Greensleeves/What Child is This?

Okay, give your opinion on this. I know this could go in IMHO too but it’s basically about a song tune so here it is. If a mod thinks it should be moved, I have no problem.

But my roomate and I are arguing over this tune. He was singing it and I said “Singing Christmas songs this early?” He then went on to say that it may be a Christmas song but it originally was a song tune called Greensleeves that was completely unrelated to Christmas.

I looked this up then, not realizing it, and found he was right. So I said to him that, "Yeah, you’re right, but I think most, if you sang that tune around them, would probably identify it as the popular Christmas song “What Child is This”. He disagreed and said that since he had never heard the Christmas version that he thinks more would identify it as Greensleeves.

Well, obviously there’s not really any way to find out which is right but I thought, at the very least, I’d make a topic and ask you all what you think. Do you think that more people would know that as “What Child is This?” or would know that as the original tune “Greensleeves”?
Here is the tune of the song by the way.

I learned it as “Greensleeves,” and have always thought of “What Child is This” as kind of a separate song – a knock-off that pinches the melody.

It was “Greensleeves” first and I don’t think of it as a Christmas song at all.

So you think that most others, like you, would see and think of it and identfy it as “Greensleeves” then if they randomly heard that song at any given time?

I think it would depend on context. I would generally think of the tune as “Greensleeves”, but if I heard it near Christmas, I would assume “What Child is This”.

(There’s also the matter of whether it’s played/sung correctly; it rarely is. It’s wrong on the linked page. It should be Dorian, not minor; the fifth note (sixth scale degree) should be a half step higher.)

I’ve never heard of What Child Is This, but I would definitely recognize Greensleeves, and didn’t realize there even was a Christmas connection.

I learned it first as What Child Is This so that is how it is forever categorized in my brain.

It’s Greensleeves.


I’d think of Greensleeves (notorious around here as the music used by the ice-cream van) before the Christmas carol.

What Child is This. I was probably 20 before I heard about the Greensleeves thing. (I’m Catholic, if that makes a difference, it was very popular at the cathedral for midnight mass on Christmas).

Greensleeves, here.

Greensleeves. First heard it when we played it in orchestra in high school, and it was called Greensleeves there. I didn’t know there were ever words to that tune until years later.


And now I’m going to be humming it all day. :smack:

20 years ago, when I was learning to play it on classical guitar, I was told that it was a pagan lament for the waning summer that was co-opted by the early church in it’s conquest of Europe. While I’m no where near as invested in that line of thought as I once was, it will always be Greensleeves to me. And I play it anytime of year I want.

Even though I know it was originally “Alas, my love you …something something… wrong” I think “What Child is This?” first. Perhaps because I know the words to the Christmas carol and that’s the one I learned first. (And I don’t think the original rhymes. Songs should rhyme.)

Of course, when I hear it by ren-faire people in the middle of the summer, I know they meant Greensleeves.

Greensleeves. Even if I heard it round Christmas my reaction would be “oh yeah, it’s that carol to the tune of Greensleeves”

I of course think of it as the song played when you (attempt) to use a lute in Betrayal at Krondor.

Greensleeves, but I do think of it as a Christmas song nonetheless. So what does that count for? Also, I think the one linked to in the OP is the “What Child Is This” version, and “Greensleeves” is the one fachverwirrt mentioned.

Totally “What Child is This”…

and I’m Jewish! I have an unexplained affinity for Christmas songs and tend to sing them year round. (odd, eh?).

(That may be why rather than being able to identify it, I got the impression that it was “almost but not quite” a song I knew)

I’ve heard of Greensleeves before and may even have heard it, but frankly my own reaction was “sounds familiar.” Plus I’ve been known to sing christmas carols in July so I don’t see why the OP is having a topological issue with his underwear.

Don’t know about no pagan laments, I thought “Greensleeves” was one of Henry VIII’s more trivial yet enduring accomplishments. Doesn’t even ping my Xmasometer.