Christmas Traditions

Christmas is almost here! All the shopping is in high gear and preparations for the festive meal are being made. Presents have been purchased (if not, there’s not much time left!), and we are looking forward to some real quality time with family and friends as we share Christmas traditions.

When I think of Christmas traditions, my mind often turns to music. There are many popular songs and singers I anticipate listening to including Bing Crosby (“White Christmas”), Nat King Cole (“A Christmas Song”), Burl Ives (“Holly Jolly Christmas”), Dean Martin (“Let it Snow”), and many others too numerous to list. There are also many traditional religious songs that make this holiday unique, and with all of this is mind, I thought it might be fun and informative to review the histories of a few standard Christmas carols. Here are a few:

“The First Noel” is one of the best known Christmas carols dating back to 17th century England. The version we sing today had its roots in the 1820s.

“Silent Night” originated in Germany. Although Fr. Joseph Mohr had written the lyrics to “Stille Nacht” in 1816, he did make it public until 1818 when his parish’s organ went down and could not be repaired before Christmas Eve. The song was quickly adapted to the guitar and the tune has stuck as a Christmas standard. In 1859, American Episcopal Bishop John Freeman Young translated the words to English and this has become the most sung version around the world.

“O Little Town of Bethlehem” was the product of an Episcopal priest, Phillips Brooks. In collaboration with the church organist, he penned the tune in 1868, three years after a trip to the birthplace of Jesus. Needless to reiterate, a classic was born!

“Angels We Have Heard on High” was originally published in 1862. It is based on the French hymn “Gloria.”

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is a traditional English carol first published in 1833. However, the author is unknown.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was originally published in a collection by Charles Wesley in 1739. This version had a slower tempo, but a more upbeat tempo has developed over the years.

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” was written by Unitarian minister Edmund Sears in 1849.

“O Christmas Tree” is based on the German traditional song, “O Tannenbaum.” The version we know was published in 1824.

“What Child is This,” was published in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix while he was bedridden with illness. He wrote the words and set it to the traditional English tune, “Greensleeves.”

The “Greensleeves” tune is such an old English folk tune that its origins are unknown.

“O Holy Night” was published in 1847 based on a French poem.

HOLIDAY NOTE: I want to thank you all for a great year. is a legacy site to help pass along our heritage of self-government to succeeding generations. We have some exciting things planned for next year, and we certainly appreciate your support in this venture. Have a safe and joyful holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year: See you in 2018!

#Christmas #Tradition #Holidays

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