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Over the River Lyrics & Story

“Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go” are the 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 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 entitled “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 it was set to music by an unknown composer. 

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 gone through some adaptations 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 reserved the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving.

No matter if 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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