The history and origin of Christmas carols can be traced back to thousands of years. The concept of carols is thought to have spread from Europe, where they were sung for the first time. However, these songs were not actually Christmas carols. In fact, they were considered as Pagan songs, which were sung at the Winter Solstice, celebrated by Pagans on 22nd December. These songs were sung in a lively and joyous manner for all the four seasons and gradually came to known as carols, meaning songs of praise and joy. This tradition of singing carols has continued through the ages.
Initially, many churches turned down the idea of singing Christmas
carols, since it was considered to be a pagan custom that could not
be included in the sacred church services. However, folk songs or
carols depicting the Nativity Scene were written in the countryside.
These simple songs soon gained popularity. In 1223, Saint Francis of
Assisi, the Roman Catholic saint of animals and environment,
introduced carols to the church services. These carols were loosely
based on Bible and were not hymns, but carols meant for
entertainment and not loaded with biblical references.
The early carols were sung at homes rather than at places of
worship. These early carols were not written, they were passed on
from person to person. Over the years, these carols caught the
attention of the people. With time, they leaned towards the joyous
taste of people and soon, became a part of the mystery plays. Carols
gained wide popularity during the 14th century, when they started
gaining the form of religious songs, whose theme revolved around the
Christ Child or the Virgin Mary. Most of these carols were written
by blending together English and Latin words.
By the beginning of 15th century, carols had become art music.
During this period, special arrangements were made to sing carols.
They were considered an important contribution to the growth of
English medieval music. However, an obstacle soon came in the way of
the popularity of carols, in the form of Puritans who came to power
in England in 1647. During their reign, everything that related to
Christmas and Christianity was strictly prohibited. As time passed,
the popularity of carols faltered and they almost disappeared. It
was during 19th century, Christmas re-gained its popularity.
Many composers played a part in re-popularizing carols. People now
wanted to listen to more and more carols, which had come closer to
Christmas and started to be known as Christmas carols. This is how
the modernized version of Christmas carols was introduced. They were
no more restricted to private places, like home. Choir singers began
singing Christmas carols, based on biblical versus, at the churches
also and they ceased to be mere forms for entertainment. It was
around this time only that singing Christmas carols in the streets
gained popularity and street carolers evolved.
History of Christmas carols can be traced back to thousands of years. Read on to know more about Christmas carol history & origin.