Origins of the Christmas Carol and the Heartwarming History of the Most popular Ones

The Christmas Carol is what infuses the very essence of Christmas. It truly is the purest form of worship and exaltation in commemoration of the birth Jesus Christ. The Christmas carol is evidently so special for all people irrespective of their religion. It is what carries the thrill and vibes of Christmas!

WheeBuzz is happy to narrate the origins of your most popular Christmas carols

Who wrote the earliest known modern carol?

The earliest carols were written by a Canadian Jesuit missionary Jean De Brebeuf in 1643. He lived among the Huron’s in Canada. Hence, one of his most famous songs was called the Huron Carol or “Twas in the moon of wintertime.” Canada celebrates this as its oldest Christmas song.

It was St Francis of Assisi who kicked off the trend of Carols,g_auto,w_620,h_310/

The Roman era of the 4th century was when the earliest Christmas hymns dated back to. However, it was only after the Franciscan period that the trend of Christmas caroling kicked off. The tradition of Christmas carols was influenced by St Francis of Assisi after he started organizing plays on the birth of Jesus in the year 1223. The newly christened trend soon gained popularity and spread throughout Europe.

Who termed the word “Carol?”,g_auto,w_620,h_310/

By 1426, the tradition of plays soon evolved into groups of people visiting homes and singing Christmas songs. The term carol was used in a publication titled “Caroles of Cristemas” which was published in the year 1426 itself by an English chaplain John Awdlay.

Silent night

In 1816, a German Catholic priest Father Joseph Mohr of Oberndorf, Salzburg Austria composed the lyrics of a song that was only lacking good melody. He composed the song to be sung every Christmas Eve. He used the organ and choirmaster Franz Gruber who assigned the perfect melody to the written lyrics. The original lyrics were written in German. It was translated to English forty years later by An American Episcopal priest John Freeman Young. The original name of the song was StilleNacht! HeiligeNacht!”.

O Come All Ye Faithful, 1852

The Piae Cantiones was published in the year 1852. The book enlisted Latin versions of popular Christmas carols that are still evergreen. One of them which echoes even today is the famous Adeste Fideles or O come all ye faithful. The words of this carol were written in the 13th century and evolved gradually over time. By the 18th century, the song has been edited and refined completely.

O little town of Bethlehem, 1865

A simple and graceful tribute to the nativity of Jesus in the humble town of Bethlehem was put into word and melody in the year 1865. Phillip Brooks was the man behind the creation of O Little town of Bethlehem. Brooks was an Episcopalian preacher who taught at Yale. In 1865 Brooks took part in a journey on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. He is known to have participated in a five-hour nativity celebration on Christmas Eve. It was this beautiful profound journey of his that drove him to write this song. The song was publically premiered on the 27th of December by the children of his church choir.

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, 1918

The Festival of nine lessons and carols held at King’s College Cambridge epitomized the culture of Christmas carols on Christmas Eve, especially at the services. This tradition induces nostalgia in people who reside in other parts of the world as well who witness the service when BBC broadcasts it live.

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was introduced in 1918 and celebrates the birth of Jesus, the fall of humanity and the promise of the coming Messiah. The Old and New Testaments from the Bible are read while hymns and carols are sung.

The Carol Of The Bells, 1914

In 1914 another carol was composed with a strong Christmas theme. The Carol of the Bells was composed by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych. Peter Wilhousky was the lyricist.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, 1944


Judy Garland – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

From the movie “Meet me in St. Louis” (1944). Con Subtitulos en Español

Judy Garland – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

From the movie “Meet me in St. Louis” (1944). Con Subtitulos en Español

The 20th century saw Broadway and Hollywood musicals hugely inspired by Christmas carols who infused the spirit in their Christmas songs. Judy Garland put out a beautiful performance on one of the most graceful songs in the movie Meet me in St Louis produced in 1944. Legend Frank Sinatra has also delivered an astounding rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The song was written by composer Hugh Martin and Lyricist Ralph Blaine.

Silver Bells, 1950

1950 saw the Carol Silver Bells gin major popularity especially after the release of the track by Jim Reeves in his rich baritone voice. However, Silver Bells was not a Jim Reeves original. The song itself was first performed by Bob Hope in the motion picture Lemon drop. The very first studio recording of the song was sung by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards in 1850 and released by Decca records. The song did not require any time to gather its success.

A White Christmas

The 1950s era gave birth to several Hollywood musicals that further introduced many Christmas carols. White Christmas was the hit title song of its namesake movie, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen.

The song was composed by the legend Irving Berlin and holds the Guinness world record as the highest selling single of all time crossing 100 million copies. Jim Reeves like always steals the best-recorded version of the song.

Soon carols became a door to door affair at Christmas

Christmas glee and cheer has no real pre-requisites. The charm of going carol singing from door to door in the cold after everyone has gone to sleep has now been replaced by churches taking over and singing the carols on Christmas Eve. The joy and fun in collecting and distributing funds by going around singing are soon vanishing. Wouldn’t it be a thrill to have some of that fun back?



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Written by Andrew Alpin

Andrew Kevin Alpin is a senior content specialist from Kolkata, India. With a passion for writing from a very young age, he has 8 years of experience in content writing behind him. Apart from being well versed in several niches, Andrew’s forte is social media stories, news, health, fitness, parenting, entertainment, literature, philosophy, travel and food. With a penchant for writing poetry, he has also published a collection of poems written over years titled “Thy will be Done”. Andrew’s interests include reading, music and collecting occult and spiritual books.

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