Deck the hall

For other uses, see Deck the Halls (disambiguation).

"Deck the Halls" or "Deck the Hall" (which is the original title) is a traditional Christmas, yuletide, and New Years' carol. The melody is Welsh dating back to the sixteenth century, and belongs to a winter carol, Nos Galan.

The English lyrics first appeared (still called Nos Gallan) in volume 2 of Welsh Melodies, a set of four volumes authored by John Thomas with Welsh words by John Jones (Talhaiarn) and English words by the Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant,[1] although the repeated "fa la la" goes back to the original Welsh Nos Galan and may originate from medieval ballads.[2] The song is in AABA form.[3] The series Welsh Melodies appears in four volumes, the first two in 1862, the third in 1870 and the final volume in 1874. As can be seen from the translation of Nos Galan below, Deck the Hall(s) is not a translation but new words by Oliphant to an old song.

Nos Galan

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. The Welsh and English lyrics supplied there are as follows:[4]

O mor gynnes mynwes meinwen,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la:
O mor fwyn yw llwya meillionen,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la:
O mor felus yw'r cusanau,
[instrumental flourish]
Gyda serch a mwynion eiriau
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la:
Oh! how soft my fair one's bosom,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la:
Oh! how sweet the grove in blossom,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la:
Oh! how blessed are the blisses,
[instrumental flourish]
Words of love, and mutual kisses,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la:


The modern lyrics and melody of "Deck the Hall" are found in The Song Book edited by John Hullah, originally published in 1866.[1] The words are there ascribed to Thomas Oliphant, translated from the Welsh of Talhaiarn. The following lyrics are found in the printings of 1877 and 1881 (which are identical):

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.
Don we now our gay apparel
Troll the ancient Christmas carol,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
See the blazing yule 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,
While I tell of Christmas 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.
Sing we joyous all together,
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


The major difference from the current version is the omission of the third "Fa la la" line in the early printings (which corresponds to the instrumental flourish in the Welsh original). The alteration of the first line to "Deck the halls" (plural) is found as early as the 1930s:[5] both "hall" and "halls" are found today.

The third and fourth 'Fa la la' lines sung to the words "Deck the Halls" 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.

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". By the 1970s, perhaps because of developments in the meaning of the word "gay", we see the line "Don we now our gay apparel" changed to "Fill the mead-cup, drain the barrel" in some sources.[6]

In the eighteenth century Mozart used the melody for a violin and piano duet, Sonata No. 18.[2]


Deck the Hall
File:Deck the Halls.ogg
Piano solo of "Deck the Halls"

Deck the Halls
File:Deck the Halls alternate.ogg
Alternate version for Deck the Halls. Two violins, viola and Violoncello.

Deck the Halls
File:Deck the Halls (USAFB Concert Band).ogg
Concert band version performed by United States Air Force Band and Singing Sergeants

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The tune is that of an old Welsh air, first found in a musical manuscript by Welsh harpist John Parry Ddall (c. 1710–1782), but undoubtedly much older than that. The composition is still popular as a dance tune in Wales, and was published, with both Welsh and English lyrics, in the 1784 and 1794 editions of the harpist Edward Jones's Musical and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards. 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 using it in a piano and violin concerto[7] 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"). The church actively opposed these folk dances. Consequently, tunes originally used to accompany carols became separated from the original dances, but were still referred to as "carols". The popular English lyrics for this carol are not a translation from the Welsh.

The connection with dancing is made explicit in the English lyrics by the phrase "follow me in merry measure" as "measure" is a synonym for dance. A collection of such sixteenth and seventeenth century dances danced at the Inns of Court in London are called the Old Measures. Dancing itself having been previously suppressed by the church was revived during the renaissance beginning in fifteenth century Italy.

The Welsh melody with English lyrics appeared in the December 1877 issue of the Pennsylvania School Journal, with the melody, described as a "Welsh Air" appearing in four-part harmony, and unattributed lyrics.[8] The melody is substantially today's, except that the third "Fa la la" is omitted. An identical printing appeared four years later in The Franklin Square Song Collection.[9]

Charles Wood arranged a version, the words from Talhaiarn; translated by Thomas Oliphant. Oliphant died in 1873 and the English version of the 1881 publication (The Franklin Square Song Collection) is also attributed to Oliphant.[10]

SHeDAISY version

"Deck the Halls"
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 Dann Huff

In 1999, an adaptation of "Deck the Halls" was released by country music group SHeDAISY for 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 performance

Chart (1999–2001) Peak
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[11] 37
US Billboard Hot 100[12] 61


The characters in the comic strip Pogo traditionally sang this song at Christmas, using nonsense lyrics, "Deck us all with Boston Charlie", and so on. A version expounding on these lyrics was recorded by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.

In Franklin's Magic Christmas, as Franklin's family (the Turtle family) is packing up and getting ready for their Christmas with his maternal grandparents at the Faraway Farm where Franklin's mother grew up at. They sing only the first and third verses of the song "Deck the Halls".


  • Pages 159–160 in Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards, Edward Jones: London, Printed for the Author, 1794. Available on Google Digital

External links

  • Free scores of Deck the Hall in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
  • Free sheet music of Deck the Hall for SATB from
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