Christmas Tips & Fun

Learn interesting, unusual, unique and useful facts and tips about Christmas and the winter holiday season, in America and around the world.

Music of Christmas

Pennies and the Song, Christmas Is Coming


ou know how it goes – maybe.

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat
Please to put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny, then a ha’penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God Bless you

Except sometimes, maybe particularly now when people are watching their pennies, it goes "... the goose is getting fat" – not geese.

The song started out as a rhyme that reminded children that if they lived in a family of means that they should give back to those less fortunate, particularly at Christmas. But, if you look at it, it even applies to kids who just don’t have much, even a ha’penny. And the Old Man recognizes that and says God Bless You to them. Or, you could read it strictly from the point of view of the kid who doesn’t have a ha’penny and can only offer the Old Man a blessing.

Which brings us to the Penny. It’s a relic of one of the few ties our currency has to that of our Mother Country. The first English Penny was minted sometime in the 8th Century and it was silver (then it went to copper, bronze and finally copper-plated steel). The face was usually that of the monarch who ordered the minting and, early on, the obverse was a cross. Okay, you could say it was a “double” cross because it served two purposes:

    It said that the coin was from a Christian country, and...

    It served as a cutting template so that the Penny could be cut in two and become two half pennies (ha’pennies, see the lyrics), or...

    Into four parts (or "farthings" from an old root that meant "fourths")

The Spaniards did sort of the same thing which gave us additional vocabulary words when they minted the dollar and then cut it in half or quarters, or pieces of eight.

Back to the song.

It’s been recorded by a crowd as diverse as The Kingston Trio, Bing Crosby and The Muppets. And, it was Der Bingle, we believe, who sang some rather different lyrics that included this verse:

Christmas is a coming, the egg is in the nog.
Please give a friendly man a friendly little dog.
If you haven't got a friendly dog, a friendly cat will do,
If you haven't got a friendly cat may God bless you!
God bless you, gentlemen, God bless you!
If you haven't got a friendly cat may God bless you!

Written by Dianne Weller
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