Christmas Carol: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to Christmas carol article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Children singing Christmas Carols
A brass band playing Christmas carols.

A Christmas carol (also called a noël) is a carol (song or hymn) whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas.



A 1582 manuscript of the Latin carol Personent hodie.

The first specifically Christmas hymns that we know of appear in fourth century Rome. Latin hymns such as Veni redemptor gentium, written by Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, were austere statements of the theological doctrine of the Incarnation in opposition to Arianism. Corde natus ex Parentis (Of the Father's love begotten) by the Spanish poet Prudentius (d. 413) is still sung in some churches today.[1]

In the ninth and tenth centuries, the Christmas "Sequence" or "Prose" was introduced in North European monasteries, developing under Bernard of Clairvaux into a sequence of rhymed stanzas. In the twelfth century the Parisian monk Adam of St. Victor began to derive music from popular songs, introducing something closer to the traditional Christmas carol.

In the thirteenth century, in France, Germany, and particularly, Italy, under the influence of Francis of Asissi a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in the native language developed.[2] Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay, a Shropshire chaplain, who lists twenty five "caroles of Cristemas", probably sung by groups of 'wassailers', who went from house to house.[3] The songs we know specifically as carols were originally communal songs sung during celebrations like harvest tide as well as Christmas. It was only later that carols began to be sung in church, and to be specifically associated with Christmas.

Carols suffered a decline in popularity after the Reformation in the countries where Protestant churches gained prominence (although well-known Reformers like Martin Luther authored carols and encouraged their use in worship), but survived in rural communities until the revival of interest in carols in the 19th century.[citation needed]

Adeste Fidelis (O Come all ye faithful) appears in its current form in the mid 18th century, although the words may have originated in the thirteenth century. The origin of the tune is disputed. The first appearance in print of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", "The First Noel", "I Saw Three Ships" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833) by William B. Sandys. Composers like Arthur Sullivan helped to repopularize the carol, and it is this period that gave rise to such favorites as "Good King Wenceslas" and "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear", a New England carol written by Edmund H. Sears and Richard S. Willis.

Today carols are regularly sung at Christian religious services . Some compositions have words which are clearly not of a religious theme, but are often still referred to as "carols". For example, the sixteenth century song "A Bone, God Wot!" appears to be a wassailing song (which is sung during drinking or while requesting ale), but is described in the British Museum's Cottonian Collection as a Christmas carol.[4]

It is often difficult to draw a distinction between a Christmas carol and a Christmas song. To be sung by a church choir or sung in the street by amateurs, a song would have to have a fairly rapid, regular beat, which would therefore exclude a meandering crooning song such as "White Christmas". A country music song such as "Blue Christmas" might qualify, but in this case it would have to be adopted by many choirs, over many years to be truly "vernacular", and so far it has failed to gain wide acceptance. The Concise Oxford Dictionary is more generous, as it defines a carol as a "religious song...associated with Christmas". If Christmas Carols are played before December, or after Christmas Day (including on Boxing Day), it is considered to be extremely bad luck in many countries.


Traditionally, carols have often been based on medieval chord patterns, and it is this that gives them their uniquely characteristic musical sound. Some carols like "Personent hodie", "Good King Wenceslas", and "The Holly and the Ivy" can be traced directly back to the Middle Ages, and are among the oldest musical compositions still regularly sung.

Though many Christmas carols were written prior to the 20th century, several modern compositions have been written in more recent times. Many of the carols written by Alfred Burt are sung regularly in both sacred and secular settings, and are among the better-known modern Christmas carols.

Church and liturgical use of Christmas carols

Almost all the well known carols were not sung in church until the second half of the 19th century.[citation needed] Hymns Ancient and Modern 1861–1874 included several carols. Isaac Watts, the "father of English hymnody", composed "Joy to the World" which has become a popular Christmas carol even though it is widely believed that Watts did not write it to be sung only at Christmas.

Charles Wesley wrote texts for at least three Christmas carols, of which the best known was originally entitled Hark! How All the Welkin Rings, later edited to Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.[5] In 1840 Felix Mendelssohn wrote a tune in a cantata; William H. Cummings adapted this tune to fit Wesley's words and this combination first appeared in "Hymns Ancient and Modern" in 1861.[citation needed]

Silent Night comes from Austria. The carol was first performed in the Nikolaus-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria on December 24, 1818. Mohr had composed the words much earlier, in 1816, but on Christmas Eve brought them to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the church service.[6] The first English translation was in 1871 where it was published in a Methodist hymnal.

Episodes described in Christmas carols

Several different Christmas episodes, apart from the birth of Jesus itself, are described in Christmas carols, such as:

In addition, some carols describe Christmas-related events which are of a religious nature, but not directly related to the birth of Jesus. For example:

Early carols

Nineteenth century antiquarians rediscovered early carols in museums. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica,[7] about 500 have been found. Some are wassailing songs, some are religious songs in English, some are in Latin, and some are "macaronic" — a mixture of English and Latin. Since most people did not understand Latin, the implication is that these songs were composed for church choristers, or perhaps for an educated audience at the Royal courts. The most famous survival of these early macaronic carols is the "The Boar's Head". Allegedly, it has been sung at Christ Church Cambridge since 1607. The tradition of singing carols outside of church influence, early in the nineteenth century is best illustrated by Thomas Hardy's novel "Under the Greenwood Tree" (1872). In England and other countries, such as Poland (kolęda), Romania (colinde) and Bulgaria (koledari), there is a tradition of Christmas caroling (earlier known as wassailing), in which groups of singers travel from house to house, singing carols, for which they are often rewarded with gifts, money, mince pies, or a glass of an appropriate beverage. Money collected in this way is now normally given to charity.

Singing carols in church was instituted on Christmas Eve 1880 in Truro Cathedral, Cornwall, England (see article on Nine Lessons and Carols), and now seen in churches all over the world.[8] The songs that were chosen for singing in church omitted the wassailing carols, and the words "hymn" and "carol" were used almost interchangeably. Shortly before, in 1878, the Salvation Army, under Charles Fry, instituted the idea of playing carols at Christmas, using a brass band. Carols can be sung by individual singers, but are also often sung by larger groups, including professionally trained choirs. Most churches have special services at which carols are sung, generally combined with readings from scripture about the birth of Christ; this is often based on the famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge.

Carols for dancing

It is not clear whether the word carol derives from the French "carole" or the Latin "carula" meaning a circular dance. In any case the dancing seems to have been abandoned quite early, but some examples are very danceable. In the 1680s and 1690s two French composers incorporated carols into their works. Louis-Claude Daquin wrote 12 noels for organ. Marc-Antoine Charpentier wrote a few instrumental versions of noels, plus one major choral work "Messe de minuit pour Noël".

Christmas carols in classical music

Star singers

In Austria, Belgium and Germany, Christmas is celebrated by some with children dressing as "The Three Kings", carrying a star on a pole. Going from house to house from New Year's Day to January 6, the children sing religious songs and are called "star singers". They are often rewarded with sweets or money, which is typically given to a local church or charity. "C.M.B" is written in chalk on houses they have visited. Although this is sometimes taken as a reference to the three kings — Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar — it may originally have represented the words "Christus mansionem benedicat" (Christ bless this house).

Christmas carols by country

Australia and New Zealand

In Australia and New Zealand, where it is the middle of summer at Christmas, there is a tradition of Carols by Candlelight concerts which are held outdoors at night in cities and towns across the country, during the weeks leading up to Christmas. First held in Melbourne, "Carols by Candlelight" is held each Christmas Eve in capital cities and many smaller cities and towns around Australia. Performers at the concerts include opera singers, musical theatre performers and popular music singers. People in the audience hold lit candles and join in singing some of the carols in accompaniment with the celebrities.


A 16th century carol, "Ça, Bergers, assemblons nous", was sung aboard Jacques Cartier's ship on Christmas Day in 1535. Perhaps the best known traditional French carol, "Il est né, le divin Enfant!", comes from the region of Provence. In 1554, a collection of French carols, "La Grande Bible des Noëls", was printed in Orléans. Another collection, "Chants de Noels anciens et nouveau", was printed by Christophe Ballard in Paris.

Germany and Austria

Some carols familiar in English were translations of German Christmas songs (Weihnachtslieder). Two well-known examples are Silent Night (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht), by the Austrians Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr, and O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum), from a German folksong arranged by Ernst Anschütz.

Greece and Cyprus

Greek tradition calls for children to go out with triangles from house to house on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and Epiphany Eve, and sing the corresponding folk carols, called the Κάλαντα (Kálanda, the word deriving from the Roman calends). There are separate carols for each of the three great feasts, referring respectively to the Nativity, to St. Basil and the New Year, and to the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, along with wishes for the household. Longer carols follow a more or less standard format: they begin by exalting the relevant religious feast, then proceed to offer praises for the lord and lady of the house, their children, house personnel, and usually conclude with a polite request for a treat, and a promise to come back next year for more well-wishing.

Many carols are regional, being popular in specific regions but unknown in others, whereas some are popular throughout the two countries. Examples of the latter are the Peloponnesian Christmas carol "Christoúgenna, Prōtoúgenna" ("Christmas, Firstmas"), the Constantinopolitan Christmas carol "Kalēn hespéran, árchontes" ("Good evening, my lords"), and the New Year's carol "Archimēniá ki archichroniá" ("First of the month, first of the year"). The oldest known carol, commonly referred to as the "Byzantine Carol" (Byzantine Greek: Άναρχος θεός καταβέβηκεν, Ánarchos Theós katabébēken, "God who is beyond all authority descended"), is linguistically dated to the beginning of the High Middle Ages. Almost all the various carols are in the common dekapentasyllabos (15-syllable iamb) verse, which means that their wording and tunes are easily interchangeable. This has given rise to a great number of local variants, parts of which often overlap or resemble one another in verse, tune or both.

In older times, carolling children asked for and were given gifts such as fruit, eggs, nuts or sweets; during the 20th century this was gradually replaced with money gifts — ranging from small change in the case of strangers to considerable amounts in the case of close relatives. Caroling is also done by marching bands, choirs, school students seeking to raise funds for trips or charity, members of folk societies, or merely by groups of well-wishers. Many internationally known carols, e.g. "Silent Night", "O Tannenbaum" or "Jingle Bells", are also sung in Greek translation.


Christmas carols are very popular in Poland, where they have a long history, the oldest dating to the 15th century or earlier.[9]


Basically all, some of them centuries-old, Ukrainian Carols (Колядки) are associated with the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. The Ukrainian carol most known to the Western World is the Carol of the Bells, composed by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych, premiered on December 1916 by a choral group made up of students at Kiev University.

United Kingdom

The mass singing in some of the pubs in North Sheffield and North Derbyshire, which takes place in the second half of November and all December, and which is often referred to as 'The Sheffield Carols', has been described as one of the most remarkable instances of popular traditional singing in the British Isles.[citation needed]


See also


  1. ^ Miles, Clement, Christmas customs and traditions, Courier Dover Publications, 1976, ISBN 0486233545, p.32
  2. ^ Miles, pp. 31-37
  3. ^ Miles, pp. 47-48
  4. ^ [1] A Bone, God Wot!
  5. ^ Dudley-Smith, Timothy (1987). A Flame of Love. London: Triangle/SPCK. ISBN 0-281-04300-0. 
  6. ^ BBC Religion & Ethics
  7. ^ carol - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  8. ^ "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols". BBC. 16 December 2005. 
  9. ^ (Polish) Roman Mazurkiewicz, Z dziejów polskiej kolędy

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to A Christmas Carol article)

From Wikiquote

Title page to the first edition

A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens is a Victorian morality tale of an old and bitter miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of one evening.



  • I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me.
    • Introduction

Stave 1

  • Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
  • Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
  • "Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!"
  • I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value.
  • "Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough." "Come, then," returned the nephew gaily. "What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."
  • "If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"
  • But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
Marley's Ghost visits Scrooge
  • "Why do you doubt your senses?" [asks Marley's Ghost] "Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"
  • "Man of the worldly mind!" replied the Ghost, "do you believe in me or not?" "I do," said Scrooge. "I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?" "It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world — oh, woe is me! — and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"
  • "You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?" "I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?" Scrooge trembled more and more. "Or would you know," pursued the Ghost, "the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it since. It is a ponderous chain!"
  • "Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Stave 2

  • "Who, and what are you?" Scrooge demanded. "I am the Ghost of Christmas Past." "Long Past?" inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature. "No. Your past." Perhaps, Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if anybody could have asked him; but he had a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap; and begged him to be covered. "What!" exclaimed the Ghost, "Would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon my brow!"
  • In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile.

Stave 3

  • "Gentlemen of the free-and-easy sort, who plume themselves on being acquainted with a move or two, and being usually equal to the time-of-day, express the wide range of their capacity for adventure by observing that they are good for anything from pitch-and-toss to manslaughter; between which opposite extremes, no doubt, there lies a tolerably wide and comprehensive range of subjects."
  • "I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me!"
  • "God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
  • "There are some upon this earth of yours," returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us."
  • "Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God. to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust."

Stave 4

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come
  • "I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?" said Scrooge. The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand. "You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us," Scrooge pursued. "Is that so, Spirit?" The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.
  • Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy command: for this is thy dominion! But of the loved, revered, and honoured head, thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. It is not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released; it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the hand was open, generous, and true; the heart brave, warm, and tender; and the pulse a man’s. Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!
  • "Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,' said Scrooge. 'But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me."
  • "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!"

Stave 5

  • He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original text related to:

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Christmas Carol
This is a disambiguation page, which lists works which share the same title. If an article link referred you here, please consider editing it to point directly to the intended page.

Christmas Carol may refer to:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address