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"Oer Yw'r Gŵr" aka "Nos Galan"
English title: "Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly"

One of the most popular Christmas carols, and certainly the best known Welsh song. The lyrics have gone through a number of different revisions, between Welsh, English, nineteenth century and twentieth century. It is said that there are numerous verses, added on the way any folksong will be added to, but there are usually only three verses known by most people.

The tune itself was first found in a manuscript by the harpist John Parry Dall (1710 - 1782), apparently under the name "Oer yw'r gŵr"; the Welsh words were later added by the poet John Ceiriog Hughes (1832-1887), who named it "Nos Galan":

Oer yw'r gŵr sy'n methu caru,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Hen fynyddoedd annwyl Cymru,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Iddo ef a'u câr gynhesaf,
   Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Gwyliau llawen flwyddyn nesaf,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Oer yw'r eira ar Eryri,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Er fod gwrthban gwlanen arni,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Oer yw'r bobol na ofalon,
   Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Gwrdd a'u gilydd ar Nos Galan,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

The words are generally translated as such:

Cold is the man who can't love,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
The old mountains of dear Wales,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
To him and his warmest friend,
   Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
A cheerful holiday next year,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Cold is the snow on Mount Snowdon,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Even though it has a flannel banket on it,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Cold are the people who don't care,
   Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
To meet together on New Year's Eve,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

At some point, a verse was inserted between these two, which is as follows:

I'r helbulus oer yw'r biliau
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Sydd yn dyfod yn y Gwyliau,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Gwrando bregeth mewnun pennill,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Byth na waria fwy na'th ennill
   Fal la la la la, la la la la. 

Translation:

To the troubled, cold are the bills,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Which come during the holidays,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Listening to a sermon in one verse,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Spending more than you earn,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

As we can see, the original song has nothing to do with Christmas, but with winter and New Year's Eve. Now, whether this New Year is the modern Nos Calan of January 1, or the old Nos Calan of November 1, I'm not sure, but it is likely the former than the later, particularly given the appropriation of the song to the Christmas season.

At some point around 1881, the song became popular with English audiences, but with rewritten lyrics, of which I have found two versions; here is the lesser known:

Soon the hoar old year must leave us,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
But the parting must not grieve us
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
When the new year comes tomorrow
   Fa la la la la, la la la la
Let him find no trace of sorrow
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

He our pleasures may redouble,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
He may bring us store of trouble,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Hope the best and gaily meet him,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
With a jovial chorus greet him,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

At his birth, he brings us gladness,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Ponder not on future sadness,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Anxious care is now but folly,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Fill the mead-cup, hand the holly,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

The lyrics may be a pun on the idea of the birth of the new year and the birth of Christ, both celebrated at this time of year, and both a time of joy.

Finally, there is the version known to most English speakers today. The lyrics are anonymous, and are here as printed in 1881:

Deck the halls with boughs of holly
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
'Tis the season to be jolly
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Fill the mead cup, drain the barrel,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Troll the ancient Christmas Carol
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the flowing bowl before us!
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Follow me in merry measure
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
while I tell of beauty's treasure.
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fast away the old year passess
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Hail the new, ye lads and lassess
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Laughing, quaffing, all together
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Heedless of the wind and weather
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

These are slightly different from the version known, at least in America, which are as follows:

Deck the halls with boughs of holly
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
'Tis the season to be jolly
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Don we now our gay apparel
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
While we troll the Yuletide carol
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the blazing Yule before us, 
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Follow me in merry measure
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
while I tell of Yuletide treasure.
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fast away the old year passess
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Hail the new, ye lads and lassess
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Sing we joyous, all together,
   Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Heedless of the wind and weather
   Fa la la la la, la la la la.

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