Young Folk New Year carol

AdorationHere we bring you water
   from the well so clear
For to worship God
   in this happy New Year

Sing levidue, sing levidue
  The water and the wine
The seven bright gold wires
  And the music that do shine.

Sing reign of fair maid with gold upon her toe
Open you the west door and turn the old year go


Sing reign of fair maid with gold upon her chin
Open you the east door and let the new year in


Here we bring you water from the well so clear
For to worship god in this happy new year


watering canIt was formerly sung before dawn on New Year's Day by poor children who carried about a jug of water drawn that morning from the well. With a sprig of box or other evergreen they would sprinkle those they met, wishing them the compliments of the season. To pay their respects to those not abroad at so early an hour, they would serenade them with the following lines, which, while connected with the “new water” tradition, contain much that is of doubtful interpretation, and are a fascinating puzzle for folk-lorists. [The Project Gutenberg EBook of Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan, by Clement A. Miles]

Trefor Owen describes the context for this song in Wales. Very early on New Year's Day about three or four o'clock in the morning, groups of boys came round to the houses in the neighbourhood, carrying a vessel of cold spring water, freshly drawn, and twigs of box, holly, myrtle, rosemary or other evergreens. They sprinkled the hands and face of anyone they met for a copper or two. In every house, each room was sprinkled with New Year's water and the inmates, who were often still in bed, wished a Happy New Year. For this service and wish they were also gifted with coins. The doors of those houses which were closed to them were sprinkled with the water. The verse was sung during the sprinkling.

In certain parts of Wales this custom is called dwr newy (literally, new water). The exact meaning of the phrase, “levy dew” is unknown, although there have been attempts to trace it to llef I Dduw (Welsh for “cry of God”). This seems to be an imposition of a Christian interpretation on a much older custom. Although the fair maid is now equated with the Virgin, Owen thinks it likely that this custom derives from “an early well-cult made acceptable to medieval Christianity by its association with the Virgin and perpetuated both by the desire to wish one’s neighbour well at the beginning of a new year and by the small monetary payment involved. [Owen, Trefor, Welsh Folk Customs, Llandysul, Dyfed: Gomer Press 1987]

[Key D]


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