The
 


 

CHRISTMAS CAROLS

My Feelings About Carols

Before I write down this brief history of Carols, I want to go on record to say that of all the songs we Christians sing, Christmas Carols are my favorite! I can't explain why. I only know that without the songs of Christmas, the Holiday just wouldn't be the same. If we're going to celebrate the birth of our Savior, then it follows that we must sing about it! God gave us instructions in both the old and the new testaments to

SING HIS PRAISES!

Throughout the ages, angels have been singing around His throne, and believers have been singing in the temple and church house, extolling the wonders and the glory of our God! The angels, on the night of the birth of Jesus sang out loud and clear that "Unto you this day .. is born a Savior!" I don't care if the word 'carol' had a different meaning in antiquity and was used by pagans in their celebrations. I only know that when I sing songs about Jesus' birth into this world, it reminds me of the gift of life that came to us that night in the city of Bethlehem, and it gives me a feeling of great joy both to hear and to sing of that wonderful event.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I'm aware there is a belief among some that even the celebration of Christmas has its roots in paganism; but God looks at our hearts, and He made us in such a way that we're able to express our love and worship in many ways, and music is paramount in the praise of our Lord! And in my heart I know it is appropriate to worship our King any day of the year! So I will continue to love and sing carols, and I confess that I sing and listen to them year round, and from my heart they come, and shall until that great day when we meet Him to be in Heaven for eternity, and He gives us new songs to sing! And, from my heart, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Carolling!

Sincerely and with Love in Christ,
Genelle

The History of Carols

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebration as people danced around stone circles. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually around the 22nd December. The word Carols actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas survived.

Early Christians took over the Pagan Solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones.

In AD 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called 'Angel's Hymn' should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. Another famous early Christmas Hymn was written in 760 AD by Comas of Jerusalem for the Greek Orthodox Church. Soon after this many composers all over Europe started to write carols but not many people liked them, as they were all written and sung in Latin, a language that the normal people could not understand.

By the time of the Middles Ages (the 1200s), most people had lost interest in celebrating Christmas altogether. This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi, when in 1223 he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or 'canticles' telling the story during plays. Sometimes the choruses of these new carols were in Latin, but usually they were in a language that the people watching the play could understand and sing.

The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries. The earliest carol in this era was written in 1410, but sadly only a very small fragment of it still exists. It was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem. Most Carols from this time and the Elizabethan period are untrue stories, very loosely based on the Christmas story, about the holy family and were seen as entertaining rather than religious songs. They were usually sung in homes rather than in churches.

Traveling singers or Minstrels started singing these carols and the words were changed for the local people wherever they were traveling. One carol that was changed in this manner is 'I Saw Three Ships.'

When, in 1647, Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England, celebrating Christmas and singing carols was stopped. However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times when two men, William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected much old Christmas music from villages in England. Before carol singing in public became popular, there were sometimes official carol singers called 'Waits.' These were bands of people led by important local leaders (such as council leaders) who had the power in the towns and villages to take money from the public (if others did this, they were sometimes charged as beggars!). They were called 'Waits' because they only sang on Christmas Eve (This was sometimes known as 'watchnight' or 'waitnight' because of the shepherds who were watching their sheep when the angels appeared to them) when the Christmas celebrations began. Also, at this time many orchestras and choirs were being set up in the cities of England and people wanted Christmas songs to sing so carols once again became popular.

Many new carols were also written such as 'Good King Wenceslas.' New carols services were created and became popular as did the custom of singing carols throughout the streets. Both of these customs are still popular today! One of the most popular types of Carols services are Carols by Candlelight services. At this service, the church is lit only by candle light and it feels very festive! Carols by Candlelight services are held in countries all over the world.

 

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