“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was first published in 1833 when it appeared in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, a collection of seasonal carols gathered by William B. Sandys.
The lyrics are reputed to date back to the 15th century, and are written in Early Modern English. The author is unknown. The words of the song had different meanings in the time of its writing than in contemporary use; rest meant “keep,” while merry meant “mighty” or “strong”—thus, the title in modern English means “May God keep you gentlemen strong.” It is believed that the song was sung to the gentry by town watchmen who earned additional money during the Christmas season.
Melody and Accompaniment arrangement with alternating bass strumming pattern (play either the top or the bottom line of tab):
Pattern picking arrangement that is played on the recording (bottom line of tab under melody). Use your middle finger to play the 1st string, index finger to play the 2nd string, and the thumb to play the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th strings. Your thumb plays 4 beats per measure in an alternating pattern.
This is not on the recording, but after I recorded the song somebody requested a guitar break they could play so I made this up-the-neck arrangement.