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History of Christmas carols

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

The history of carols, or cheerful songs that would boost the moral in winters and not only, seem to date way back with numerous centuries. The carols were used to celebrate various pagan fests such as the Solstice or Equinox, or agricultural related.

The first Christ related songs appeared in the Christian churches even from the early 2nd Century AD. By that time, the ceremony and any other aspect initiated by the church were in Latin and so not a big majority of the population found them appealing as they lacked this linguistic skill. It is believed that by the 13th Century the regular people have pretty much lost their interest in Christmas altogether as it didn’t seem to be a holiday addressed to them. Shortly after, St. Francis of Assissi, in mid 13th Century put in a play the whole Nativity plays all around Italy and so it became easier to follow the story. Despite having some of the songs still in Latin, the new songs started to be written and sung in the languages of the people watching them. Quite fast after, the plays spread all over Europe.

The lyrics changed as well from place to place, being adapted to the local cultures and habits and so to be more realistic for the locals. Various changes though made them not that much appealing anymore for the upper class or churches and were soon transformed into home songs or even pubs. Once more they became popular when there were many orchestras and choirs set up and so new carols appeared too.

Nowadays, carol concerts take place in the days before Christmas all around the Christian countries. While some have kept the religious approach, others were written to be more appealing, merrier for the children, easy to be sung on the streets, while visiting relatives.

Which is your favourite carol?

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