Cherry Tree Carol
Rise Up Singing:
When Joseph was an old man an old man was he
About the Song
This traditional ballad is Child Ballad #54. It is reported to have been sung in the early 15th century. Many variants have been collected both in the British Isles & Appalachia.
It draws on folk tales about Joseph's reaction to his betrothed conceiving a child before their marriage was consummated. It has been suggested that there may be a relationship with a story found in the apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, composed in the mid-7th century.
The final video below features North Carolina singer songwriter Saro Lynch discussing the meaning of the song.