The History of Christmas Carols

The Christmas Carols as we know them today are popular holiday songs that people sing from doors to door during the holidays. They are mainly sung in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas day. Carolers gather on porches or doorsteps, or sometimes in community locations like churches and schools to sing their Xmas songs. Songs such as "Deck the Halls", "O Come all Ye Faithful" and "Jingle Bells" are some of the more popular tunes you may hear people singing. The intention of singing these songs is to spread goodwill and cheer to fellow humans, so that everyone can enjoy the warm spirit of the holidays. Carolers sing acapella in unison and provide a fun, festive way to celebrate the holiday season.

How did Christmas Carols Start?

Perhaps you're wondering about the history of Christmas Carols. How did this particular holiday music tradition get started? The word "Carol" loosely translates as a song of praise and joy. Originally, people gathered in Europe thousands of years ago to sing special pagan songs, rather than carols. These songs were used at the Winter Solstice celebrations, where people danced around stone circles. The Winter Solstice usually took place around December 22nd, as that day marked the shortest day of Winter season. As early as AD 129, Romans were singing special pagan solstice songs around Christmas. Several songs were used during Christmas services in Rome during this time, and eventually composers all across Europe started to write their own carols. The majority of these songs were written and sung in Latin, and therefore they didn't exactly hold popularity. Around the Middle Ages, people had seemingly lost interest in the Christmas holiday traditions.

Four carolers dressed in traditional garb with seasonal colors sing Christmas songs.
Four carolers dressed in traditional garb with seasonal colors sing Christmas songs.

Christmas Carols in Latin

In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi started Nativity Plans in Italy which featured songs to help tell the story in the plays. The songs were sometimes in Latin, and other times in a language that others could recognize, so they could join in as well. This singing tradition moved into France, Spain, Germany and many other European countries. It's believed that approximately 1350 to 1550 is when the golden age of English carols began. Around 1410, a song was written that talked about Mary and Jesus meeting people in Bethlehem. The majority of these holiday songs or carols, were written as untrue, yet entertaining stories, rather than religious ones. The tradition involved singing the carols in homes, with traveling singers or minstrels delivering the songs in the words of whichever local people they visited.

Updated Christmas Carols

After the 1600's when Christmas carol singing had been stopped by the Puritans in England, carols survived in secret. Eventually they became popular to sing in public once again. Bands of people known as "Waits" would sing these songs. Waits were authorized to take money from the public and sang their carols on Christmas Eve. From there, orchestras and choirs around England also started requesting Christmas carols for people to sing. One of the new carols written at this time was "Good King Wenceslas". It was the revival during the middle of the 18th century that is most responsible for keeping the tradition of Christmas carols with us today, as that is when most of the songs were written.

Today's Christmas Carols

Christmas Carols are sung in modern times to express the cheer of the holiday season to others. Some of the popular tunes you hear these days will be "Little Drummer Boy", "We Three Kings", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Silver Bells". Other popular carols tells stories of Christmas characters such as "Frosty the Snow Man", "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" and "Santa Clause is Comin to Town". You may hear them in schools or other community areas or even as Xmas mp3 ringtones playing from people's cell phones. The songs provide a fun-filled way to celebrate the holidays as this great tradition carries on to this day.

What is your favorite Christmas Carol?

  • Jingle Bells
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • Joy to the World
  • Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  • Other/None of Above
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Comments 2 comments

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Smireles 7 years ago from Texas

I enjoyed the history of Christmas Carols. That is my favorite time of the year.

dick 6 years ago

you guys suckk.. that one girl in the picture is smoken!

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