Singing from the heart over the birth of Christ started with the angels. The gospel of Luke recounts the appearance of a multitude of heavenly beings who burst forth in songful praise to the Glory of God and goodwill toward men. Since that night, singing praise over the gift of Christmas has remained an integral part of celebrating Jesus’ birth.
Early Christmas Carols
Within the first century after Christ, special hymn music for the holiday was being written and performed. Christmas carols, as we now call them, are so named from a French term (carole) meaning joyful song or circle dance. Many early carols were composed in Latin, the language of the church but not of the common people. For this reason, carol singing lost popularity until the 1200s when St Francis arranged nativity plays which included songs sung in the language of the common folk. The carols were popular but not seen as church music. Instead, they were the entertaining music sung by minstrels in the streets of town.
Carols remained popular and spread until the English Puritans began to frown upon the common music not deemed sufficiently reverential. It was not until the Reformation took hold that Christmas hymns/carols enjoyed a revival among church leaders eager to make faith accessible for everyday people. The practice of carol singing perhaps reached its heights during the Victorian Age. It was during Victorian times that people first began to go “a-caroling” singing the songs of the season and collecting alms from house to house.
Renewing Interest in Christmas Carols
The monks of Conception Abbey want to help you celebrate the coming of the Christ child. Choose a Catholic Christmas card to send and then pick out one of several ornaments they have which draw on popular Christmas carols.
The Twelve Days of Christmas ornaments are simple decorations which depict the dozen gifts in the English carol.
Little Drummer Boy features Mary snuggling infant Jesus to her heart while in her skirt folds, the little drummer boy plays his music to welcome the King.
O Night Divine is a hand-painted glass ornament with a tender image of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus
Silent Night, Holy Night is a deep blue ornament reminiscent of the holy night when Christ came to earth in a humble stable
We Three Kings is a vibrant ornament depicting the journey of the eastern kings en route to bow before the King of Kings. This ornament is available in glass or carved and painted wood-like resin.
This season, remember how St Francis brought singing back into practice. Think of the Victorians who went from house to house singing of His Coming. Help others remember too by sending them a meaningful Catholic Christmas card and using carol-inspired ornaments to revive the habit of joyful Christmas singing. Go online to see The Printery House ornament collection or to choose your 2014 Catholic Christmas card.