I am always interested in where the origin of traditions came from. Being an American, I know that many of them came from England originally. So, in that light I decided to research old English Christmas carols a bit. I love Christmas carols. I don’t generally start listening to them before November 15th. Why that particular date you may ask? Well, one year I started in early October and as much as I love them, I was just sick of them by Christmas day. I am a person that has always absolutely loved the entire season, I’m like a big kid about it! However, to me it’s a short special time. I’m like that with most things, if you do them for too long or too often, it’s no longer special.
When my girls were in high school, they were in choir and we all looked forward every year to going to the Christmas choir concert. I remember the first one, the lights went out, the auditorium was hushed and then down the aisles came these young voices, each carrying a candle and singing “Oh Come, Oh Come Emanuel”. I got chills and teary eyed, it was so beautiful and awe inspiring. They sang old familiar carols, medieval songs, new jazzed up renditions, but every concert ended with Handel’s “Messiah”. The entire audience on their feet and any of the high schools choir alumni were welcome to join and sing with the current generation. It was amazing!
So I checked out a few lists for old English songs that we know and hear every year. I admit that some of them I had assumed were American. I’ve been around for a while now and I remember the Christmas carols of my childhood, learned from playing my parents old albums every year on the record player.
Here are the most surprising ones that are of English origin along with the dates they were published:
Angels We Have Heard on High-1862
Away In the Manger-1885
Deck the Hall (based on the Welsh traditional “Oer yw’r gŵr sy’n methu caru”)
Ding Dong Merrily on High (no published date)
The First Noel-1823
God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman-1833
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear-1849
The Little Drummer Boy-1957
We Three Kings of Orient Are-1863
It seems the most productive years for carols were the mid 1800s. There is also that classic English Christmas carol that is somewhat current-Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney!
I leave you with a few images of Christmas music that have to be American and beg the question-why?
Make a Joyful Noise!