Monday, December 6th, 2010

The Stories Behind Popular Christmas Carols

Looking for a way to get into the Christmas spirit? How about singing a few bars of some popular holiday tunes to get you in the mood. Christmas is a festive time filled with good food, good friends, family, and music to bind it all together. Here is a list of six of the more popular Christmas carols that we have all grown to love.  And they all have some very interesting history behind them. Be sure to click on the title of each song to be taken to the sheet music for it.

  1. We Wish You a Merry Christmas This song wishes good tidings to all we meet during the holiday season. It also mentions a figgy pudding, an old English dessert that is set alight and served with a sprig of holly and brandy butter at each Christmas meal. 
  2. The First Noel Noel means Christmas in French. This song speaks of the events that are chronicled in the Bible surrounding the birth of Jesus.
  3. Silent Night This song was composed by Franz Gruber in 1818. The actual story has several variations, but it involves a troupe of performers traveling to towns in the Austrian Alps. One of the churches where the troupe was to perform a play had an organ out of commission. Apparently there was a mouse problem. The troupe performed in a home instead of the church. One of the ministers was moved by the performance and wrote a carol for the church’s Christmas Eve service. He approached the organist Franz Gruber about putting the words to guitar music. Fortunately, the organ was fixed by service time and Gruber sat down and played an unforgettable melody to accompany the words. This song is one of the most popular Christmas carols in the entire world. 
  4. The Twelve Days of Christmas This is a fun song to sing and play games with at Christmas. No one knows the true origin except that it is English. The fourth day was originally Colley bird not calling birds. It is another name for a blackbird. There are many variations of this song as well. People have taken to comedy in versions such as Jeff Foxworthy’s rendition, The 12 Redneck Days of Christmas and many more.
  5. Jingle Bells While you are dashing through the snow, this song was written about sleigh races in the olden days.  It was not intended to be a Christmas song at all. They would be like drag races of today only with tricked out sleighs. The song’s composer was a rogue named James Pierpont who loved to live fast and race hard. 
  6. The Christmas Song Just the words conjure up smells of roasted chestnuts. This song was originally written by Mel Torme in the 40s but was immortalized by Nat King Cole a couple of years later. Mel wrote the song in the heat of the summer in an effort to “cool off.” Who knew? Anyway, it’s one of our favorites when we snuggle inside to watch the snow fall.

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs? I bet there’s a story behind it that would surprise you. You can probably think of your own memories when you hear certain holiday songs as well, maybe a special Christmas as a child or the first Christmas you and your husband or wife were together in your new home. The power of song is amazing isn’t it? Please share your favorite Christmas music and memories with us. We would love to hear from you!

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