Thomas Jang/ Beckman HS 10th
Have you ever asked yourself why we sing Christmas carols? Were they sung just on the anniversary of Jesus’s birth? Were they sung to ward off evil spirits? Or from when did they originate? Many of these questions are not given significant attention to as much as the gifts we spoiled children exchange. So, let’s found out!
Surprisingly, the tradition of singing carols on Christmas has been around for hundreds of years and actually originated before Jesus was born. According to the BBC, carols were sung by people to cheer themselves up when it was dark and cold in the winter festival called Saturnalia. Many of these festivals were long and noisy, with an accompaniment of singing and dancing.
The Roman traditions diffused as Jesus and his followers soon began to travel around many parts of the world. However, the aspect of these ancient Roman traditions that they did not approve of was the outlandish festivities.
As a result, many verses were replaced by Christian words in the carols for people to properly sing about the birth of Jesus. The word carol probably originates from the French word carole in the mid 1100s, which referred to a popular circle dance with singing.
By the late Middle Ages, carols were associated with Christianity. Many of the carols we know today can be thanks to the church when many of them were written in the 1800s. Most people sang to their traditional folk tunes, while more elaborate carols were sung by choirs in the churches.
The one question that might be still lingering on your mind would be: who wrote the carols. The answer to this is not what you would probably expect: the Victorians created hundreds of carols to establish Christmas as an hospitable, comfortable time with family and also wanted to send a moral message of behaving well, just how Jesus wanted.
Although they did write new carols, they improved upon older ones and made revisions to them so that people could understand them better. Other than the Victorians, ordinary communities came together to sing in order to enjoy music.
Some of these people couldn’t read or write, so 1) they memorized them and 2) the oldest carols were sadly forgotten because they weren’t written down.
Surprisingly, many of the lyrics and music were not written at the same time. As a matter of fact, the lyrics for the song Ding Dong Merrily dates back to the 1800s, while the music originates from the 1500s. Compared to other times, carols are not sung as often today, but they continue to represent the joyfulness and uplifting nature that Christmas provides to families around the world.
<Thomas Jang/ Beckman HS 10th