Do you know that the word “carol” means a song of praise and joy? Discover some of the engrossing stories and realities that surround the history of Christmas carols and relive them.
Carols commemorate the nativity or birth of Jesus Christ. Earlier, caroling was an oral tradition, which was passed down from generation to generation. Later, carols were written and sung during all four seasons. The oldest Christmas carol is the “Angels Hymn,” written in 129 AD. In 336 AD, the Bishop of Rome, Telesphorus, proclaimed that this song should be sung during the Holy Night of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior. In 760 AD, Comas of Jerusalem wrote another early Christmas carol for the Greek Orthodox Church.
Carols that were written in Latin in the 4th and 5th centuries were sung only by church officials. It was Saint Francis of Assisi who popularized Christmas carol songs by incorporating the uplifting hymns in nativity plays in the 13th century. The hymns were entirely religious, but instead of singing in Latin, St. Francis encouraged people to sing the songs in their native languages. The energetic and joyful carols now found a place in the Christian community in Europe, in celebrating the birth of Christ. One of the oldest printed carols is the ‘Boar’s Head Carol’, which was published in 1521.
When the Puritans came to power in England in the 1640s, Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, banned the celebration of Christmas from 1649 to 1660 and the singing of carols was stopped. However, people continued to sing carols in secret. Carols witnessed a surge in popularity in Victorian times in the 19th century.
The first Christmas carol service was conducted by the Bishop of Truro, Edward White Benson, in 1880. Carolers were known as “waits” and assembled in public spaces during the 19th century, and these singers performed for passers-by, who gave them drinks or mince pies. It became known as wassailing.
The first carol service that was broadcast over the radio was the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge’s Christmas Eve carol service in 1928. This was supposedly the first festival of “Nine Lessons and Carols,” in which carols, hymns, and Bible readings told the story of Christmas. The Oxford Book of Carols was also published in the same year.
1 Sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Psalm 96: 1-2
History of Christmas Carols — What Makes the Songs Special?
Some of the most well-known Christmas carol songs include Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, O Come, All Ye Faithful, and Joy to the World.
The history of Christmas carols shows that what makes these carols special are the stirring melodies and the nostalgic lyrics that are inspiring and centered around the miraculous story of the birth of Jesus Christ and His message of humility, hope, and abundant joy. The history of Christmas carols indicates that many people stick to singing carols in the lead-up to Christmas and not all year around.
We hope you learned a few interesting things about the history of Christmas Carols. Make sure you sing these amazing Christmas carol songs this Christmas because the joy of this season will not be not complete without singing and listening to the angelic sound of carols.