Christmas Carols and Traditions: Some of My Favorite Christmas Songs and the History Behind Them
White Christmas--Bing Crosby
Listening to Christmas Music
When I think of Christmas music, one name comes to mind: Bing Crosby. Every year since I was a baby, on the way home from my paternal grandparent’s house on Thanksgiving night, my parents would play the Bing Crosby Christmas tape in the car. I loved to listen to Bing croon some of the greatest Christmas carols and songs of all time: O Holy Night, Silent Night, What Child is This, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Do You Hear What I Hear, Pat-a-Pan and a few others. My family would perk up when the quirky Christmas Dinner Country Style would come on, singing along as we travelled home. It is such a happy memory I will always treasure.
This music would be played from Thanksgiving until Christmas, playing in the background as we decorated our house, set up our manger scene, went Christmas light sightseeing, wrapped our presents, and ate our Christmas breakfast after opening presents. It warmed our hearts and cleared our minds of the hustle and bustle of the busy Christmas season.
When I married and began my own traditions with my husband, these songs followed me and were integrated into my Christmas song list. Now every year, when we travel around after Thanksgiving with our children, I plug in my iPod and the songs and memories fill my mind and heart. I play the music as we decorate the house, wrap the presents, bake cookies, and eat our Christmas breakfast after opening our presents.
When do you start listening to Christmas music?
History of Christmas Carols
This is the book I inherited from my aunt. It would be a wonderful gift for someone who loves Christmas music!
History of O Holy Night
O Holy Night, or Cantique de Noel was written and composed by two unlikely people in France to write a Christmas carol: a socialist poet and a Jewish man. While the song was encouraged and shared by a Catholic priest, it was later banned by the French church due to the backgrounds of these two men. The people of France loved the song, however, and still sang it, sharing it with everyone. The song was eventually brought to America by an abolitionist and became the first song ever to be sent across radio airwaves.
History of The Christmas Song
The Christmas Song, best known for its opening line "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..."
was written after the writer wrote down random things that reminded him of the Christmas holiday season in New England. It later became the first song to become popular with everyone even though an African American sang it: the legendary Nat King Cole.
History of Jingle Bells
Jingle Bells, a song that will always remind us of the wintery Christmas season, was originally written for a Thanksgiving church service!
History of Good King Wenceslas
Good King Wenceslaswas based on a true story, even if the title of the song wasn't completely correct. Wenceslas was a young rich man from Bohemia, which was predominantly heathen. He, however, was raised by his grandmother, who was Christian. When he became Duke of Bohemia, he tried to change the ideas of his people and showed them kindnesses, like sharing meals with the poor and making sure they had enough firewood. He was later assassinated by his heathen brother, who converted when Wenceslas forgave him upon his dying breath.
History of Have Yourselves a Merry Little Christmas
Have Yourselves a Merry Little Christmas wasn't always a pleasant song. When written for a movie for Judy Garland to sing, it was meant to be a sad song. Judy refused to sing it as a sad song, worried that it wouldn't be appropriate with all the sadness inflicted by the war. She demanded that it be rewritten and it was, as a hopeful song which was embraced by everyone, including the troops overseas.
Christmas Carols List
Of course, over the years, I have added a few more (or many more, as my iTunes list indicates) Christmas favorites and various artists to sing those favorites. While Bing Crosby will always remain a favorite Christmas singer of mine, I now listen to and sing along with so many other talented artists. One of my new favorites is Christmas Song by Dave Matthews, which is a beautiful song. Another new favorite is Walking in the Air as sung by Chloe Agnew, which was inspired by the short, silent film and book "The Snowman". Where Are You Christmas from the movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is another great song by Faith Hill that I have added to my list. (See videos below for these great songs!)
Here are some of the songs on my list, along with some interesting history I found in a book I inherited from a great-great aunt of mine: Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas , by Ace Collins. Enjoy!
1. O Holy Night
2. Silent Night
3. What Child is This
4. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
5. Frosty the Snowman
7. Christmas Dinner Country Style
8. The Christmas Song
9. Away in the Manager
10.The First Noel
11.I’ll Be Home for Christmas
13.Joy to the World
14.Mary, Did You Know
15.O Come, O Come Emmanuel
16. The Littlest Angel
17.Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
18.I Wish You a Merry Christmas
19.Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
20.O Come All Ye Faithful/ Adeste Fideles
21.Do You Hear What I Hear?
22.It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
23. Good King Wenceslas
24.God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman
25.Go Tell It On the Mountain
26.Angels We Have Heard on High
27.O Little Town of Bethlehem
30.Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer
31. Walking in the Air
32. Carol of the Bells
33. Deck the Halls
34. Where Are You Christmas
35. Winter Wonderland
36. Christmas Song
Videos for Favorite Contemporary Christmas Songs
Below are some of the videos of some of my new favorite Christmas songs, including music from Dave Matthews, Faith Hill, Celtic Woman and more. Enjoy!