Behind the Hymn: We Gather Together

SodaShoppe-We Gather TogetherWe Gather Together is a popular hymn sung at Thanksgiving.  The song was written in 1597 by Adrianus Valerius.  The original title of the Dutch hymn was “Wilt heden nu treden“.

The song was written to celebrate the Dutch victory over the Spanish forces in the Battle of Turnhout.  The song acknowledges the triumph over the nation’s turbulent history.

In 1626, the song was published for the first time in Nederlandtsch Gedenckclanck, a collection by Adrianus Valerius in Haarlem.

Dutch settlers brought the song with them to the new world in the early 17th Century.

The tune we usually sing the hymn to today is by a Viennese Choirmaster, Eduard Kremser’s score, originally titled Wilt Heden Nu Treden.  He wrote the tune in 1877.  He also translated the lyrics into Latin.  The tune is based on a 16th Century Dutch folk song Ey, wilder den wilt.

In 1894, Theodore Baker translated the text into English. 11948871_f1024

The hymn first appeared in an American hymnal in 1903, according to the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.

The Methodist-Episcopal Church added the song to their 1935 hymnal and the song gained popularity.

In 1937, the Dutch Reformed Church in North America decided “to abandon the policy that they had brought with them to the New World in the 17th century of singing only psalms and add hymns to the church service.  “We Gather Together” was chosen as the first hymn in the first hymnal.”

Wikipedia states, “According to Michael Hawn, professor of sacred music at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, “by World War I, we started to see ourselves in this hymn,” and the popularity increased during World War II, when “the wicked oppressing” were understood to include Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.”

The song continues to be a popular Thanksgiving hymn.