Christmas Music

Away in a Manger with The Pressley Girls

tipper and steve at christmas

Tipper and Steve (I still have the rocking chair!)

“Away in a Manger” is the lullaby of Christmas songs. I’ve always thought the simple lines make it sound like a folk song and the visual of stars, hay, cattle, and meeting in heaven help reinforce the folk song feeling.

The fact that no one knows who wrote the lyrics also aligns it with other folk songs from the same era.

For many years Martin Luther, Protestant Reformer from Germany, was credited with writing the song. No one knows why, but in 1887 James R. Murray published the song in his book “Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses” listing Luther as the writer of the song.

Murray was a hymn writer and worked for a publishing company, so it’s probable that he truly thought Luther was the person who penned “Away in a Manger.” The version of the song published in Murray’s book only had two verses. During the years after the publication, the song spread in popularity as did the notion that Luther wrote it.

Two years before Murray published the song, the Lutheran Church published the song in a book titled “Little Children’s Book” giving credit to no writer and showing a completely different tune than the one so many of us know and love.

Shortly after WWI a Boston publishing company published the song crediting Carl Mueller with composing the music for the song.

In 1945 American writer Richard Hill decided to unravel the confusing past of the song. Hill discovered Luther was not the writer of the song.

“Away in a Manger” was practically unknown in Germany until it was introduced to the country by Americans. Hill verified that Murray composed the tune we are familiar with today, but his research could not find the original writer of the song.

Research did show evidence that most likely an American wrote the song during the mid 1800s. The song was then passed down orally like so many of our other folk songs.

Watch the video below to check out The Pressley Girls’ version.


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*Source: Collins, Ace. Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.

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  • Reply
    December 14, 2020 at 8:05 pm

    What a beautiful rendition of the song! The girls have the voices of angels, and I have tears in my eyes as I am writing this. This was Mama’s favorite Christmas song, and when I hear it, I think of her. My favorite is Silent Night.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2020 at 7:17 am

    This was so beautiful and made my Monday.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Smith
    December 13, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Such a beautiful job, Paul, Katie, and Corie! Sending love and hugs from our family to yours this wonderful Christmas season!

  • Reply
    carolyn Kutulas
    December 13, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    That made my Christmas during this season of trials.

  • Reply
    betty stephenson
    December 13, 2020 at 11:48 am

    stunning job thanks girls ad paul love it have an awesome christmas

  • Reply
    December 13, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Beautiful singing and playing! One of my many favorite Christmas songs.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 13, 2020 at 10:36 am

    Away in a Manger is one of my favorites hymns but The Pressley Girls are my absolute number one favorite hymnists!

  • Reply
    Bob Dalsemer
    December 13, 2020 at 10:23 am

    Well done. Love Paul’s guitar intro!

  • Reply
    Susan Jones
    December 13, 2020 at 10:23 am

    “Away in a Manger” has always put me in mind of Mary. I wonder what she was must have thought as the stars, the shepherds and critters looked on at what was to become a blessed, yet unconventional life for her and her family.
    But as your girls and Paul are singing/playing through my computer this morning and creating those great harmonies, I wonder if you and Paul aren’t thinking about how grateful you are for your talented, grounded family and for all the joy they have brought you and shared with us.
    Y’all bring a lot of light into this old world. Thanks so much and Merry Christmas to all.

  • Reply
    Allison B
    December 13, 2020 at 10:16 am

    Always loved hearing Away in the Manger when i was growing up…and of course still do today. Enjoyed this video very much!

  • Reply
    Paul Wilson
    December 13, 2020 at 9:41 am

    Cool that you still have the rocking chair. Too bad Steve doesn’t still have the bike. That thing is sweet! πŸ™‚ Corie and Katie’s harmony on that song is really good. I guess that’s why I looked like I was in a trance while strumming along. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    December 13, 2020 at 9:04 am

    I do believe “Away in the Manger” is my favorite song for Christmas. During my childhood they had Santa of course, but the manger scene was especially stressed in any Christmas theme. It takes me back to that long ago evening when Mom and Dad shopped and decorated right on up until Christmas eve. We were left with a precious little lady, Mrs. Dunn, who always seemed to fill our world with lots of make believe. She had told me to watch out the window for Santa, and I kept my nose pressed to a window pane hoping to catch a glimpse of him flying across the sky. Of course, it got dark early, and the anticipation filled me with joy even though I must have missed Santa.
    I was really sick one December in the third grade, and had to miss most of school. After feeling better, I was advised my friend had backed out of doing the lead in a Christmas play. It was even rumored that she had a “nervous breakdown” from having to memorize so many lines. I agreed readily to memorize and do the part, as I was far too young to be anxious over a little memorization. Mom bought me a new outfit complete with trendy scarf, and I played the teacher in a role where I taught the students about Christ in the manger. There was even a manger scene in the background. Those teachers were so beyond wonderful, and could take that little school and work all kinds of magic. We also had to write a letter each year to Santa, and a boy and a girl were each awarded a gift. A store called Rosens in the town of Northfork, WV sent me a postcard stating I had won the writing contest. Mom kept the notification card forever. They had gotten the gifts mixed up, and I was happy as a lark with my sand loading toy. I still wonder how the boy felt when he opened up his gift and saw the doll I was supposed to have πŸ™‚ The little coal camp has only a scattering of houses and an old chimney standing alone in a field. But, it gave me such memoral moments of the people and the Christmas past.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2020 at 8:55 am

    The girls and Paul did an amazing job on a beautiful song. Pap would be proud!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 13, 2020 at 8:22 am

    Very pretty, girls and Paul, and thanks for the song’s background.

    I believe I may know a bit of a story behind that picture hanging in the corner….

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 13, 2020 at 8:21 am

    We surely do need some uplifting in this troubled year of 2020. ‘Away in a Manger’ fits that need well. As you say, it is simple and soothing yet profound.

    Seems every day we have to encourage ourselves with what we listen to or talk about or think about or read. Fortunately for us, Tipper, your blog does not deal in discouragement and snarky, snippy quarelling. You help your readers more than you know, or even we know, to stave off the blues. Many of us will not gather with family this year. One good thing about it though, it reminds us what a blessing it is when we can.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2020 at 8:07 am

    I enjoyed the song, the girls did good. Like Donna, my favorite Christmas song is Silent Night. I bet they would sound good singing it.

  • Reply
    Nancy Patterson
    December 13, 2020 at 7:56 am

    Love it, love it, love it!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 13, 2020 at 6:30 am

    That was beautiful, good job!

  • Reply
    Donna W
    December 13, 2020 at 5:32 am

    Oh, how I love that song, and they really do it justice. My other favorite Christmas song is Silent Night.

    • Reply
      Margie Goldstein
      December 13, 2020 at 8:48 am

      That was a beautiful rendition of this song! The Pressley girls are quite talented as is Mr. Wilson! If you ever find yourselves without money, I assure you of your riches in music and God given talents!!! I want to wish all BP& A bloggers a very MERRY CHRISTMAS! Our nation is at a crossroads at this very minute and if you pray, pray against invaders now!!!! Pray for truth and mercy from the Master. (And what’s going on is not on the news.)

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