English Became A World-Wide Language For Several Reasons. England Started All About Christmas Carols

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All About Christmas Carols

You know its Christmas season when voices rising in praise and worship fill churches, street corners and homes with haunting strains of some of the most beloved. Christmas carols of all times. There is something endlessly inspiring, uplifting and immensely rewarding about hearing (or singing) Christmas carols.

The traditional period of carol singing lasts from St. Thomas Day (December 21) until Christmas morning.

What does the word “carol” mean?

Believed to be a derivative of a medieval word of French and Anglo-Norman origin, the word “carol” broadly means “a dance or song of praise and joy” and is often accompanied by singing.

Origin of the songs

Long before they came to be intricately associated with Christmas, carols had been sung as pagan worship songs in Europe thousands of years ago. These were sung at the annual Winter Solstice celebrations and had people dancing around the stone circles. The ancients used to write songs in celebration of the four seasons, but only the tradition of singing during the Winter Solstice (and after Christmas almost at the same time) has survived the passage of time.

The first songs

It was only when carols began to be sung in churches that they came to be specifically associated with Christmas. When Christianity became the official religion of Rome, the celebrations of the Winter Solstice for Christmas with their heavy pagan began to be replaced by Christian songs instead. In 129 AD, a song called “Hymn of the Angel” was sung at a Christmas service in Rome by order of a Roman bishop. Comas of Jerusalem wrote a more famous Christmas hymn in 760 AD for the Greek Orthodox Church. Other composers in Europe followed suit and soon carols began to appear on the scene.

Unfortunately, since they were mostly written and sung in Latin, not many people could understand them.

It was Saint Francis of Assisi who turned things around. In 1223, he began his famous Nativity in Italy which had the actors singing songs or “cantices” that described the scenes that unfolded during the plays. These songs were in a language that the common people could understand and participate with enthusiasm, even if some choirs were in Latin. As a result, the popularity of carols quickly spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries.

English Christmas carols

English Christmas carols are first mentioned in 1426 in a publication by John Awdlay, a Shropshire chaplain. In it, he lists no less than 25 “Caroles de Cristemas”, which were probably sung by groups of “wassailers”, who went singing from house to house.

The first English carol is believed to have been written sometime in 1410. It centers on Mary and Jesus and their interaction with various people in Bethlehem.

The celebration of Christmas and the singing of carols stopped abruptly when the Puritans came to power in England in 1647. However, people continued to sing carols in secret and survived the ban.

Carol singing is public

Singing as we know it today or singing carols in public was started by people who were designated official carol singers called “Waits”. These small groups were usually led by local leaders. The reason they were called “waits” was because they only sang on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve was also known as “watchnight” or “waitnight” and hence the name.

It was during the Victorian era that many orchestras and choirs appeared in different parts of England, reflecting the popular demand of people who wanted Christmas carols. And, thus, the songs are back in the forefront, this time to stay.

Carol services were created and carling became an ingrained Christmas ritual.

The most famous service Carol

Probably the most famous carol service of all, the Nine Lessons and Carols service takes place at King’s College in Cambridge, UK. This service is held on Christmas Eve and BBC Radio broadcasts it live around the world. The carol service always traditionally begins with a single choral rendition of the much-loved carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. The service was held for the first time in 1918 as a way for the college to celebrate the end of the First World War.

The most loved Christmas carol of all time

Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is said to be the most beloved carol of all time. It is estimated that it has sold more than 350 million copies worldwide.

What makes Christmas carols so loved?

It is the medieval string patterns on which most carols are based that imparts the unique musical sounds to Christmas carols. That and the unforgettable lyrics gave us some memorable songs.

The world’s favorite Christmas carols

Among the world’s most loved songs are Silent Night, O Come All Faithful, Hark The Herald Angels Sing, Joy To The World, What Child is This, Came Upon A Midnight Clear, We Three Kings, Once in Royal David’s City , The Prima Noel, We Three Kings, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and O Little Town of Bethlehem.

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