This set of verses belongs to a second type of wassail song, which seems to be the oldest type. In it the soloist dedicates a stanza to each of the family members of the house, and the group answers after him.
This type of house-visiting song is highly interesting: first, from a structural point of view, because they follow the pattern of ancient sets of verses; second, for the literary images used to address each family member; and last but not least, for their ethnographic value in the way and manner the lines of verses are performed.
Generally, the young boys would ask in each house whether they should sing or pray. Families affected by the loss of a loved one observed a period of grieving, and if that was the case, the lads joined in praying.
If the family allowed the group to sing, the singing started, with permission granted by the mayor, as they said. The verses delivered to the family members followed a strict order beginning with the head of the household, the housewife, the young married couples of the household, the eldest son, the unmarried daughter… and finishing with any priest living in the house, the elderly people, and so on.
A certain feature of each household member was emphasized: it could be the elegance and wealth of the househusband, the beauty and kindness of the lady of the house, the manliness of the son or perhaps the charm and grace of the daughter.
The household members opened their hearts, and the principal aim of the singing was revealed in the last verses: the young lads came on an alms round, asking for something to eat and drink (sausages, some side pork, eggs…) after parading through the village.
If the singers were given what they wanted, everything was alright, but if they ended up empty-handed or they were not paid enough attention, they would swear or utter curses and go away.
This version is originally from the Itsasondo area of Gipuzkoa, except for the last set of verses, which were put together using evidence collected in Oiartzun.
Oles ta Oles
Itsasondo, Oiartzun (Gipuzkoa)