Christmas carol

Christmas carol

Overview
A Christmas carol is a carol
Carol (music)
A carol is a festive song, generally religious but not necessarily connected with church worship, and often with a dance-like or popular character....

  (song
Song
In music, a song is a composition for voice or voices, performed by singing.A song may be accompanied by musical instruments, or it may be unaccompanied, as in the case of a cappella songs...

 or hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

) whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas.


The first specifically Christmas hymns that we know of appear in fourth century Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. Latin hymns such as Veni redemptor gentium, written by Ambrose
Ambrose
Aurelius Ambrosius, better known in English as Saint Ambrose , was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was one of the four original doctors of the Church.-Political career:Ambrose was born into a Roman Christian family between about...

, Archbishop of Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

, were austere statements of the theological doctrine of the Incarnation in opposition to Arianism
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

.
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Encyclopedia
A Christmas carol is a carol
Carol (music)
A carol is a festive song, generally religious but not necessarily connected with church worship, and often with a dance-like or popular character....

  (song
Song
In music, a song is a composition for voice or voices, performed by singing.A song may be accompanied by musical instruments, or it may be unaccompanied, as in the case of a cappella songs...

 or hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

) whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas.

History



The first specifically Christmas hymns that we know of appear in fourth century Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. Latin hymns such as Veni redemptor gentium, written by Ambrose
Ambrose
Aurelius Ambrosius, better known in English as Saint Ambrose , was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was one of the four original doctors of the Church.-Political career:Ambrose was born into a Roman Christian family between about...

, Archbishop of Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

, were austere statements of the theological doctrine of the Incarnation in opposition to Arianism
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

. Corde natus ex Parentis (Of the Father's love begotten) by the Spanish poet Prudentius
Prudentius
Aurelius Prudentius Clemens was a Roman Christian poet, born in the Roman province of Tarraconensis in 348. He probably died in Spain, as well, some time after 405, possibly around 413...

 (d. 413) is still sung in some churches today.

In the ninth and tenth centuries, the Christmas "Sequence" or "Prose" was introduced in North European monasteries, developing under Bernard of Clairvaux
Bernard of Clairvaux
Bernard of Clairvaux, O.Cist was a French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian order.After the death of his mother, Bernard sought admission into the Cistercian order. Three years later, he was sent to found a new abbey at an isolated clearing in a glen known as the Val...

 into a sequence of rhymed stanza
Stanza
In poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger poem. In modern poetry, the term is often equivalent with strophe; in popular vocal music, a stanza is typically referred to as a "verse"...

s. In the twelfth century the Parisian monk Adam of St. Victor began to derive music from popular songs, introducing something closer to the traditional Christmas carol.

In the thirteenth century, in France, Germany, and particularly, Italy, under the influence of Francis of Asissi  a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in the native language developed. Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay
John Audelay
John Audelay or Awdelay was a priest and poet from Haughmond Abbey in Shropshire; he is one of the few English poets of the period whose name is known to us. Some of the first Christmas carols recorded in English appear among his works....

, a Shropshire
Shropshire
Shropshire is a county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. It borders Wales to the west...

 chaplain, who lists twenty five "caroles of Cristemas", probably sung by groups of 'wassailers
Wassailing
The tradition of Wassailing falls into two distinct categories: The House-Visiting wassail and the Orchard-Visiting wassail. House-Visiting wassail, very much similar to caroling, is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols...

', who went from house to house.
The songs we know specifically as carols were originally communal songs sung during celebrations like harvest tide as well as Christmas. It was only later that carols began to be sung in church, and to be specifically associated with Christmas.

Carols gained in popularity after the Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 in the countries where Protestant churches gained prominence (as well-known Reformers like Martin Luther authored carols and encouraged their use in worship), this was the consequence of the fact that the Lutheran reformation warmly welcomed music.

Adeste Fidelis (O Come all ye faithful) appears in its current form in the mid 18th century, although the words may have originated in the thirteenth century. The origin of the tune is disputed. The first appearance in print of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", "The First Noel
The First Noël
The First Nowell is a traditional classical English carol, most likely from the 18th century, although possibly earlier...

", "I Saw Three Ships
I Saw Three Ships
"I Saw Three Ships " is a traditional and popular Christmas carol from England. A variant of its parent tune "Greensleeves", the earliest printed version of "I Saw Three Ships" is from the 17th century, possibly Derbyshire, and was also published by William B. Sandys in 1833...

" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833) by William B. Sandys
William B. Sandys
William B. Sandys , was an English solicitor, member of the Percy Society, fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and remembered for his publication Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern , a collection of seasonal carols that Sandys had gathered and also apparently improvised...

. Composers like Arthur Sullivan
Arthur Sullivan
Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan MVO was an English composer of Irish and Italian ancestry. He is best known for his series of 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including such enduring works as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado...

 helped to repopularize the carol, and it is this period that gave rise to such favorites as "Good King Wenceslas
Good King Wenceslas
"Good King Wenceslas" is a popular Christmas carol about a king who goes out to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen . During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king's footprints, step for step,...

" and "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear", a New England carol written by Edmund H. Sears and Richard S. Willis.

Today carols are regularly sung at Christian religious services. Some compositions have words which are clearly not of a religious theme, but are often still referred to as "carols". For example, the sixteenth century song "A Bone, God Wot!" appears to be a wassailing
Wassailing
The tradition of Wassailing falls into two distinct categories: The House-Visiting wassail and the Orchard-Visiting wassail. House-Visiting wassail, very much similar to caroling, is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols...

 song (which is sung during drinking or while requesting ale), but is described in the British Library
British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

's Cottonian Collection as a Christmas carol.

It is often difficult to draw a distinction between a Christmas carol and a Christmas song. To be sung by a church choir or sung in the street by amateurs, a song would have to have a fairly rapid, regular beat, which would therefore exclude a meandering crooning song such as "White Christmas
White Christmas (song)
"White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.Accounts vary as...

". A country music song such as "Blue Christmas
Blue Christmas
"Blue Christmas" is a Christmas song written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson. The heart-broken tale of unrequited love during the holidays had long been considered a Christmas staple of country music, having been recorded first by Doye O'Dell in 1948 and popularised by Ernest Tubb the next year...

" might qualify, but in this case it would have to be adopted by many choirs, over many years to be truly "vernacular", and so far it has failed to gain wide acceptance. The Concise Oxford Dictionary is more generous, as it defines a carol as a "religious song...associated with Christmas". If Christmas Carols are played before December, or after Christmas Day (including on Boxing Day), it is considered to be extremely bad luck in many countries.

Carols for dancing


It is not clear whether the word carol derives from the French "carole" or the Latin "carula" meaning a circular dance. In any case the dancing seems to have been abandoned quite early.

Music


Traditionally, carols have often been based on medieval chord patterns, and it is this that gives them their uniquely characteristic musical sound. Some carols like "Personent hodie
Personent hodie
Personent hodie is a Christmas carol originally published in the 1582 Finnish song book Piae Cantiones, a volume of 74 Medieval songs with Latin texts collected by Jaakko Suomalainen, a Swedish Lutheran cleric, and published by T.P. Rutha...

", "Good King Wenceslas
Good King Wenceslas
"Good King Wenceslas" is a popular Christmas carol about a king who goes out to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen . During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king's footprints, step for step,...

", and "The Holly and the Ivy
The Holly and the Ivy
"The Holly and the Ivy" is an English traditional Christmas carol. The carol contains intermingled Christian and Pagan imagery, with holly and ivy representing Pagan fertility symbols. Holly and ivy have been the mainstay of Christmas decoration for church use since at least the fifteenth and...

" can be traced directly back to the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, and are among the oldest musical compositions still regularly sung.

Compositions continue to be written that become popular carols. For example, many of the carols written by Alfred Burt
Alfred Burt
Alfred Shaddick Burt was an American jazz musician who is best known for composing the music for fifteen Christmas carols between 1942 and 1954. Only one of the carols was performed in public outside his immediate family circle during his lifetime.-Early life:Burt was born in Marquette, Michigan...

 are sung regularly in both sacred and secular settings, and are among the better-known modern Christmas carols.

Church and liturgical use of Christmas carols


Almost all the well known carols were not sung in church until the second half of the 19th century. Hymns Ancient and Modern 1861–1874 included several carols.
Isaac Watts
Isaac Watts
Isaac Watts was an English hymnwriter, theologian and logician. A prolific and popular hymnwriter, he was recognised as the "Father of English Hymnody", credited with some 750 hymns...

, the "father of English hymnody", composed "Joy to the World
Joy to the World
"Joy to the World" is a Christian Christmas carol.The words are by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98 in the Bible. The song was first published in 1719 in Watts' collection; The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and...

" which has become a popular Christmas carol even though it is widely believed that Watts did not write it to be sung only at Christmas.

Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley , and father of musician Samuel Wesley, and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley...

 wrote texts for at least three Christmas carols, of which the best known was originally entitled Hark! How All the Welkin Rings, later edited to Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is a Christmas carol that first appeared in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, having been written by Charles Wesley. This is not the version widely known today. A sombre man, Wesley had requested and received slow and solemn music for his lyrics, not the...

.
In 1840 Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

 wrote a tune in a cantata; William H. Cummings adapted this tune to fit Wesley's words and this combination first appeared in "Hymns Ancient and Modern" in 1861.

Silent Night
Silent Night
"Silent Night" is a popular Christmas carol. The original lyrics of the song "Stille Nacht" were written in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria, by the priest Father Joseph Mohr and the melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster Franz Xaver Gruber...

comes from Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

. The carol was first performed in the Nikolaus-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf
Oberndorf bei Salzburg
Oberndorf bei Salzburg is a town in the Austrian state of Salzburg, about 17 km north of the City of Salzburg. It is situated on the river Salzach in the Flachgau district.-Overview:Its twin sister-town across the Salzach Bridge is Laufen in Bavaria...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 on December 24, 1818. Mohr had composed the words much earlier, in 1816, but on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

 brought them to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar
Guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

 accompaniment for the church service. The first English translation was in 1871 where it was published in a Methodist hymnal.

Episodes described in Christmas carols


Several different Christmas episodes, apart from the birth of Jesus
Nativity of Jesus
The Nativity of Jesus, or simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus in two of the Canonical gospels and in various apocryphal texts....

 itself, are described in Christmas carols, such as:
  • The Annunciation
    Annunciation
    The Annunciation, also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary or Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Virgin Mary, that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her...

    , for example Gabriel's Message
    Gabriel's Message
    "Gabriel's Message" or "The angel Gabriel from heaven came" is a Basque Christmas folk carol about the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary by the archangel Gabriel that she would become the mother of Jesus Christ the Son of God...

  • The Census of Quirinius
    Census of Quirinius
    The Census of Quirinius refers to the enrollment of the Roman Provinces of Syria and Iudaea for tax purposes taken in the year 6/7 during the reign of Emperor Augustus , when Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was appointed governor of Syria, after the banishment of Herod Archelaus from the Tetrarchy of...

    , a rare subject, but touched on in On a Day When Men Were Counted by Dan­i­el Thambyrajah Niles (1964)
  • The Annunciation to the shepherds
    Annunciation to the shepherds
    The Annunciation to the shepherds is an episode in the Nativity of Jesus described in the Bible in Luke 2, in which angels tell a group of shepherds about the birth of Jesus...

    , for example While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
    While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
    "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" is a Christmas carol describing the Annunciation to the Shepherds, with words attributed to Irish hymnist, lyricist and England's Poet Laureate, Nahum Tate....

  • The Adoration of the shepherds
    Adoration of the shepherds
    The Adoration of the shepherds, in the Nativity of Jesus in art, is a scene in which shepherds are near witnesses to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. It is often combined with the Adoration of the Magi, in which case it is typically just referred to by the latter title...

    , for example the Czech
    Czech language
    Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

     carol Nesem Vám Noviny (translated into English as Come, All Ye Shepherds)
  • The Star of Bethlehem
    Star of Bethlehem
    In Christian tradition, the Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, revealed the birth of Jesus to the magi, or "wise men", and later led them to Bethlehem. The star appears in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew, where magi "from the east" are inspired by the star to travel to...

    , for example, Star of the East
    Star of the East (song)
    "Star of the East", originally named "'" is a popular Christmas carol written in the 1800s.The words were written by Alfred Hans Zoller and translated to English by New York lyricist George Cooper in 1890. The music was arranged by composer Amanda Kennedy in 1883, for a song called "Star of the Sea"...

  • The journey of the Magi
    Biblical Magi
    The Magi Greek: μάγοι, magoi), also referred to as the Wise Men, Kings, Astrologers, or Kings from the East, were a group of distinguished foreigners who were said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh...

     and the Adoration of the Magi, for example We Three Kings
    We Three Kings
    "We Three Kings", also known as "We Three Kings of Orient Are" or "The Quest of the Magi", is a Christmas carol written by the Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr., who wrote both the lyrics and the music. It is suggested to have been written in 1857 but did not appear in print until his Carols, Hymns...

  • The Massacre of the Innocents
    Massacre of the Innocents
    The Massacre of the Innocents is an episode of infanticide by the King of Judea, Herod the Great. According to the Gospel of Matthew Herod orders the execution of all young male children in the village of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth...

    , for example the Coventry Carol
    Coventry Carol
    The "Coventry Carol" is a Christmas carol dating from the 16th century. The carol was performed in Coventry in England as part of a mystery play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. The play depicts the Christmas story from chapter two in the Gospel of Matthew...



In addition, some carols describe Christmas-related events which are of a religious nature, but not directly related to the birth of Jesus. For example:
  • Good King Wenceslas
    Good King Wenceslas
    "Good King Wenceslas" is a popular Christmas carol about a king who goes out to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen . During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king's footprints, step for step,...

    , based on a legend about Saint Wenceslaus
    Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia
    Wenceslaus I , or Wenceslas I, was the duke of Bohemia from 921 until his assassination in 935, purportedly in a plot by his own brother, Boleslav the Cruel....

     helping a poor man on December 26 (the Feast of Stephen
    St. Stephen's Day
    St. Stephen's Day, or the Feast of St. Stephen, is a Christian saint's day celebrated on 26 December in the Western Church and 27 December in the Eastern Church. Many Eastern Orthodox churches adhere to the Julian calendar and mark St. Stephen's Day on 27 December according to that calendar, which...

    )
  • Ding Dong Merrily on High
    Ding Dong Merrily on High
    "Ding Dong Merrily on High" is a Christmas carol. The tune first appeared as a secular dance tune known as "le branle de l'Official" in Orchésographie, a dance book written by Jehan Tabourot...

    and I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
    I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
    "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is a Christmas carol based on the 1864 poem "Christmas Bells" by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.- Origin :...

    , reflecting on the practice of ringing church bell
    Church bell
    A church bell is a bell which is rung in a church either to signify the hour or the time for worshippers to go to church, perhaps to attend a wedding, funeral, or other service...

    s at Christmas

Early carols



Nineteenth century antiquarians rediscovered early carols in museums. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, about 500 have been found. Some are wassailing songs, some are religious songs in English, some are in Latin, and some are "macaronic" — a mixture of English and Latin. Since most people did not understand Latin, the implication is that these songs were composed for church choristers, or perhaps for an educated audience at the Royal courts. The most famous survival of these early macaronic carols is the "The Boar's Head". Allegedly, it has been sung at Christ Church Cambridge since 1607. The tradition of singing carols outside of church influence, early in the nineteenth century is best illustrated by Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

's novel "Under the Greenwood Tree
Under the Greenwood Tree
Under the Greenwood Tree or The Mellstock Quire: A Rural Painting of the Dutch School is a novel by Thomas Hardy, published anonymously in 1872. It was Hardy's second published novel, the last to be printed without his name, and the first of his great series of Wessex novels...

" (1872). In England and other countries, such as Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 (kolęda), Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 (colinde) and Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 (koledari
Koledari
Koledari is a term that refers to the orthodox Christmas carolers in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Ukraine. The name koledari comes from the Church Slavonic word for Christmas i.e. Koleda...

), there is a tradition of Christmas caroling (earlier known as wassailing
Wassailing
The tradition of Wassailing falls into two distinct categories: The House-Visiting wassail and the Orchard-Visiting wassail. House-Visiting wassail, very much similar to caroling, is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols...

), in which groups of singers travel from house to house, singing carols, for which they are often rewarded with gifts, money, mince pies, or a glass of an appropriate beverage. Money collected in this way is now normally given to charity.

Singing carols in church was instituted on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

 1880 in Truro Cathedral
Truro Cathedral
The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Truro is an Anglican cathedral located in the city of Truro, Cornwall, in the United Kingdom. It was built in the Gothic Revival architectural style fashionable during much of the nineteenth century, and is one of only three cathedrals in the United Kingdom...

, Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 (see article on Nine Lessons and Carols
Nine Lessons and Carols
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a format for a service of Christian worship celebrating the birth of Jesus that is traditionally followed at Christmas...

), and now seen in churches all over the world. The songs that were chosen for singing in church omitted the wassailing carols, and the words "hymn" and "carol" were used almost interchangeably. Shortly before, in 1878, the Salvation Army
Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian church known for its thrift stores and charity work. It is an international movement that currently works in over a hundred countries....

, under Charles Fry, instituted the idea of playing carols at Christmas, using a brass band
Brass band
A brass band is a musical ensemble generally consisting entirely of brass instruments, most often with a percussion section. Ensembles that include brass and woodwind instruments can in certain traditions also be termed brass bands , but are usually more correctly termed military bands, concert...

. Carols can be sung by individual singers, but are also often sung by larger groups, including professionally trained choirs. Most churches have special services at which carols are sung, generally combined with readings from scripture about the birth of Christ; this is often based on the famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

.

Christmas carols in classical music


In the 1680s and 1690s two French composers incorporated carols into their works. Louis-Claude Daquin
Louis-Claude Daquin
Louis-Claude Daquin , was a French composer of Jewish birth writing in the Baroque and Galant styles. He was a virtuoso organist and harpsichordist.-Life:...

 wrote 12 noels for organ. Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Marc-Antoine Charpentier, , was a French composer of the Baroque era.Exceptionally prolific and versatile, he produced compositions of the highest quality in several genres...

 wrote a few instrumental versions of noels, plus one major choral work "Messe de minuit pour Noël". Other examples include:
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

    : Fantasia on Christmas Carols
    Fantasia on Christmas Carols
    Fantasia on Christmas Carols is a 1912 work for baritone, chorus, and orchestra by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. First performed at the 1912 Three Choirs Festival at Hereford Cathedral, the work is a single movement of roughly twelve minutes which consists of the English folk carols...

    , 1912.
  • Victor Hely-Hutchinson
    Victor Hely-Hutchinson
    Christian Victor Hely-Hutchinson was a British composer, born in Cape Town, Cape Colony ....

    : Carol Symphony
    Carol Symphony
    Carol Symphony is a collection of four preludes, written by Victor Hely-Hutchinson in 1927.-History:It had its first performance on 27 September 1929 at a promenade concert at the Queen's Hall which was broadcast live on the BBC's 2LO, with other music by Elgar, Vaughan-Williams and Percy Pitt...

    , 1927.
  • Benjamin Britten
    Benjamin Britten
    Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

    : A Ceremony of Carols
    A Ceremony of Carols
    A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28, is a choral piece by Benjamin Britten, scored for three-part treble chorus, solo voices, and harp. Written for Christmas, it consists of eleven movements, with text from The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, by Gerald Bullett; it is in Middle English...

    (for choir and harp), 1942
  • Christina Rossetti
    Christina Rossetti
    Christina Georgina Rossetti was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children's poems...

    's poem In the Bleak Midwinter
    In the Bleak Midwinter
    "In the Bleak Midwinter" is a Christmas carol based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti written before 1872 in response to a request from the magazine Scribner's Monthly for a Christmas poem....

    has been set to music by (amongst others) Gustav Holst
    Gustav Holst
    Gustav Theodore Holst was an English composer. He is most famous for his orchestral suite The Planets....

     (1905) and Harold Darke
    Harold Darke
    Dr Harold Edwin Darke was an English composer and organist.Darke was born in Highbury, London the youngest son of Samuel Darke & Arundel Bourne...

     (1911).
  • Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki
    Krzysztof Penderecki
    Krzysztof Penderecki , born November 23, 1933 in Dębica) is a Polish composer and conductor. His 1960 avant-garde Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima for string orchestra brought him to international attention, and this success was followed by acclaim for his choral St. Luke Passion. Both these...

     extensively quotes the Christmas carol Silent Night in his Second Symphony, nicknamed the Christmas Symphony.

Star singers



In Austria, Belgium and Germany, Christmas is celebrated by some with children dressing as "The Three Kings", carrying a star on a pole. Going from house to house from New Year's Day to January 6, the children sing religious songs and are called "star singers". They are often rewarded with sweets or money, which is typically given to a local church or charity. "C.M.B" is written in chalk on houses they have visited. Although this is sometimes taken as a reference to the three kings — Caspar, Melchior
Melchior
Melchior is the name given in later legend to one of the Magi appearing in the Gospel of Matthew. It may also refer to:-First name:* Melchior Anderegg , Swiss mountain guide.* Melchior Berri , Swiss architect.* Melchior Broederlam Melchior is the name given in later legend to one of the Magi...

 and Balthasar — it may originally have represented the words "Christus mansionem benedicat" (Christ bless this house).

Australia and New Zealand


In Australia and New Zealand, where it is the middle of summer at Christmas, there is a tradition of Carols by Candlelight
Carols by Candlelight
Carols by Candlelight is an Australian Christmas tradition that originated in southeastern Australia in the 19th century and was popularised in Melbourne in the 1930s. The tradition has since spread around the world. It involves people gathering, usually outdoors in a park, to sing carols by...

 concerts which are held outdoors at night in cities and towns across the country, during the weeks leading up to Christmas. First held in Melbourne, "Carols by Candlelight" is held each Christmas Eve in capital cities and many smaller cities and towns around Australia. Performers at the concerts include opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 singers, musical theatre performers and popular music
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

 singers. People in the audience hold lit candles and join in singing some of the carols in accompaniment with the celebrities. A trend in recent years is for smaller towns in New Zealand to host their own Carols by Candlelight concerts. One notable event, held in the village of Patumahoe, near Auckland, has grown rapidly in recent years, with a December 2009 concert peaking at 35,000 attendees.

France


A 16th century carol, "Ça, Bergers, assemblons nous", was sung aboard Jacques Cartier
Jacques Cartier
Jacques Cartier was a French explorer of Breton origin who claimed what is now Canada for France. He was the first European to describe and map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, which he named "The Country of Canadas", after the Iroquois names for the two big...

's ship on Christmas Day in 1535. Dating from the 18th century, "Les Anges dans nos Campagnes" is another famous French carol. The 19th century "Cantique de Noël" (also known as "Minuit Chrétien", adapted as "O Holy Night
O Holy Night
"O Holy Night" is a well-known Christmas carol composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem "Minuit, chrétiens" by Placide Cappeau , a wine merchant and poet, who had been asked by a parish priest to write a Christmas poem...

 in English) is another classic. "Dans cette étable" and "Venez Divin Messie " are also popular Christmas carols. Perhaps the best known traditional French carol, "Il est né, le divin Enfant!", comes from the region of Provence.

In 1554, a collection of French carols, "La Grande Bible des Noëls", was printed in Orléans. Another collection, "Chants des Noëls Anciens et Modernes", was printed by Christophe Ballard (1641–1715), in Paris, in 1703.

Germany and Austria


Some carols familiar in English were translations of German Christmas songs (Weihnachtslieder). Three well-known examples are Silent Night
Silent Night
"Silent Night" is a popular Christmas carol. The original lyrics of the song "Stille Nacht" were written in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria, by the priest Father Joseph Mohr and the melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster Franz Xaver Gruber...

 (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht), by the Austrians Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr, Still, Still, Still
Still, Still, Still
Still, Still, Still is an Austrian Christmas carol and lullaby. In German its first line is "Still, still, still, weil's Kindlein schlafen will!" The melody is a folk tune from the State of Salzburg...

 ("Stille, Stille, Stille"), an Austrian folksong also from the Salzburg region, and O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum), from a German folksong arranged by Ernst Anschütz
Ernst Anschütz
Ernst Gebhard Anschütz was a German teacher, organist, poet, and composer. He is also known for his account of the death of Johann Christian Woyzeck in 1824...

.

The tune of Still, Still, Still
Still, Still, Still
Still, Still, Still is an Austrian Christmas carol and lullaby. In German its first line is "Still, still, still, weil's Kindlein schlafen will!" The melody is a folk tune from the State of Salzburg...

 is based on an 1819 melody by Süss, with the original words, slightly changed over time and location, by G. Götsch.

Greece and Cyprus


Greek tradition calls for children to go out with triangles
Triangle (instrument)
The triangle is an idiophone type of musical instrument in the percussion family. It is a bar of metal, usually steel but sometimes other metals like beryllium copper, bent into a triangle shape. The instrument is usually held by a loop of some form of thread or wire at the top curve...

 from house to house on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and Epiphany Eve, and sing the corresponding folk carols, called the Κάλαντα (Kálanda, the word deriving from the Roman calends). There are separate carols for each of the three great feasts, referring respectively to the Nativity
Nativity of Jesus
The Nativity of Jesus, or simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus in two of the Canonical gospels and in various apocryphal texts....

, to St. Basil and the New Year
New Year
The New Year is the day that marks the time of the beginning of a new calendar year, and is the day on which the year count of the specific calendar used is incremented. For many cultures, the event is celebrated in some manner....

, and to the Baptism of Jesus
Baptism of Jesus
The baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of Jesus Christ's public ministry. This event is recorded in the Canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In John 1:29-33 rather than a direct narrative, the Baptist bears witness to the episode...

 in the River Jordan, along with wishes for the household. Longer carols follow a more or less standard format: they begin by exalting the relevant religious feast, then proceed to offer praises for the lord and lady of the house, their children, the household and its personnel, and usually conclude with a polite request for a treat, and a promise to come back next year for more well-wishing.

Many carols are regional, being popular in specific regions but unknown in others, whereas some are popular throughout the two countries. Examples of the latter are the Peloponnesian
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

 Christmas carol "Christoúgenna, Prōtoúgenna" ("Christmas, Firstmas"), the Constantinopolitan
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 Christmas carol "Kalēn hespéran, árchontes" ("Good evening, my lords"), and the New Year's carol "Archimēniá ki archichroniá" ("First of the month, first of the year"). The oldest known carol, commonly referred to as the "Byzantine Carol" (Byzantine Greek: Άναρχος θεός καταβέβηκεν, Ánarchos Theós katabébēken, "God who has no beginning descended"), is linguistically dated to the beginning of the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

. Almost all the various carols are in the common dekapentasyllabos (15-syllable iamb with a caesura
Caesura
thumb|100px|An example of a caesura in modern western music notation.In meter, a caesura is a complete pause in a line of poetry or in a musical composition. The plural form of caesura is caesuras or caesurae...

 after the 8th syllable) verse, which means that their wording and tunes are easily interchangeable. This has given rise to a great number of local variants, parts of which often overlap or resemble one another in verse, tune, or both.

In older times, carolling children asked for and were given gifts such as dried fruit, eggs, nuts or sweets; during the 20th century this was gradually replaced with money gifts — ranging from small change in the case of strangers to considerable amounts in the case of close relatives. Carolling is also done by marching bands, choirs, school students seeking to raise funds for trips or charity, members of folk societies, or merely by groups of well-wishers. Many internationally known carols, e.g. "Silent Night", "O Tannenbaum" or "Jingle Bells
Jingle Bells
"Jingle Bells" is one of the best-known and commonly sung winter songs in the world. It was written by James Lord Pierpont and published under the title "One Horse Open Sleigh" in the autumn of 1857...

", are also sung in Greek translation.

Poland


Christmas carols are very popular in Poland, where they have a long history, the oldest dating to the 15th century or earlier.

Spain and Portugal


The villancico
Villancico
The villancico was a common poetic and musical form of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America popular from the late 15th to 18th centuries. With the decline in popularity of the villancicos in the 20th century, the term became reduced to mean merely "Christmas carol"...

(or vilancete, in Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

) was a common poetic and musical form of the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 and Latin America popular from the late fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. With the decline in popularity of the villancicos in the 20th century, the term became reduced to mean merely "Christmas carol". Important composers of villancicos were Juan del Encina
Juan del Encina
Juan del Enzina – the spelling he used – or Juan del Encina – modern Spanish spelling – was a composer, poet and playwright, often called the founder of Spanish drama...

, Pedro de Escobar
Pedro de Escobar
Pedro de Escobar , a.k.a. Pedro do Porto, was a Portuguese composer of the Renaissance, mostly active in Spain. He was one of the earliest and most skilled composers of polyphony in the Iberian Peninsula, whose music has survived.-Life:He was born at Oporto, Portugal, but nothing is known of his...

, Francisco Guerrero, Gaspar Fernandes, and Juan Guttiérez de Padilla.

Ukraine


Basically all, some of them centuries-old, Ukrainian Carols (Колядки) are associated with the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.
The Ukrainian carol most known to the Western World is the Carol of the Bells
Carol of the Bells
"Carol of the Bells" is the common English language title of a Christmas carol of Ukrainian origin, which has in recent years grown in popularity, particularly in English-speaking countries. The work was originally a choral miniature composition by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych based on...

, composed by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych
Mykola Leontovych
Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych was a Ukrainian composer, choral conductor, priest, and teacher of international renown. His music was inspired by Mykola Lysenko and the Ukrainian nationalist music school, along with Kyrylo Stetsenko, Alexander Koshetz, and Yakiv Stepovy...

, premiered on December 1916 by a choral group made up of students at Kiev University
Kiev University
Taras Shevchenko University or officially the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv , colloquially known in Ukrainian as KNU is located in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. It is the third oldest university in Ukraine after the University of Lviv and Kharkiv University. Currently, its structure...

.

United Kingdom


The mass singing in some of the pubs in North Sheffield
Sheffield
Sheffield is a city and metropolitan borough of South Yorkshire, England. Its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through the city. Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and with some of its southern suburbs annexed from Derbyshire, the city has grown from its largely...

 and North Derbyshire
Derbyshire
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire. The northern part of Derbyshire overlaps with the Pennines, a famous chain of hills and mountains. The county contains within its boundary of approx...

, which takes place in the second half of November and all December, and which is often referred to as 'The Sheffield Carols', has been described as one of the most remarkable instances of popular traditional singing in the British Isles.

Media


See also

  • Christmas music
    Christmas music
    Christmas music comprises a variety of genres of music normally performed or heard around the Christmas season, which tends to begin in the months leading up the actual holiday and end in the weeks shortly thereafter.-Early:...

  • List of Christmas carols
  • List of Christmas hit singles
  • List of non-religious Christmas songs

External links