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Why Do We Sing Christmas Carols

Do You Like to Sing Christmas Carols?

I have often wondered why we sing Christmas carols during the December holiday season, but not during any other time of the year. Only in the period between Thanksgiving (often earlier) and New Years, do the strains of holiday songs play in elevators and retail stores.

There are no Valentine's Day songs. No Independence Day tunes. Certainly, no Labor Day music.

So, how is it that this one holiday is honored by show tunes, if you will, while all the others (including Easter - if you are Christian), are less musical?

Holiday music does have a history and tradition! If you've also wondered about the history of Christmas songs, then you're in the right place. Turns out there is a reason for the seasonal music.

Christmas carols are an annual tradition

Christmas carols are an annual tradition

Traditional Carolers

Traditional Carolers

The History of Singing Christmas Carols

There are hundreds of Christmas carols, varying from religious to secular, and culture to culture. You can find books with German Christmas Carols, Swedish Christmas Carols, and Russian Christmas Carols. In the United States, both religious and non-religious music books are available. You can sing about Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph, and/or Silent Night and O Little Town of Bethlehem. Ironically, though some of these songs are played only during the holiday season, many of them have little, if anything, to do with Christmas. Instead, they are actually drinking songs (wassailing)!

Carols are said to have begun back in the 13th century, and died out during the Protestant era in England, only to be revived again several hundred years later. Other experts say that songs have been sung at the darkest time of year - the Winter Solstice - for thousands of years, in order to bring light to the season and celebrate the turn towards longer days. In any event, today there are literally hundreds of Christmas songs. Some originated as stories, prayers, poems and chants. All have a place in our hearts as they remind us of family, tradition and a warm, special time of year.

John Denver and the Muppets Twelve Days of Christmas

Today's pop artists capitalize on the popularity of Christmas music. Each year, many new albums are released, with new takes on old favorites. Some of them are actually quite good. Can you think of a successful singer that has not released a Christmas album? Even Jewish artists?

Not surprisingly, Christian entertainers release hits based on the Christmas season, as well as those related to their overall genre of music. Holiday music tends to reach a wider audience, of course.

Christmas Carols

Christmas Caroling

The actual practice of Christmas caroling, where a group of people goes from door to door, singing songs is not as popular today as it was perhaps 20-30 years ago. However, if carolers show up at your door, know that it is bad luck to send them away empty handed. You should offer them food or drink! The tradition of caroling is said to have come to the United States from St. Francis of Assisi of Italy, singing songs of praise.

Caroling is a fun tradition and one that I would whole-heartedly encourage! Bring some of the spirit of the season back to your neighborhood and host a caroling party. You can choose to include kids or not. Everyone seems to enjoy singing the songs of the season. If you include beverages, the party is a riot!

We enjoy having a caroling party inside our home (instead of the door-to-door version) with a pianist and sheets of music handed out to all the guests. A good time is had by all, and its become an annual tradition. Put on a few holiday movies (the Grinch or Peanuts) in the background, and have yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

© 2008 Stephanie Marshall

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Sustainable Sue from Altadena CA, USA on December 24, 2011:

Great article on the history of carols. Can't wait to get back to my own computer, so I can listen to the videos. Have you ever compared the sounds of choirs singing or a good CD to canned Christmas carols? The quality of canned carols is nothing like the real thing. I've been amazed, lately, at thought of the money that must have been spent recording dramatic, orchestral versions of The Drummer Boy (lol). Here's a different take on carols.

apirl jones on December 12, 2011:

hi umm i love chrismas a lot and i was wondering were i could find a lot of songs that i could find on google and merry chrismas and happy new year

myawn from Florida on November 19, 2011:

Love Christmas time and the songs so cheerful and I need cheer.

ag on September 25, 2011:

thanks a lot i was looking for some help with my project until i found this site

Yasmin on December 22, 2009:

Great stuff

PenmanZee on March 06, 2008:

Very good question to ask. Reminds me of the phrase "Everyday is Christmas" and it can be. I felt a kind of odd defiance playing the music you included at this time of year. And why not!!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on March 06, 2008:

Thanks Angela! A little off-season right now, but still fun to put together. :-)

Angela Harris from Around the USA on March 06, 2008:

I love little history tidbits. This was really interesting. So caroling is to bring good cheer to the holidays literally, huh? Great hub you've put together, and in record time I'll bet with the contest and all.

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