THE CATHOLIC FAITH: WHAT IS THE HISTORICAL ORIGIN AND SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRISTMAS CAROLS?


2 min read
18 Feb
18Feb

INTRODUCTION   

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around 22nd December.

 WHAT IS CAROL?  The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but on ly the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived. 

WHAT IS CHRISTMAS CAROL?  

A Christmas carol (also called a noël, from the French word meaning "Christmas") is a carol (song or hymn) whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas, and which is traditionally sung on Christmas itself or during the surrounding holiday season. Christmas carols may be regarded as a subset of the broader category of Christmas music. 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 

This began when the early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones. In 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called "Angel's Hymn" should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. Another famous early Christmas Hymn was written in 760, by Comas of Jerusalem, for the Greek Orthodox Church. Soon after this many composers all over Europe started to write 'Christmas carols'. However, not many people liked them as they were all written and sung in Latin, a language that the normal people couldn't understand. By the time of the Middles Ages (the 1200s), most people had lost interest in celebrating Christmas altogether. This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi when, in 1223, he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or 'canticles' that told the story during the plays. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in! The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries

. WHAT ABOUT THE FESTIVAL OF NINE LESSONS?  

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a traditional carol service, celebrating the birth of Jesus. The story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus is told in nine short Bible readings from Genesis, the prophetic books and the Gospels, interspersed with the singing of Christmas carols, hymns and choir music.The format is based on an Order drawn up by Edward White Benson, who was born in Birmingham, and later became Archbishop of Canterbury.When he conceived of the idea of the Nine Lessons & Carols for use on Christmas Eve 1880, he was Bishop of Truro.

 SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRISTMAS CAROLS 

 The story of Salvation comes out very well in the Carols of Christmas. There is a deep feeling and a realisation of what God did to bring human kind and indeed all creation back to Himself. Carols bring Christians together around the Christ Child lying in the manger. During Advent and at Christmas, Christians everywhere sing more or less the same repertoire. Through our carols, we share the same deep delight at the birth of a poor child who was to become the Saviour of all human beings. Carols have also proved splendidly ecumenical in their use. No other collection of hymns are sung so widely by Christians when they celebrate one of the two central feasts of their liturgical year. CONCLUSION When we sing our favourite carols this Christmas, let us rejoice in their very ecumenical origins and in their use by Christians everywhere. The carols light up our faces with vivid joy. But they also recall how the shadow of Calvary fell over Bethlehem. Jesus was born into a world of all-pervasive pain and suffering. 

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