Deck the Halls

"Deck the Halls" or "Deck the Hall" (which is the original version of the lyrics) is a traditional Christmas, yuletide, and New Years' carol. The melody is Welsh dating back to the sixteenth century,[1] and belongs to a winter carol, "Nos Galan", while the English lyrics, written by the Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant, date to 1862.


The English-language lyrics were written by the Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant. They first appeared in 1862, in volume 2 of Welsh Melodies, a set of four volumes authored by John Thomas, including Welsh words by John Jones (Talhaiarn) and English words by Oliphant.[2] The repeated "fa la la" goes back to the earlier Welsh and may originate from medieval ballads.[3] The lyrics run as follows:

Deck the hall with boughs of holly,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Fill the meadcup, drain the barrel,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Troul the ancient Christmas carol,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

See the flowing bowl before us,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Follow me in merry measure,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
While I sing of beauty's treasure,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

Fast away the old year passes,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Laughing, quaffing all together,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

The phrase "'Tis the season", from the lyrics, has become synonymous with the Christmas and holiday season.[4][5] 'tis being an archaic contraction of "it is".[4] A similar archaic contraction is "'Twas the night before Christmas", from the first line of the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas".[4]

The Welsh lyrics

In the original 1862 publication, Oliphant's English lyrics were published alongside Talhaiarn's Welsh lyrics. Although some early sources state that Oliphant's words were a translation of Talhaiarn's Welsh original,[6] this is not the case in any strict or literal sense. The first verse in Welsh, together with a literal English translation taken from Campbell's Treatise on the language, poetry, and music of the Highland Clans (1862), is given for comparison:[7]


A variation of the lyrics appears in the December 1877 issue of the Pennsylvania School Journal.[8] This version, in which there is no longer any reference to drinking, runs as follows:[9]

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Don we now our gay apparel,
Troll the ancient Christmas carol,

See the blazing yule before us,
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Follow me in merry measure,
While I tell of Christmas treasure,

Fast away the old year passes,
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
Sing we joyous all together,
Heedless of the wind and weather,

An identical printing appeared four years later in The Franklin Square Song Collection.[10]

The pluralizing of the title of the carol to "Deck the Halls" is found as early as 1892.[11]

Other common alterations change "Christmas" to "Yule" or "Yuletide" in various locations where it appears. For example, "Christmas carol" may be changed to "Yuletide carol".


The melody of "Deck the Hall" is taken from "Nos Galan" ("New Year's Eve"), a traditional Welsh New Year's Eve carol published in 1794, although it is much older.[1] The music is in AABA form.[12]


The Pennsylvania version from 1877 omits of the third "Fa la la" line (which corresponds to the instrumental flourish in the Welsh original).

The third and fourth "Fa la la" lines sung to the words "Deck the Hall" differ from those sung or played in Wales, the fourth having a more arpeggiated melody in the Welsh version and the third differing in both melody and rhythm.


The tune is that of an old Welsh air, first found in a musical manuscript by Welsh harpist John Parry dating back to the 1700s . The melody Poet John Ceiriog Hughes later wrote his own lyrics. A middle verse was later added by folk singers. In the eighteenth century the tune spread widely, with Mozart allegedly using it in his 18th violin sonata[13] and, later, Haydn in the song "New Year's Night."

Originally, carols were dances and not songs. The accompanying tune would have been used as a setting for any verses of appropriate metre. Singers would compete with each other, verse for verse—known as canu penillion dull y De ("singing verses in the southern style"). Consequently, tunes originally used to accompany carols became separated from the original dances, but were still referred to as "carols".

The Welsh and English lyrics found in the earliest publication of the "Nos Galan" melody are as follows:[14]

Contemporary versions

Red Hot Chili Peppers version

"Deck the Halls"
Single by Red Hot Chili Peppers
from the album Out in L.A.
B-side "Knock Me Down"
Released 1994
Format 7 inch single
Genre parody
Length 1:02
Label EMI

Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded a joke version of the song. It was released as a very rare jukebox-only 7-inch single and was included on their 1994 outtakes compilation, Out in L.A.. The song "Knock Me Down" from the band's 1989 album, Mother's Milk, was included as a b-side.[15]

SHeDAISY version

"Deck the Halls"
Single by SHeDAISY
from the album Brand New Year
B-side "Deck the Halls" (Radio Mix)
Released November 9, 1999
Format CD single
Recorded 1999
Genre Country pop
Length 3:50
Label Lyric Street
Producer(s) Dann Huff

In 1999, an adaptation of "Deck the Halls" was released by country music group SHeDAISY for the Disney animated film Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas. The song was later included on the group's Christmas album, Brand New Year, released in 2000. The music video filmed for the song features scenes from Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas.

Chart (1999–2001) Peak
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[16] 37
US Billboard Hot 100[17] 61


  1. 1 2 Goldstein, Jack (12 Nov 2013). 10 Amazing Christmas Carols - Volume 2. Andrews UK Limited. ISBN 9781783333905.
  2. Thomas, John; Talhaiarn; Thomas Oliphant (1862). Welsh melodies: with Welsh and English poetry. London: Addison, Hollier and Lucas. p. 139. OCLC 63015609.
  3. Last accessed December 13, 2011.
  4. 1 2 3 "Why Do We Say 'Tis the Season?". Grammarly. 22 December 2016.
  5. "Christmas words: 'tis the season". 15 December 2016.
  6. Hullah, John (1866). The song book; words and tunes from the best poets and musicians. London: Macmillan. p. 325. OCLC 4340310.
  7. Campbell, Donald (1862). A treatise on the language, poetry, and music of the Highland clans. Edinburgh: D. R. Collie & Son. pp. 214–215.. "Fa la la"s omitted for brevity
  8. Wickersham (ed.), J.P. (1877). The Pennsylvania School Journal, vol. xxvi. Lancaster, PA: Inquirer Printing and Publishing Company. p. 226.
  9. "Fa la la"s omitted for brevity; differences from the original emphasized
  10. McCaskey, J.P. (1881). Franklin Square Song Collection. New York: Harper and Brothers. p. 120.
  11. The Kingergarten Magazine vol. vi (September 1891 - June 1892). Kingergarten Publishing Company. 1892. p. 236.
  12. Boyd, Jack (1991). Encore!: A Guide to Enjoying Music, p. 31. ISBN 978-0-87484-862-5.
  13. "Christmas carols -- William Studwell's Christmas Carols of the Year series -". The Chicago Tribune. Tribune Newspapers. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
  14. Jones, Edward (1794). Musical and poetical relicks of the Welsh bards. London. p. 159.
  15. "Red Hot Chili Peppers — Deck The Halls (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  16. "SHeDAISY Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
  17. "SHeDAISY Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.

Free scores of Deck the Hall in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)

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