By THE ENTHUSIAST
You Better Watch Out
Dating back some 500 years, "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" is a throwback to the days when Christmas was more helter-skelter than holly-jolly. Carolers weren’t church choristers out for a snow day; they were roving ruffians reminiscent of Alex and his droogs from A Clockwork Orange. When they followed up a demand for figgy pudding with a sneering "We won’t go until we get some," they meant it.
It’s true, you know. Christmas had a frisson of danger for centuries. The holiday was banned in Boston in 1659, and wasn’t regularly celebrated there for another 200 years. Across the pond, a Puritan-packed Parliament banned Christmas in England in 1647, provoking riots throughout the country. Christmas remained an outlaw holiday until Charles II, the aptly-named Merry Monarch, was restored to the throne in 1660. Poor Robin’s Almanack noted at the time, "Now thanks to God for Charles return, Whose absence made old Christmas mourn. For then we scarcely did it know, Whether it Christmas were or no."
Beef And Beer
If you’re not big on figgy pudding, by the way, a variation from the 1830s swaps out the fruitcake:
I wish you a merry Christmas And a happy New Year, A pantryful of good roast-beef, And barrels full of beer
Given the size of The Enthusiast’s pantry, that would amount to approximately one large can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. But one appreciates the sentiment.
Writing in the Weekly Supplement to the Leeds Mercury in 1888, Frank Kidson noted another local variant:
I wish you a merry Christmas A happy New Year, A pocket full of money, A barrel full o' beer, A big fat pig to serve you all t'year, Please will you give us my Christmas-box.
Rumors that Mrs. Enthusiast regularly refers to The Enthusiast as "A big fat pig who had jolly well better serve me all t'year" could not be confirmed as of press time.
Gettin Figgy With It
If, on the other hand, you would rather have a figgy pudding than a pantry full of beef, a barrel of beer or a servant pig, The Enthusiast suggests popping ’round www.figgys.co.uk – and don't go until you get some.
Number ten in a series.
10 December 2020
The Enthusiast (email@example.com) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.