Do you know the history of Christmas Carols and Caroling? Christmas carols are a mainstay of the holiday season. There are religious carols, such as Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, and Little Drummer Boy, and secular carols, such as Deck the Halls, and Frosty the Snowman. Christmas celebration in general nearly ground to a halt during the Puritan era, where people believed Christmas was a holiday for quiet solemnity and not one for celebration. In fact, in Massachusetts, people who dared to actually celebrate anything on Christmas Day were fined. During this time, Christmas carols nearly disappeared also.
In the 18th century, caroling and other celebrations of Christmas began to see a slight revival. Singing carols in the streets, however, was limited to groups of officials and town leaders called Waits, as they performed various Christmas carols in the streets on Christmas Eve, which was also known as the wait night, because of the belief that shepherds were waiting and watching their flocks when the angels appeared the night that Christ was born. Going caroling during the Christmas season grew from the tradition of the Waits, and is still a popular thing to do both in the U.S. and in the U.K. today.
In the 18th century, orchestras and choirs would perform Christmas carols for the people in English cities, so that they would also have something to sing and celebrate. Many new carols, such as Good King Wenceslas, were written around this time to add spice and newness to the performances. Early in the 19th century, two men, Davies Gilbert and William Sandy’s, published two separate volumes of ancient Christmas carols found in England. Versions of many of these carols, such as The First Noel, are still around today. In the 1840s, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularized Christmas celebrations again, and singing Christmas carols once more became popular.
Songs like White Christmas, and other secular carols came about in the 20th century and today are virtually synonymous with the more traditional, religious hymns. Many singing icons, like Bing Crosby and Celine Dion, along with groups like the Dixie Chicks and even groups like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller, all have their own versions of secular and traditional Christmas carols that are very famous around the world.
Today, going caroling with small groups of friends and family also remains a popular activity during the Christmas season, often enhancing people’s feelings of the spirit of Christmas.
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