Silent Night

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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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.

  • This charming carol is based on a 17th century English folk tune, but the symbolism is much older.
  • The festivals of Saturnalia and Yule put great emphasis on evergreens. The Romans would exchange boughs of holly and ivy during the festival, and the Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxon pagans would use evergreens to decorate their homes as symbols of eternal life.
  • Christian carol writers changed the meaning of red holly berry to Jesus's blood and the white holly flower as his shroud.

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.

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RELATED IDEAS

  • In 1805, Moravian missionaries in America sent their Indian pupils to fetch a small green tree for Christmas. Similar examples appear in the first half of the 19th century in the Midwest and further West.
  • In 1848, an image appeared in the London News of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their children gathering around a Christmas tree, presents underneath the tree. The premier women's magazine in America reprinted a version of the image a few years later as "The Christmas Tree" which cemented the Christmas tree in the popular consciousness.

How Christmas Trees Became a Holiday Tradition

time.com

  • 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.

Christmas earworms: the science behind our love-hate relationship with festive songs

theconversation.com

  • Carols are thought to be originally pagan songs performed to a circle dance celebrating calendar customs. They gradually became associated with Christian religious festivals, such as Christmas and Easter.
  • Christmas carols are not necessarily about religion. People connect carols with the sense of tradition and community more than a religious association. The main strength of carolling is people coming together.

Carolling is not about religion – it's about community

theconversation.com

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