Appalachia Christmas

No Crib for a Bed

steve and tipper 1970 christmas

Steve & Tipper Christmas 1970

Away In A Manger is the lullaby of Christmas songs. I’ve always thought the simple lines of the song make it sound like a folk song-and the visuals of stars, hay, cattle, and meeting in heaven help reinforce the folk song feeling. The fact that no one knows who wrote the song 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 2 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 Away In A Manger in a book- 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.

During both World Wars people in the US shied aways from singing Away In A Manger because of it’s supposed connection to Martin Luther and Germany. But the popularity of the song returned after each war ended.

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 Hill’s research could not find the original writer of the song. Research did show evidence that most likely an American during the mid 1800s wrote the song and then it was passed down orally like so many of our other folk songs.

Watch the video below to check out Pap and Paul’s version of Away In A Manger.

We are very grateful and humbled by all you folks who have purchased Pap and Paul’s Songs of Christmas cds-THANK YOU! It really is packed with some of the best Christmas music I have ever heard.

You can go here-Pap and Paul’s Music to purchase a cd directly from me. Or you can jump over to my Etsy Shop and buy one here.


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

This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in December 2013.


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  • Reply
    Mike Tarnowsky
    November 22, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    Nice picture, cute kids. I remember seeing the cat clock in the late 40’s or early 50’s.
    Great music too.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    I’ve only heard a few musicians who play a mandolin with a feather touch; but, such a sound would be like a breeze in the trees accompanying this lullaby. . . .

  • Reply
    November 22, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Pap and Paul sound great as usual. What a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon, just relaxing to their wonderful music!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 22, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    It really doesn’t matter to me who wrote the song, cause I’ve always liked “Away in a Manger.” Paul and Pap make cold chills on me as I listen to their songs, I have the 8 count CD already. And when I want more, I go on YouTube. It must be a great thrill to be part of such a musical family. Thank you all…Ken

  • Reply
    November 22, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Fine singing there; I really enjoy Pap’s tenor voice.
    Toss my name in the hat for the grand drawing, wouldja?

  • Reply
    Phyllis S
    November 22, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Beautiful song with perfect harmony. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 22, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Steve and Pap do their usual great job on one of my favorite Christmas Carols. The picture of you and Steve on Christmas 1970 make me realize just how old I am, I started in Law Enforcement in 1970 while you two were just young whipper-snappers. I hope you and all your “Gang” have a great Thanksgiving. One of the many things I have to be thankful for is getting to meet you and the twins and consider you all friends, I hope to meet the rest of the Blind Pig Gang in the near future.

  • Reply
    Doris Noland Parton
    November 22, 2015 at 11:29 am

    Beautiful and reminiscent of growing up.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2015 at 11:19 am

    What in interesting story about the origins of Away in the Manger. I love the video of Pap and Paul singing it. Sweet and simple–just the way the carol should be performed.

  • Reply
    Janice McCall
    November 22, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Tipper, You are so right … never thought of it as a lullaby, but it is!!!! Really enjoyed Pap and Paul’s version. Thanks for sharing. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Janice

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    November 22, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Truly a lullaby and one of the sweetest. Done beautifully by Pap & Paul (no surprise there).

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 22, 2015 at 10:59 am

    I love the picture of you and your big brother Steve! Just look at those “chinquapin eyes” ! He was holding on tight to you as I guess you were having a tendency to slide right off that chair…ha
    I love the trendy aluminum Christmas tree. They are now highly desirable again. What is hard to find is the light with the four colors that rotate and shine up toward the tree. Which causes the whole tree to shine with changing colors. Do you still have that cat clock? Better keep it as well.
    I have had several people ask us if we had one. They are a nostalgic clock of the past and a “chic” collectable as well…I love that the tail swings back and forth with the movement of the clock!
    My, my if we had the room to keep everything we grew up with, it all comes around again and is always more valuable as collectables of the past. We humans are a strange lot! ha
    One of the things I love that comes around every Christmas are Pap and Paul’s Christmas songs. I love “Away In The Manger”….so sweet the melody.
    Spin a number for someone else if I should, by a stroke of luck, win the cd as I already have one…which I love…thank you!
    Enjoyed this post and the song, thanks Tipper!
    PS…It is cold here this morning, the little birdies are filling their gullets at the window feeder, their last choice since it is closer to the noise and movement in the house! They generally prefer the feeders in the back and front yards…but when you’re cold and hungry you takes your chances! ha

  • Reply
    November 22, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Beautiful song, and sang in the way I love. Thanks to Pap and Paul!
    I was amazed by the Christmas scene, as my Mom had a tree exactly like that, and is now proudly owned by my daughter along with the colored moving lights. The towel is also very familiar.
    Oh how I loved the days when that now vintage tree or a live tree sat in my Mom’s living room. Traipsing through the snow we kids picked out the tree, and what looked good in the field did not always look so good in the living room. We would spend hours placing the bad side toward the wall, and then cover the gaps with icicles. Santa could also be humorous and awakened everyone digging around in the attic. Beautiful pictures and beautiful memories. Thanks for all you and your family do, Tipper.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Pap and Paul’s version is my favorite. No one can sing a traditional Christmas song like they can!

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    November 22, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Such a cute picture! I love reading about the history of old songs. There was even a picture book written on the history of Amazing Grace.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    November 22, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Thank you for another interesting post. My academic life is about finding the background, history, and possible sources of Navajo folklore. Your posts, especially ones like this, remind me that our ways are just as deep. The forest for the trees, you know?
    I’ll listen to this song differently this season. It really is a folk song. And, now, thanks to your writing, something much closer to home.
    I’m glad I found Blind Pig. It is my treat here in exile.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    November 22, 2015 at 8:04 am

    Love this version of my favorite Christmas song. Pinned it, too.

  • Reply
    Hazel R. Carr
    November 22, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Thank you for the info on “Away in a Manger”. Actually, I think there are 3 versions of the music….. I enjoy playing the song on the piano.
    We, here in south Florida are finally getting autumn weather. Today it’s 72 degrees – not in the upper 80s as it’s been.
    Sending all of you blessings for Thanksgiving, I am Hazel Rawls Carr (formerly of Rocky Mount, NC)

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 22, 2015 at 7:25 am

    That’s absolutely beautiful! Paul does a fine job of the higher part that Pap usually does.
    Guess with some of the older songs we’ll never know who wrote them.

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