Windham Life and Times – November 24, 2017

Over the River and Through the Woods…

I don’t know why I started singing this song in my head the other day. Over the River and Through the Woods… Maybe it was because Thanksgiving was approaching. It’s funny how things from childhood get stuck, never to be dislodged. Wikipedia say that The poem was originally published in 1844 as “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day” in Child’s Flowers for Children. Although many people sing “to grandmother’s house we go”, the author’s original words were “to grandfather’s house we go” It celebrates the author’s childhood memories of visiting her grandfather’s house (said to be the Paul Curtis House). Lydia Maria Child was a novelist, journalist, teacher, and poet who wrote extensively about the need to eliminate slavery.

     The poem was eventually set to a tune by an unknown composer. The song version is sometimes presented with lines about Christmas, rather than Thanksgiving. For instance, the line “Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!” becomes “Hurrah for Christmas Day!”. As a Christmas song, it has been recorded as “A Merry Christmas at Grandmother’s”. Although the modern Thanksgiving holiday is not always associated with snow (snow in late November occasionally occurs in the northern states and is rare at best elsewhere in the United States), New England in the early 19th century was enduring the Little Ice Age, a colder era with earlier winters.

Old Bridge over Mystic River in Medford

Over the river and through the woods
To Grandfather’s house we go.
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood —
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Ting-a-ling-ling!
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground
Like a hunting hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow —
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood —
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurray for the pumpkin pie!

Grandfather’s House Medford MA

One of my readers, Pat Heenan, wrote to say that, “That song Over the River….was written in Medford, Mass. The river is the Mystic River. There is actually a bridge there, now a walking bridge.
The home is still there, has many long pillars on the front…
Also Jingle Bells was written in Medford or Arlington, have forgotten… One of the first songs we learned in first grade!!!.
Just to add to the history…”

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