Over the River Lyrics & Story

“Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go” are familiar lines families sing on holiday road trips to Grandma’s house. But did you know the author originally wrote this traditional Thanksgiving song about going to her grandfather’s house? Keep reading to learn more about the lyrics and the story behind “Over the River and Through the Woods.”

“Over the River and Through the Woods” Lyrics

Over the river and through the woods
To Grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
Through the wide and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the woods,
Oh how the wind does blow! 
It stings the toes and bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the woods
To have a first-rate play. 
Oh hear the bells ring, zing-a-ling-ling, 
Hooray for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the woods,
Trot fast my dapple gray.
Spring over the ground like a hunting hound
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the woods 
And straight through the barnyard gate. 
We seem to go extremely slow, 
It is so hard to wait.

Over the river and through the woods, 
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy. 
Hooray for the fun! Is the pudding done? 
Hooray for the pumpkin pie.

Hooray for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hooray for the pumpkin pie!

Sing along with this family holiday favorite in our cheerful illustrated video found on The Good and the Beautiful Kids YouTube channel.

The Story of “Over the River and Through the Woods”

“Over the River and Through the Woods” was originally written as a poem titled “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day” by Lydia Maria Child. It was first published in 1844 in Flowers for Children, Volume 2, a children’s poetry book. Later, an unknown composer set it to music.

Lydia Maria Child wrote the twelve-stanza poem to celebrate family gatherings for Thanksgiving at her grandfather’s house in Medford, Massachusetts. Medford was known for its sleigh races at Thanksgiving time.

She was not the only one from Medford to write about the festive time. James Lord Pierpont wrote “One Horse Open Sleigh,” better known today as “Jingle Bells,” to spread the cheer of the season.

“Over the River and Through the Woods” has had some revisions over the years. The first line of the poem was originally “Over the river and through the wood,” but somewhere along the way, the word “wood” changed to the modern American English “woods.” 

As mentioned in the opening, the author wrote about going to “grandfather’s house” at Thanksgiving, but today most carolers sing about going to “grandmother’s house” at Christmas.

Interestingly, during the author’s childhood in the early 1800s, Thanksgiving was a regional holiday mostly celebrated in New England. On April 13, 1815, President James Madison declared it a national day of thanksgiving to celebrate the end of the War of 1812. It wasn’t until November 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving.

Whether you sing about going to grandfather’s or grandmother’s house, this family carol is a joy to sing at Thanksgiving and Christmas alike!

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  • Krystle

    I have always loved this song. Not reminds me of my grandparents and the different activities we would do with them during the holidays! Nothing is better than good memories in childhood!

  • Stacy

    My daughter and I LOVE singing this song together on the way to grandmas for thanksgiving. The beautiful illustrations make this song even more lovely. Thanks for the memories:)

  • Stephanie

    I love these posts with the story about the song. So neat to share with the kids! Looking forward to reading more of these posts!

  • Alison Routt

    Just curious if this is a book that can be purchased?


    • Customer Support

      Thank you for your interest, Alison! While we do not offer this as a book that can be purchased, we do offer many other titles on our website. We hope you enjoy the books and stories!

  • Kristin

    Hello! Where are the pictures in the video from? They are lovely!
    Thank you,

    • Customer Support

      Hi Kristin! We are so glad to hear that you are enjoying the pictures! Those pictures are from The Good and the Beautiful team. We hope you enjoy more of the illustrated videos on our kids YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/@TheGoodandtheBeautifulKids