Who doesn’t love Christmas time and the music that goes with it? How many times does a few bars from your favorite song transport you back to childhood memories of waiting for Christmas morning, and that perennial joy that warms the heart?
Christmas has to be my favorite time of the year when it comes to music. But did you know some of the songs we sing were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago as pagan songs to celebrate the Winter Solstice? The word carol means to dance or a song of praise and joy.
Some songs, had unusual beginnings such as I Saw Three Ships was written by wandering minstrels as they travelled through the English countryside and has several versions. The three ships often referred to biblical characters, such as the three wise men, or Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, but it changed constantly.
Good King Wenceslas was written in Victorian Britain by John Mason Neale to a traditional folk tune. The story in the carol was about a king who help feed and shelter peasants. However, the real story of King Wenceslas was quite gruesome. Apparently after a disagreement with his brother, King Wenceslas was stabbed to death by three of his brother’s followers.
The words to Silent Night were written as a poem by Joseph Mohr and the music was added several years later by his school teacher friend Franz Xavier Gruber. By the time the carol was famous no one believed Gruber had written it, instead they assumed it was Mozart of Beethoven.
Did you know the total number of gifts in the song The 12 days of Christmas totals 364?
Did you know Jingle Bells was not intended to be a Christmas song at all? It had been written by James Pierpont who loved to live fast and race hard.
And The Christmas Song, immortalized by Nat King Cole was written in the heat of summer to try and “cool off”?
Your turn: What is your favorite Christmas carol?