forbidden during the Twelve Days of Christmas in Tudor times.

    “During the Twelve Days of Christmas, work for those who worked on the land would stop, and spinners would also be banned from spinning. Work would not start again until Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Night…

    Plough Monday was the official end of the Twelve Days of Christmas and was when work on the land began again. Most farmers would take it in turns to use a communal plough which was often kept in the church during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Often, a plough light would be kept burning before the Sacrament or Rood until Plough Monday, when the younger men of the parish would collect the plough, harness themselves to it and drag it around demanding money from people, and ploughing up the ground in front of their door if they didn’t give them some money!

    In 1538, Henry VIII banned the plough light in churches and, ten years later, Edward VI banned the Plough Monday festivities completely.”

    Read more fascinating stuff about Tudor Christmas (and Tudors in general) at: http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/resources/tudor-life/tudor-christmas/

    I never knew that mince pies were supposed to have 13 ingredients to symbolise Jesus and his apostles!

  5. muzza says:

    I haven’t been able to listen to todays offering yet as I am up on the top meadow, just doing a bit of ploughing before breakfast. Over to my right..I can see Dick the shepherd blowing on his nail….he looks a bit perplexed as all his sheep seem to be dead . I would go and help but a big hole has opened up in the meadow and the horse has fallen into it………..looks as though I’m gonna have a funny old Christmas day! Still AFSAD will no doubt cheer me up. Seasons greetings to you all.

  6. muzza says:

    Spare a thought for those whose wassail bowl is empty
    And a harsh rebuke for knaves who made it so
    With noses in the trough of plenty
    While others, even basic needs forego
    Those knaves will always be among us
    The empty wassail bowls still there
    The hardest lesson life can give
    Don’t expect it to be fair.

    (see how inspirational that old Simon is with his knowing words…)

  7. Rosie says:

    Lovely choice of song for Christmas. Well sung.
    Hope everyone who contributes to afasd has good day, and thanks for all the hard work. What are we going to do when it finishes….

  8. Shelley says:

    I know this one, but I don’t know how!

    Many thanks to all who have made the wonderful AFSAD project possible, and Merry Christmas to you all.

  9. Simon says:

    Merry Christmas and many thanks to all that have stopped by and your kind, funny and informative posts throughout. I sincerely hope that the merry elf has delivered at least one thing that you’ll cherish. I’ll check in from time to time, but don’t forget the Alternative Advent Calendar player with all 26 tracks here.

  10. Phil says:

    This song was one of the ones that turned me on to traditional music; I heard it sung by James Yorkston, under the title of “In Dessexshire as it befell”, and assumed it must be a creative modern forgery. Learning that James Y. was singing it absolutely straight – and that all the weirdness in the song is pure Trad. – blew my mind.

    It’s not a widespread song; I remember reading that it was collected from three different singers, the third of whom was later found to be the first one’s daughter. I think it comes from Travellers, which might explain the geography in the title being a bit approximate. I didn’t know that about Plough Monday & the actual prohibition of ploughing over Christmas – interesting stuff.

  11. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thank you, Phil, for giving me sthg to work with – an alternative title & singer – in the googling of this song, as I could find next to nothing which fit for ‘On Christmas Day.’

    Here is a Mudcat link with much interesting discussion covering, as one commentator remarks, both speculation and erudition:


    I’m getting the sense that it might not be quite as old a song as I thought, but the story could be, harking back to the time when there was such a thing as Plough Monday.

    And here is the Mainly Norfolk link that confirms what you say, Phil, about the Shropshire gypsy, May Bradley, singing this song as learnt from her mother, Ester Smith. Although it also mentions that a ‘Jean and Elaine Carruthers sing this as a duet.’


    You must have an encyclopaedic knowledge, Phil! I’m learning all sorts on here!

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    And everything you ever wanted to know about Wassailing!


  13. Reinhard says:

    Jane, Jean and Elaine Carruthers were half of The Valley Folk and sang On Christmay Day on their LP All Bells in Paradise, from which my webpage cites the sleevenotes.

    Concerning Ester Smith and May Bradley, it is astonishing that they were collected nearly 50 years apart: Ester Smith in 1911 by Ella Mary Leather and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and her daughter May Bradley in 1959 by Fred Hamer.

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thank you, Reinhard. My goodness, there is so much detailed information about so much, I can’t absorb it all. Even when I do read what I find thoroughly, I find I can’t retain it all, of course. But that is no doubt the age and stress factors kicking in! I’m getting a better rounded picture of the folk scene though than I had before, so do please keep adding snippets to my patchy knowledge. Plus, with Mainly Norfolk and Mudcat, I now know where I can look!

  15. StephenH says:

    muzza, that was quite a good verse you came up with – I might have prefered something with a little more revolutionary bent, but this was well done.

  16. muzza says:

    Stephen H…..Thank you for your kind words …
    if it’s malice you want..change the last 4 lines.

    If only there was confrontation
    Wassailers,Knaves, just standing back to back
    A wassail bowl would be just the weapon
    To give a knave a satisfying Thwack!

  17. Simon says:

    Brilliant Muzza.

  18. StephenH says:

    Ar, now there be spirit! nice one, muzza

  19. Peter Walsh says:

    Merry Christmas to one and all! No need to ‘unleash the Ramsden’ for today’s offering – she did all the hard work last year – so a day off for Teddo! Enjoy the day Afsadders.

  20. Jane Ramsden says:

    A truly beautiful song to wish one and all AFSADDERS Merry Christmas, and to remind us all how fortunate we are.

    I will now unleash missen! Since we have had talk of the 12 days of Christmas and sparing a thought for those whose wassail bowl is empty, here is a short poem from ‘The Twelve Poems Of Christmas, Vol 3’ selected by Carol Ann Duffy no less. T’is amazing what I get through my letter box!

    ‘Carol’ by John Short

    There was a Boy bedded in bracken,
    Like to a sleeping snake all curled he lay;
    On his thin navel turned this spinning sphere,
    Each feeble finger fetched seven suns away.
    He was not dropped in good-for-lambing weather,
    He took no suck when buds sing together,
    But he is come in cold-as-workhouse weather,
    Poor as a Salford child.

    John Short, born 1911 in Ambleside, was educated at Kelsick Grammar School & at Oxford, and fought in World War II before returning to live in Ambleside until his death in 1991. He lived in a wooden workman’s cottage on Lake Road and was often seen walking the road between Ambleside and Windermere. He led a very simple life. Poorly dressed, often jobless, sometimes drunk, he washed dishes in The Salutation Hotel when he needed money. I wonder if the war had affected him badly? In 1947, he published a fine collection of poems, ‘The Oak and the Ash’ (Dent). This one, ‘Carol,’ has been set to music, and I even managed to find part of the sheet music:


  21. Peter Walsh says:

    Thanks for that Janie. Here’s a Chritmas poem I like from the Dancin’ George anthology by Craig Bradley, entitled Christmas 1969:

    When the last sherry was quaffed
    And the last pudding scoffed
    When the parcels were passed
    And the last apple bobbed

    When the bottle was spun
    And the last forfeit done
    It was time

    Before unwrapping you had to earn the right
    A few snatches of ‘Holly and the Ivy’ or ‘Silent Night’

    Jaws dropped when the yougest and shyest of the brood
    Stood jumpsuited and kisscurled, in Grandma’s front room
    Plucking a plastic guitar, a three foot Elvis with a sneer
    Singing made up words to songs only I could hear.

  22. muzza (N.W Surrey+fringe) says:

    @PeterW……………..Oh dear Peter…….that line
    “Stood jumpsuited and kiss curled in Grandma’s front room”….
    has really got to me and brought a tear to the the old eye as I remember when the children were small (and manageable!)…I am very lucky to have such memories.
    Have a lovely day everybody.

  23. Diana says:

    Just the right sort of song for today. A Merry Christmas to all ADSAD fans.

    Enjoyed the poetry Jane and Pewter.

  24. Diana says:

    Correction should read AFSAD. Tut tut.

  25. Vivien says:

    Happy Christmas everyone and thank you to all those who continue to provide musical treats, information and entertainment everyday via AFSAD.

  26. Edith says:

    Merry Christmas. Still enjoy listening to the songs every day. Thanks.

  27. Jon Boden says:

    Happy Christmas everyone!

  28. Muzza+417days (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Suppose that you are all in bed waiting for Santa……
    Our thoughts go out to all those less fortunate than ourselves..Floods/war/pestilence

  29. Phil says:

    I gave this one a good seeing-to last year:

    In Dessexshire as it befell

    Happy Christmas!

  30. Jane Ramsden says:

    I am not in bed… why are you not surprised? And I am certainly not in bed waiting for Santa… that would be plain pervy. Lol. Merry Christmas one and all!

  31. Yuzra says:

    Many more happy returns of the day! Luv u Alastair Cook(Golden Boy) may all ur dreamz come true.sweet b’day coz ur born on christmas day! I luv u coz ur favourite player. ur adorable! Im 1 of ur biggest biggest biggest FAN I’m Yuz.I want 2 meet u thats my dream and I dont know when will it bcome true.I wish it must happen sooon. I cant wait 2 see u!

  32. Diana says:

    Merry Christmas to all.

  33. Muzza+417days (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    @Janey……ref Santa………..I never even gave it a thought in that way!
    Ref Yuzra………….I though you had been at the booze …but re-read all the notes..tracked through Admin Si’s comments…..then Wikipedia…..and conclude you are talking ‘CRICKET’….I wish you guys would give us more clues….I thought he belonged to a folk group called ‘Elan’…………Chucking it down with rain ‘darn sarf’ at the moment……….hope it dries up for morris dancing and mumming on Boxing day!

  34. Diana says:

    So do I Muzza have a great day.

  35. Diana says:

    Muzza you did not spot the clue – Alistair Cook the captain of the cricket team.

  36. Old Muzza(NW Surrey.UK says:

    Simon (Admin Simon)
    I have always wondered from whence you took the line:-
    A thought spared for those for whom the wassail bowl is empty and a harsh rebuke for the knaves that make it so.
    Was it your own……….I’d love to know …………
    that is if you ever get round to re visiting AFSAD(your love child) where sits a lonely old man….on the moon…looking through a John Lewis telescope at the dear old folksongy world.

  37. Linda says:

    You are not alone…….make the folk be with you…

  38. Old Muzza(NW Surrey.UK says:

    Lindy Lou………I can rely on you……….have a lovely day!

  39. Old Muzza (N W Surrey) says:

    I feel a bit of a plonker standing here under this mistletoe ALL ALONE!

  40. Linda says:

    Morning Muzza, Merry Christmas everybody……

  41. Even olderMuzza(NWSurrey) says:

    So who came third in the annual Islington Folk Club trad2Mad unaccompanied singing competition….mind you…only eight hardy souls entered and the judges probably took pity on this old fella…hoping that he’d clear off now and not enter again!

  42. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Well…..I have been naughty and listened to all the songs and read all the comments and relived all the old AFSAD banter…..7days early.
    I hope you are all safe and sound out there…missing lil ol Daina.

  43. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Hallloooooo………..is there anybody out there?
    Best wishes to you all……….who will rid us of this troublesome (pandemic)

  44. Linda says:

    Best Wishes everybody……

  45. Linda says:

    Happy Christmas Muzza raise a glass to the absent friends….

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