How Much Do You Know About the History of Christmas Carols? December Genealogy Blog Party

‘Tis the season to be jolly and there are Christmas carols to be heard all around us. How much do you know about the history of Christmas caroling?

As a little girl, it seemed to me like Christmas carols had been around forever and I loved singing them during the holidays. In truth, though, while some carols had been in existence since well before even the births of my grandparents (turn of the 20th century), there are a number of very popular holiday songs today that are 20th century compositions. The origins/intents of some of the songs might also surprise you.

Here are some fun, lesser known facts about Christmas carols.

1. Although the Christian church officially recognized Christmas Day as being on 25 December way back in 375 AD, Christmas carols as we know them didn’t exist back then.

2. No one knows what the first carol was, except that it was more likely a church hymn and not the modern type of song that we associate with caroling today.

3. Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas carols in Britain during his reign.

4. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen was sung as early as the 16th century.

5. O Christmas Tree made its debut as O Tannenbaum, a German carol, in the 16th century.

6. Charles Wesley, brother of Methodist John Wesley wrote Hark How All the Welkins Ring by 1739. Welkin is an obsolete word meaning heaven or skies. From his song came the better known Hark! The Herald Angels Sing that we sing today.

7. Adeste Fideles, or O! Come All Ye Faithful, appeared by 1751.

8. Silent Night was a German carol written in 1818 and later translated into English. It was sung during the World War I 1914 truce between British and German soldiers in the trenches on Christmas.

9. Jingle Bells, written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857, was originally titled One Horse Open Sleigh and written in fall and thought to have been a Thanksgiving song.

10. Do You Hear What I Hear? is a much more modern song, written in October 1962. It wasn’t meant to be a Christmas carol at all. It was a plea for peace during the Cuban missile crisis!

11. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was written by Johnny Marks, but the song was based on a story published by Montgomery Ward, the department store, in 1939. Gene Autry turned it into a #1 hit, ten years later, in December 1949.

12. The biggest selling Christmas song, and also the biggest selling single of all time (50,000,000+ copies), is White Christmas, written by Irving Berlin and first recorded by Bing Crosby in 1942.

My Favorite Christmas Songs

1. The Little Drummer Boy
2. Adeste Fideles
3. Away in a Manger
4. We Three Kings
5. White Christmas
6. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
7. Silent Night
8. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
9. O Little Town of Bethlehem
10. Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy

What are your favorite Christmas carols? Leave a comment, please!

4 thoughts on “How Much Do You Know About the History of Christmas Carols? December Genealogy Blog Party”

  1. Great choices, Linda!

    My favorite carols are Angels We Have Heard on High; The Cherry Tree Carol; Do You Hear What I Hear?; Mary, Did You Know?; God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman; I Saw Three Ships; Il Est Né, Le Divin Enfant; O, Holy Night; We Three Kings; and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

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