St. Thomas Day Gooding Carol

"Going gooding" or "going Thomasing" or "going Tommying" was a St. Thomas Day custom in some parts of England, including Cheshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Kent. It was a custom for the poor widows of the community to go round singing carols and collecting money, or in some cases others would go round "gooding" and the money would be distributed to the poor widows on the Sunday following St. Thomas Day.

Some aspects of the rhyme call for explanation. "Well-a-day" is a variant of "well-away," i.e., "farewell." St. Thomas Day, December 21st. is, of course the shortest day of the year hence the references to "The longest night and the shortest day," and to "St. Thomas grey."
Widows "gooding "in nineteenth-century Yorkshire