While the origins of some Christian traditions are of interest to me because I'm a 'history buff,' I'm even more touched by the 'spirit' of these traditions.

Christmas carols ... as an example of the worship factor of the carols, I'd like to tell you about a dear friend, Dianna Delgado.

Rarely have I known a person who worships the Father, calling Him 'Abba' .. with an open heart, like that of a child, with abandonment, unashamedly, with joy and simplicity, as Dianna. She reminds me that our Father is not an unreachable, untouchable God, but a loving Father, sweeping His children under His wings to snuggle them close to His very heart.

Dianna sings to the Lord from her heart and sometimes words come to her to voice her love and adoration to the Father.

Here, from one of those times is a continuation of the beloved carol, Away in a manger.

Then the Lord grew
and He became a man.

He laid down His life
and He stretched out His hands.

He loved us and gave us
the blood of His life.

And then He redeemed us
and made us His bride.

He reigns now in heaven -
is our holy King.

He loves us and leads us,
He meets all our need.

We seek Him, we serve Him,
and love Him - our Lord

We lift up our hearts
and proclaim Him adored.

Enjoy and be blessed by Dianna's improvised verses while we ponder the original words to the beloved carol ...

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head,

The stars in the sky, looked down where He lay,

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing The poor Baby wakes

But little Lord Jesus No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus Look down from the sky

And stay by my side, 'Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay

Close by me forever And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children In Thy tender care

And take us to heaven To live with Thee there

Following is an indepth history of CHRISTMAS CAROLS... along with some interesting facts about the individual carols. If you have time to just sit and enjoy a lengthy writing, this is very interesting.

The joyous themes for many traditional Christmas carols were banned in England by the staunch Protestant Oliver Cromwell and many of the very old Christmas carols and songs were subsequently lost for all time. Christmas carols were only fully popularised again during the Victorian era when they again expressed joyful and merry themes in their carol lyrics as opposed to the normal, more sombre, Christian lyrics found in hymns. As religious observances in the United States and England were closely linked the popularity of Christmas carols grew in both countries in the 19th century.

The word "carol" derives from a Greek dance called a choraulein, which was accompanied by flute music. The dance later spread throughout Europe and became particularly popular by the French, who replaced the flute music with singing. Originally, people performed carols on many occasions during the year. By the 1600s, carols involved singing only and Christmas had become the chief holiday for these songs. Counted among the most favored of non-religious carols are "Jingle Bells" and "White Christmas," both of which first appeared as popular songs in the United States.

It is unclear when the first carol was written but it is believed that circa 1350 to 1550 is the golden age of English carols and most of the carols followed the verse-refrain pattern.

During the 14th century carols became a popular religious song form. The theme often revolved around a saint, the Christ child or the Virgin Mary at times blending two languages such as English and Latin.

By the 15th century the carol was also considered as art music. During this time elaborate arrangements were made and carols were considered an important contribution to English medieval music. The Fayrfax Manuscript, a court songbook featuring carols, was written by the end of the 15th century. The songs were written for 3 or 4 voices and themes were mostly on the Passion of Christ.

By the 16th century though the popularity of carols faltered, almost disappearing entirely if not for the revival that happened by the middle of the 18th century. Most of the carols we know today were written during this period.

Individual Carol Trivia ...

Away in a Manger!

Away in a manager is many times the first carol that children are taught. Away in a Manger was originally published in 1885. The publication of the carol was in a Lutheran Sunday school book and this created the misconception that the lyrics of Away in a Manger were actually written by Martin Luther himself. The author is unknown. The music to Away in a Manger was composed by William J. Kirkpatrick in 1895.

Carol Of The Bells Lyrics

The Carol of the Bells lyrics were added to the original folk music from the Ukraine by Peter Wilhousky. The lyrics and words to this popular Christmas song celebrate the festive season and its traditions such as the pealing of church bells at Christmas and of the singing of Christmas Carols - caroling. The original Ukrainian lyrics to the song was entitled Shchedryk meaning bountiful and were traditionally sang to celebrate the New Year.

"Adeste Fideles,"

More commonly known as "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful," it is not strictly a Christmas carol but a Latin hymn of praise. It was composed by John Reading in the 1700s. The tune first appeared in the collection known as "Cantus Diversi" in 1751. The most familiar English version of this carol was translated by Frederick Oakeley, but people sing it in many parts of the world and in many languages.

"The First Noel"

It is unknown in origin, except that it is believed to have come from the West of England. It first appeared in 1833 in "Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern," a collection of seasonal songs gathered by W.B. Sandys.

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"

It is an old English rhyme and dates at least as far back as the 1500s. It is a carol of which the British people are particularly fond.

"Good Christian Men, Rejoice"

This carol was originally a very old Latin Christmas song called In Dulci Jubilo. John Mason Neale translated the words around the middle of the 1800s. The melody is believed to be German in origin and dates from the 1300s or earlier.

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"

It was written by Charles Wesley (brother of John Wesley) in 1739. The carol originally began with: "Hark, how all the welkin rings." The tune for this song was taken from the "Festesang" by Mendelssohn.

"It Came Upon A Midnight Clear"

was written by Edmund H. Sears in 1849. At the time, Sears was a pastor in Wayland, Massachusetts. The music was provided by Richard S. Willis, then editor of "Musical World," in his "Study Number 23." Uzziah Burnap arranged this accompaniment to the lyrics in 1859.

"Joy To The World"

was composed by the great English hymn writer, Isaac Watts. It is based on the Ninety-Eighth Psalm and its words reflect the missionary spirit of the early 1700s. Lowell Mason arranged the lyrics to music taken from several choruses of the "Messiah" by Handel.

"O Little Town Of Bethlehem"

It was written by Phillips Brooks, a renowned Boston minister. He composed the carol in 1867 for his Sunday School in Philadelphia, where he was preaching at the time. Lewis Redner, organist of the church, wrote the tune.

"While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks"

was among the first compositions produced after the 1700s. Only the Psalms of David were sung in the Anglican Church prior to that time. It was written by Nahum Tate in 1703 and the familiar melody used for this carol was taken from "Siroe," an opera by Handel.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas"

Though no substantive evidence supports the following interpretation of the symbolism, there is no proof against it, and it is inspiring, so here is a list of traditional meanings to the 12 days lyrics:

Partridge in a pear tree ... Christ upon the Cross

Two turtle doves ... The Old and New Testament

Three French hens ... Biblical virtues, faith, hope and charity

Four calling birds ... The four Gospels

Five golden rings ... The first five books of the Old Testament

Six geese-a-laying ... The six days of creation

Seven swans-a-swimming ... Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit

Eight maids-a-milking ... The eight beatitudes from Matthew

Nine ladies dancing ... The nine-fold fruit of the Holy Spirit

Ten lords-a-leaping ... The Ten Commandments

Eleven pipers piping ... The eleven faithful apostles

Twelve drummers drumming ... The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed.

"Silent Night, Holy Night"

The German words for the original six stanzas of the carol we know as "Silent Night" were written by Joseph Mohr in 1816, when he was a young priest assigned to a pilgrimage church in Mariapfarr, Austriam, The Church of St. Nicholas.

The congregation at that Midnight Mass, over 180 years ago, listened as the voices of the assistant pastor, Fr. Joseph Mohr, and the choir director, Franz Xaver Gruber, rang through the church to the accompaniment of Fr. Mohr's guitar. (the organ was out of commission at the time) On that Christmas Eve, a song was born that would make its way into the hearts of people throughout the world. Much credit is given for the eventual popularity due to the fact that the organ builder showed up after the holidays to complete his repairs, heard the song, obtained a copy of it, and took it with him to his home in Zillar Valley. Soon the hymn was included in concerts throughout Germany and Austria.

The carol made its debut in the United States in 1839 and quickly became an international favorite. Eventually, Mohr and Gruber were acknowledged as the writer and composer of "Silent Night." It is reported that reading through the verses while writing the carol, Gruber replied, "Friend Mohr, you have found it! The right song - God be praised!

Unknowingly, the two men had fulfilled their dream of creating 'The Perfect Christmas Hymn."

"Silver Bells"

This Christmas song is a collaboration between composer Jay Livingston (1915-2001) and songwriter Raymond Bernard Evans (1915-2007). Evans wrote the lyrics and Livingston composed the melody. The song was used in a movie titled "The Lemon Drop Kid" starring Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell. Hope and Maxwell sang the carol as a duet in one of the scenes. The song was later recorded by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards.

Interesting Fact: The original title of the song was actually "Tinkle Bell" but was later changed to "Silver Bells." This song was inspired by a tiny bell Livingston and Evans had on their work desk.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

Rudolph was actually the main character of a story written in 1939 by Robert L. May. In 1949, a song based on the story was composed by Johnny Marks, Mays' brother-in-law. The song, which we now know as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," was recorded by Gene Autry; a movie narrated by Burl Ives in 1964 followed. The song became a phenomenal hit; selling millions of copies, inspiring recordings in various languages and producing a variety of products based on the loveable reindeer.

Interesting Fact: Marks is also the author of other Christmas carols including "Rockinš Around the Christmas Tree" and "Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Rudolph is one of Santa's reindeers which includes Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

"It Came Upon A Midnight Clear"

Written by Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876) who was also the pastor of the Unitarian Church in Wayland, Massachusetts. The lyrics of the said carol appeared on the Christian Register in 1849.

"Hark the Herald Angels Sing"

Charles Wesley (1707-1788), younger brother of John Wesley. Charles was a hymn writer and a poet, also known as one of the poeple who began the Methodist movement in the Church of England. The said song appeared in 1739 in a book called Hymns and Sacred Poems.


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