Tag Archives: christmas carol

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Christmas carols that are already vegan, #3: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”

Glorifying violence is not an inherent part of the Christmas holiday season.  Just as formerly non-vegan dishes can be veganized, hymns and songs can be veganized when need be.

Many famous Christmas songs are, in their basic and most popular form, free from any form of express depictions of animal abuse. Where a term is ambiguous—e.g., referring to a product that has a vegan form and a non-vegan form—the ambiguous term need not be veganized. The term can simply be understood in its nonviolent form.

A song that includes such an ambiguous term is “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”  The verses refer to “figgy pudding,” which can be made in a non-vegan fashion but which can also be made fully vegan.  Thus, this Christmas carol can be sung as-is without the need for veganizing.  Enjoy!

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year.
Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin;
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year!

Verse 2:
Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,
And bring it right here.
Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin;
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year!

Verse 3:
We won’t go till we get some,
We won’t go till we get some,
We won’t go till we get some,
So bring it right here.
Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin;
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year!

Verse 4:
We all like our figgy pudding,
We all like our figgy pudding,
We all like our figgy pudding,
With all its good cheers
Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year.
We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year!

 

I Saw Three Ships

Christmas carols that are already vegan, #2: “I Saw Three Ships”

Celebrating holidays without abusing animals is easy. Some famous Christmas carols were “born vegan.” One such carol is “I Saw Three Ships,” of which the exact authorship is unknown.  Enjoy!

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I Saw Three Ships

1. I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas day in the morning.

2. And what1 was in those ships all three?
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And what was in those ships all three?
On Christmas day in the morning.

3. Our Saviour Christ and his lady2
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
Our Saviour Christ and his lady,
On Christmas day in the morning.

4. Pray whither sailed those ships all three?
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
Pray whither sailed those ships all three?
On Christmas day in the morning.

5. Oh, they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
Oh, they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas day in the morning.

6. And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas day in the morning.

7. And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas day in the morning.

8. And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas day in the morning.

9. Then let us all rejoice, amain,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
Then let us all rejoice, amain,
On Christmas day in the morning.

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Other Christmas hymns and songs that are already vegan in their most popular form include Deck the Halls. Previously veganized christmas carols, songs, and hymns include Silent Night and Good King Wenceslas.

Deck the Halls is already vegan

Christmas carols that are already vegan, #1: “Deck the Halls”

Animal abuse is nothing to celebrate in song or otherwise.  Fortunately, some Christmas carols do not need to be veganized, since, in their popular form, they are already free from cruelty and violence.

One such carol is “Deck the Halls.” The basic lyrics were written in 1862 by Thomas Oliphant to an existing Welsh tune.  Oliphant’s lyrics have been slightly modified over time to reach what is now the most recognized form, appearing below.  Sing on!

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Deck the Halls

Lyrics by: Thomas Oliphant (as modified in version appearing in Pennsylvania School Journal in 1877)

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
‘Tis the season to be jolly,
Don we now our gay apparel,
Troll the ancient Christmas carol,

See the blazing yule before us,
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Follow me in merry measure,
While I tell of Christmas treasure,

Fast away the old year passes,
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
Sing we joyous all together,
Heedless of the wind and weather,

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Previously veganized christmas carols, songs, and hymns include Silent Night and Good King Wenceslas.

“Solitary as an oyster” and other animal comparisons or expressions

In the process of veganizing Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, numerous expressions that refer to animals presented themselves as items to consider.  For instance, in Stave 1,  the author compares Ebenezer Scrooge to an oyster, saying that Scrooge was “solitary as an oyster.”  Later in that chapter, Dickens uses the expression “dog-days” for the hot time of late summer. Another example comes from Fred’s Christmas party, in which Scrooge is implicitly compared to a “bear.”

Veganizing principle:  retaining animal comparisons and idioms that have no exploitative or speciesist meaning

Expressions that merely include a reference to an animal are not necessarily exploitative or non-vegan.  Indeed, an entire story could be written about an animal, of course, without having any negative intent toward or associations with that animal. Such benign expressions can be left intact.  And under the minimally invasive principle for veganizing a classic work of literature, such expressions should be left intact, since they represent the original author’s words and embody that author’s creative approach.  In short, when no clear and convincing need for editing a passage appears, the original text controls.

Thus, expressions such as “solitary as an oyster” (which expression, for example, implies nothing negative about oysters) and “dog-days” (an expression that apparently originated as a reference to the star Sirius, which was the chief star in a constellation said to look like a dog) have been left untouched in A Vegan Christmas Carol.  Even the comparison of Scrooge to a bear—presumably because of Scrooge’s grumpiness or ferocity—is not necessarily negative: bears can indeed be fierce, smart, and defensive fighters, and there’s nothing inherently non-vegan, demeaning, or otherwise speciesist about acknowledging these possible traits of a bear.  Accordingly, that comparison was also left intact as well.

Silent Night a new English translation/adaptation

“Silent Night” Turns 200: Non-Violent English-Language Translation/Adaptation Now Available

The famous Christmas hymn “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”) was first performed on the night of Dec 24-25, 1818.   Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics in 1816, and Franz Gruber set them to music in 1818 for the Christmas Mass of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria.  This song has endured ever since that time as one of the most universally recognized Christmas carols and hymns.  “Silent Night” is one of the songs that was sung by opposing forces during the Christmas truce of 1914. This hymn has been declared a UNESCO cultural heritage piece and is one of the most highly recorded songs of all times.

Modern Christmas celebrants in general as well as vegan Christians who embrace non-violence in particular, however, reject a portion of the original text that includes a tacit recognition of animal exploitation, enslavement, and slaughter, namely, the phrase that includes a reference to “shepherds.” In order to bring the text into line with the spirit of kindness universally associated with the Christmas holiday and with the non-violence values particularly associated with original Christian teachings, a new English translation/adaptation—a “veganized” adaptation—is provided below.

This translation/adaptation is identical to the pre-existing English translation (mainly by John Young) except that the clause “Shepherds quake” has been replaced with “Stars awake.”  This replacement has the virtue of (i) eliminating the animal-abuse text while (ii) retaining the original meter and “-ake” sound of the well-known English-language translation and (iii) also tying into the rest of the second verse more effectively, since the remainder of this verse pertains to sky-related concepts or symbols (e.g., “heaven” and “heavenly”).  Retaining the poetics of a line is an essential task of veganizing a classic work.

Please feel free to use this text henceforth in your Christmas celebrations!

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Silent Night

Lyrics: Joseph Mohr; Music: Franz Gruber; English translation:  John Yong; English adaptation: S. E. Harrison

1. Silent night, holy night,
all is calm, all is bright
round yon virgin
mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.

2. Silent night, holy night,
stars awake at the sight;
glories stream from heaven afar,
heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

3. Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
radiant beams from thy holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

4. Silent night, holy night,
wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

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Veganizing Process, #3: “Coach-and-six” and horse-drawn carriages

By the time Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol (1843), massive social and economic changes wrought by steam power were well underway. At the same time, however, automated power, such as steam-powered trains and boats, coexisted alongside animal-exploitation-based forms of transportation that were still very much in use, such as animal-powered vehicles. A term we use today to describe the power produced by a gas-powered automobile engine—“horsepower”—reflects the historical reality that, for thousands of years, animals were used as the primary means of land transportation for humans (other than humans simply walking under their own power!).

Horse-drawn carriages, of course, are a classic example of animal exploitation, abuse, and cruelty. Horses are made to suffer all manner of hardship through their training and subsequent life of labor as pulling slaves. Under the basic reasons for veganizing a work, just as in the example of horse-racing, passages including animal-drawn vehicles should, therefore, be edited to eliminate the exploitative content.

“Coach-and-six” description of Jabob Marley’s staircase

Horse-drawn vehicles make some appearances in A Christmas Carol. One of those is in a comparison that occurs early in Stave 2. Here’s the passage in the original form:

You may talk vaguely about driving a coach-and-six up a good old flight of stairs, or through a bad young Act of Parliament; but I mean to say you might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken it broadwise, with the splinter-bar towards the wall and the door towards the balustrades: and done it easy. There was plenty of width for that, and room to spare; which is perhaps the reason why Scrooge thought he saw a locomotive hearse going on before him in the gloom.

This passage, complete with signature Dickensian colloquial embellishment, is intended to show that the staircase in Marley’s house is wide. The “coach-and-six” phrase refers to a horse-drawn carriage (the “coach”) and the horses  forced to pull it (i.e., six horses; the phrase “coach-and-six” would indicate four horses). Use of an animal-exploitation based comparison is unnecessary, of course, to demonstrate that Marley’s staircase is wide; thus, a world of possible veganizing editorial choices are available here.

Veganizing with “steam engine”

Under the minimally invasive principle, ideally we would excise the portion of the passage as cleanly as possible and replace it with content that serves the intended function and fits the context. Thus, just as steam power and other forms of machine-generated power were in the process of replacing animal exploitation, replacement of this reference with a machine-produced power reference makes sense.

Meanwhile, Dickens himself uses the word “locomotive” later in the same paragraph, a reference that, while not inherently referring specifically to steam power, would have likely evoked steam-powered “locomotives” for many readers and listeners who had been exposed to the train engines that had, by 1843, come into widespread use. This “locomotive” reference presents a fortuitous opportunity to tie into the rest of the paragraph in accordance with the serendipity principle for veganizing a work.  Thus,  in this portion of the text of A Vegan Christmas Carol, the “coach-and-six” phrase has been veganized by way of replacement with the phrase “steam engine” such that the passage now reads:

You may talk vaguely about driving a steam engine up a good old flight of stairs. . . .

Time-and-place compatibility, and context-and-author awareness

This case serves to demonstrate another principle to retain when veganizing a classic text: that of not introducing anachronisms. We would not want to introduce a reference to, say, gasoline-powered automobiles into a Dickens work, since these vehicles were yet to come. In the present case, since steam engines of various sorts were already in widespread use at the time and location in which A Christmas Carol is set—Dickens himself had traveled to the U.S. in 1842 by way of a steam-powered boat—, such a replacement is a time-and-place-compatible substitute for the original phrase. Moreover, vehicles driven by a steam engine clearly appear in other portions of Dickens work, such that the veganizing choice made here embodies an awareness of the context and author of the original work.

 

“More of gravy than of grave”: notes on the veganizing process, part 2

Virtually every page—indeed, virtually every paragraph—of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol includes some salient moment.   The work is so imaginative, so densely filled with action and meaning, and so widely known and beloved that almost every one of these salient moments is someone’s “favorite part.”  Many people will recognize such a moment, perhaps even be eagerly anticipating it.  When that passage arrives, readers and listeners may be disappointed if any heavy-handed meddling has been done.  Thus, when veganizing such a salient passage, the light touch of a “minimally invasive” approach is particularly necessary.

“More of gravy than of grave about you”

Ebenezer Scrooge’s quip, in Stave 1, about there being “more gravy than grave” in Jacob Marley’s ghost is one such salient moment.  Here, Scrooge is trying to argue with Marley’s ghost, seeking to establish the point that Marley’s ghost is actually just a figment of Scrooge’s imagination. Scrooge’s theory is that Marley’s ghostly visitation is but a hallucination, one that is likely to have been caused by some malfunction in Scrooge’s senses, perhaps the result of Scrooge’s stomach having been upset by something that he ate. Scrooge summarizes this argument in the final quip, which reads, in relevant part:

“There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

The line is brilliant for several reasons:  alliteration and internal rhyme; apt summation of the argument being made; revelation of some of the internal workings of Scrooge’s mind.  Changing but a single letter—the ending “-y” to “-e”—to achieve such a stroke is a fair instance of poetics.

Need to veganize

Generally speaking, a principle to which the Veganized Classics Series adheres is that, if a word has a vegan meaning and a non-vegan meaning that is plausible in the context of the original work, that word can remain unaltered. While vegan gravy does exist today, the reality is that “gravy” in its origin and in the time and place in which A Christmas Carol is set was made from and defined in terms of the juices of a dead body of an animal.  A vegan gravy-like item would have been called something like a “sauce” in Scrooge’s day, such as the “apple-sauce” that is expressly mentioned later in the book.

Thus, the choice, while perhaps not absolutely necessary, was made to veganize this word in the making of A Vegan Christmas Carol.

“Gravy” to “grain”

The challenge in veganizing a passage with this level of artistry and memorability is to retain the essential meaning while also preserving its beautiful form.

Fortunately, the English language comprises a word for a plant-based item that works very well, both to retain the poetics of the line and the role that the line serves in the argument Scrooge is making: the word “grain.”

Originally, the poetics include recurrence of four identical letters:  gravy and grave.  The veganized form gets very close:  grain and grave.

Moreover, the meter is slightly improved:  “gravy than of grave about you” has three essentially unaccented syllables in a row—not a strong form, and one that is not used elsewhere in the sentence.  But “grain than of grave about you” sets up a very pleasurable and catchy meter:  / u u / u u /.

Editorial opportunism: capitalizing on serendipity

This instance exemplifies the sort of happy accident for which one should be on the lookout when veganizing a work.  It’s editorial opportunism:  if the language happens to present an opportunity to retain both the literary substance and the poetic form of a line, we should be ready to take full advantage of that opportunity. Such a happy accident allows the line to be read or heard by someone who already knows and loves the line without missing anything—or perhaps without even noticing that the line has been veganized.

This case can be used as another touchstone, a prime example of the type of serendipity we’re looking for when we are trying to veganize a passage, particularly one that is very well-known and well-written and, therefore, needs to be handled with delicate care.