It seems that every year after Halloween we all start to hear Christmas songs and carols on the radio. These songs have a deeply rooted history dating back centuries. Many people, including myself, have always wondered how these songs and the tradition of caroling originated. It’s difficult to tell when the carols we know originated but different versions have existed over the centuries.
Carols over a thousand years ago were sung by pagans during the Winter Solstice. The word, “carol,” itself actually meant to dance so it was not the same as it means today. Then these songs became Christianized and began to be used in church processions especially during Christmas. One of the earliest carols that were used was the “Angel’s Hymn.” However, after a while these carols became less and less popular because they were only sung in Latin not the vernacular. That all changed in the 1200’s when Saint Francis of Assisi put on nativity plays that incorporated carols in native languages.
The Middle Ages saw resurgence in carols and this is when the tradition of traveling carolers began. One popular carol that they sang back then was “Here We Come A Wassailing.,” Wassailing, which meant wishing good cheer upon someone and expecting a gift in return. Apparently they just wanted figgy pudding. Then by 1650 carols were banned during the Puritan movement so it had to go underground for a long time. Carols, however, were eventually resurrected in the 19th century.
In the 19th century composers were collecting old and new carols and put them in anthologies. Caroling became popular again and people went door to door to sing or wassail. Popular carols during this era included, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and “Joy to the World.” This tradition stayed popular well into the 20th century. Since Christmas became commercialized on a whole, new carols and Christmas songs were created. Caroling has been less popular lately but all types of Christmas songs have been featured on the radio during the holidays. Some of these include “Rocking around the Christmas Tree,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and “All I Want for Christmas is You,” just to name a few that we all know today. I will like to conclude by saying Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.