The Bristol -based composer, conductor and organist Arthur Warrell [1] is responsible for the popularity of the carol. Warrell arranged the tune for his own University of Bristol Madrigal Singers, and performed it with them in concert on December 6, 1935. [2] That same year, his elaborate four-part arrangement was published by Oxford University Press , under the title "A Merry Christmas: West Country traditional song". [3]

Warrell's arrangement is notable for using "I" instead of "we" in the words; the first line is " I wish you a Merry Christmas". It was subsequently republished in the collection Carols for Choirs (1961), and remains widely performed. [4]

The earlier history of the carol is unclear. It is absent from the collections of West-countrymen Davies Gilbert (1822 and 1823) [5] and William Sandys (1833), [6] as well as from the great anthologies of Sylvester (1861) [7] and Husk (1864). [8] It is also missing from The Oxford Book of Carols (1928). In the comprehensive New Oxford Book of Carols (1992), editors Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott describe it as "English traditional" and "[t]he remnant of an envoie much used by wassailers and other luck visitors"; no source or date is given. [9]

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