“Deck the halls with boughs of holly” just might be the most famous opening line in the history of Christmas carols, but the melody that accompanies it was originally written for New Year’s Eve. “Nos Galan,” which literally translates to “New Year’s Eve,” was a 16th century Welsh tune—and a pretty randy one at that. The original opening line was “Oh, how soft my fair one’s bosom.”
In 1862, songwriter Thomas Oliphant published the modern lyrics with one major difference: he wrote “Deck the hall,” not “halls.” The earliest known change to “Deck the halls” was in the 1930s, and while that is the most popular version, “Deck the hall” is still sung.
The original reference to “my fair one’s bosom,” thankfully, is not.
Click below to listen to every entry in the series "The Forgotten History of Our Favorite Christmas Carols."