1 Long time ago in Bethlehem,
So the Holy Scriptures say
Mary's Boy Child, Jesus Christ,
Was born on Christmas day.
Hark now, hear the angels sing
The Saviour's born today
And You may live forevermore,
Because of Christmas day.
2 While Shepherds watch'd their flock by night,
All seated on the ground;
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around. [Chorus]
3 "Fear not" said He, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind,
Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind. [Chorus]
4 "To you in David's town this day,
Is born of David's line,
The Saviour, who is Christ, the Lord,
And this shall be the sign." [Chorus]
5 "The Heav'nly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
And meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid." [Chorus]
6 "All glory be to God most high,
And to the earth be peace;
Goodwill henceforth from heav'n to men
Begin and never cease!" [Chorus]
"Mary's Boy Child" is a 1956 Christmas song, written by Jester Hairston. It is widely performed as a Christmas carol.
The song had its genesis when Hairston was sharing a room with a friend. The friend asked him to write a song for a birthday party. Hairston wrote the song with a calypso rhythm because the people at the party would be mainly West Indians. The song's original title was "He Pone and Chocolate Tea", pone being a type of corn bread. It was never recorded in this form.
Some time later Walter Schumann, at the time conducting Schumann's Hollywood Choir, asked Hairston to write a new Christmas song for his choir. Hairston remembered the calypso rhythm from his old song and wrote new lyrics for it.
Harry Belafonte heard the song being performed by the choir and sought permission to record it. It was recorded in 1956 for his album An Evening with Belafonte. An edited version was subsequently released as a single, reaching No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1957. It was the first single to sell over one million copies in the UK alone. To date, Belafonte's version has sold over 1.18 million copes. In 1962. the full-length version was added to a re-issue of Belafonte's previously released album To Wish You a Merry Christmas.
The song was also recorded by Mahalia Jackson in 1956 but titled "Mary's Little Boy Child".