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The first verse of the Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, evolved as a festive memory game. The list of objects or animals builds with each verse and forfeits are imposed for forgetting anyone.
According to one interpretation, the carol was created in the 16th century. The list of bizarre gifts given by the 'true love' became a secret code for Catholics. The 'true love' became God himself, the 'partridge' Jesus Christ. The 'two turtle doves' are the old and new testaments, 'three French hens' the Trinity, 'four calling birds' are the four Gospels, the 'twelve drummers drumming' the twelve points of the apostles' creed.
This carol reveals customs. Under the Tudor monarchs, wassailing and mumming were still practised, with carollers and players performing from door to door.
It was bad luck not to reward their efforts with food and drink, including the 'figgy pudding,' or Christmas pudding.
A favourite Welsh folk song during the 16th century we know today as Deck the Halls only acquired Christmassy words in the 19th century.
Deck the Halls had words that would not have suited the prim Victorians. In the 1860s, Thomas Oliphant changed the lines to suit the dancing melody and lively 'fa la la' chorus for the celebration of Christmas preparations.
Silent Night was a favourite throughout the19th century.
One charming tale tells of mice chewing through pieces of St Nikola's organ, leaving the church without music on Christmas Eve 1818. Schoolmaster Frans Xaver Gruber and priest Joseph Mohr stepped in to save the day by composing a simple carol that could be sung with just guitar accompaniment.
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Church records from the 15th and 16th centuries show that holly and ivy were bought in the winter. Private houses were also decorated with greenery at this time.
The precursor to the Christ...
In Germany, "Paradise Plays" were performed to celebrate the feast day of Adam and Eve, which was on Christmas Eve. A tree of knowledge was represented by an evergreen fir with apples tied to its branches.
In 1419, a guild in Freiburg put up a tree decorated with apples, wafers, tinsel and gingerbread.
Until recent times, community singing was thought to have decreased in popularity, suggesting less of a sense of tradition than there used to be.
But in recent years, there have been signs...
Christmas is one of the few times people feel they can sing together. Christmas songs are one of the few remaining national repertoires.
As you go in from a cold night into a warm pub full of people who want to share the songs, you gain a deep sense of pride and connection, and you're sharing the traditional with past and future generations.