We wish you a merry little Christmas is a popular English carol from the West Country or south west area of England.
The early history of the carol is unknown and not found in 19th and 20th Century book of carols. However historians describe the song as “English traditional” and “the remnant of an envoie much used by wassailers and other luck visitors”.
The greeting “a merry Christmas and a happy New Year” derives from the early 18th Century. Often it was repeated by mummers, which were children who would go about singing from door to door to request gifts.
“Figgy pudding” is thought to be much like modern day Christmas puddings in the U.K. “A variety of nineteenth-century sources state that, in the West Country of England, “figgy pudding” referred to a raisin or plum pudding, not necessarily one containing figs.”
Arthur Warrell, a Bristol-based composer, conductor and organist, arranged the tune for his University of Bristol Madrigal Singers in 1935. He performed with them on December 6, 1935, which popularized the song.
That same year, his elaborate four-part arrangement was published by Oxford University Press, under the title “A Merry Christmas: West Country traditional song”.
Warrell’s arrangement used “I” instead of “We”.
In 1961, Carols for Choirs republished the song and it continued to remain widely popular.