Once a year when the nights are as long and cold as can be, we gather together bring cheer. Dressed in fuzzy caps, sweaters and mitten we step out into the frost bitten winter wonderland with hearts full of joy. With our rosy red cheeks and bright smiles we venture from door to door singing our hearts out. That’s right, it’s Christmas time and everywhere you turn carolers are bringing yule tide cheer. As the icy winter wind blows over snow covered ground it carries with it the hymns of ages. But where did the Christmas carol come from? Well that is an interesting question and an even more fascinating history.
The term carol is an ancient term which has its roots far back when people celebrated the winter solstice. This was festival which celebrated life and was accompanied by “carolers” who sang songs and danced around much like we do today. When the Christian Church spread to these areas the people wanted to continue their singing. This was difficult because the language of the Church was Latin and no one understood it.
It wasn’t until 1223 A.D. that carols started to be sung again. Saint Frances of Assisis create the first Nativity Plays in Italy complete with songs. Saint Frances decided to write these plays in the language of the people. For the first time they could sing along to the hymns of Christmas.
But first instance of traveling “carolers” was a group of official called the “Waits”. The Waits were local officials in England who gathered around to sing on Christmas Eve. They walked from door to door singing the most popular songs of the time. Later more people would take to the streets, singing until could not anymore.
As time progressed, famous composers tried their luck writing Christmas Carols. Many of these composers created the Christmas carols that we know and love today, such as Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, by Charles Wesley. Later, an American composer, James Pierpont wrote the classic Jingle Bells, which might just be the most fun song of all time.
But where would Christmas carols be without the beautiful Silent Night? With a rather unique history, Silent Night began as a poem written by the Austrian pastor, Joseph Mohr in 1816. Unfortunately two years later the church organ broke on Christmas Eve. Stricken with fear that the people would not have music on Christmas, Mohr entrusted his poem with musician Fanz Gruber. By divine twist of fate, this collaboration created a Christmas carol that has been a favorite from almost 200 years. So now that you know a little about the history of caroling, what are you waiting for?