“The Cherry Tree Carol” is one of my favorite Christmas carols. I first heard the Peter, Paul, and Mary version, and that remains one of my favorite versions of the song.
It’s a very old song, and probably has roots that go deeper still. The Mary Hopkin version even retains the verse mentioning January 6th as Christmas. Whether this is a throwback to when Christmas and Theophany (Epiphany) were celebrated together, or an Appalachian variant is unknown, but there are all sorts of versions and verses that have been sung in the 600+ years the song has been sung in the West.
On my old blog, nearly 20 years ago, I wrote a post about what I like about this song. I’m not going to rehash the whole thing here, but I think it demonstrates a situation where someone who is walking in faith and has been very self-sacrificing is in a place where he or she has really been stretched thin and now is being asked to bear something else. It’s often something little, as it is here, but it’s the thing that the person feels is the tipping point – they can’t possibly bear one more thing. (Appropriately, I think this is where George Bailey was in this place in It’s a Wonderful Life – today’s ‘Tis the Season Cinema pick.) Yet this is also the place where miracles begin.