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Christmas carols: the history behind 5 festive favourites

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas

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.

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The Precursor To The Christmas Tree
The Precursor To The Christmas Tree

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...

The Origins of Christmas Trees

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.

The Oldest Christmas Tree Markets
  • They were in present-day France and sold unadorned Christmas trees during the 17th century.
  • The first decorated indoor tree was recorded in 1605, in Strasbourg, decorated with roses, apples, wafers and other sweets.
  • Demand for Christmas trees grew so high in the 15th century that laws were passed in Strasbourg to prevent people from cutting pine branches.
  • In the 1530s, the region of Alsace was limited to one tree per household.
Sticky Tunes: When Songs Become Earworms
Sticky Tunes: When Songs Become Earworms
  • The songs that get stuck in our heads, those catchy but often annoying earworms are common, especially the Christmas melodies during the holiday season.
  • New research into these...
The U-shaped Curve Of Liking
  • White Christmas by Irving Berlin is the best selling single of all time and is studied on why it is popular for decades, and sold over 50 million copies. It seems to fall into the category of a likeable earworm.
  • Most songs follow a U-shaped curve of liking. New music isn’t liked very much, but as it gets familiar and is heard repetitively (on the radio and in the mall), one tends to like it more.
  • This repetition effect is U-shaped as too much exposure diminishes the fondness towards the song.
When Songs Keep Coming Back To You
  • The reason we like the Christmas songs every year lies in the U-shaped curve of liking being a cycle.
  • A person, after getting fed up from a song, starts to move away from it, but after a span of time, is again exposed to the same song, tends to like it as before (for a while). This is called the ‘Squirrel’ approach to listening.
  • It is also the reason many CDs of old bands which we dumped, sound great when we hear them after a long time.
Performances In Isolation
  • The world is used to seeing people performing in the iconic public streets and podiums all across the planet, it is a strange sight now, with near-total emptiness and silence as ‘Quaranti...