Keep on Singing Those Christmas Carols Throughout the Christmas Season.

christmas-songsMaria von Trapp, whose life was immortalized in the Sound of Music wrote, “Singing at Christmas goes back to the early centuries of Christianity. It is the oldest of the innumerable folk customs still alive throughout the world during the Christmas Season.”

How did Christmas carols become part of the holy day and holiday we know as Christmas? Was it the angels that first Christmas? Was it the Church establishing December 25 as the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s birth?

We can go back to those first carolers – the angels who sang to the shepherd on a hillside in Bethlehem. Their songs were not recorded. The oldest know Christmas carol, “Veni Redemptor Gentium,” was written in the fourth century by St. Ambrose, around the time that the Church made December 25 Christmas Day. We know it as “Savior of the Nations Come,” – translated from Latin to German by Martin Luther in 1523 and to English in 1851 by William Reynolds.

After that there was a silence for almost 1,000 years. There may have been Christmas carols, but not many have been preserved. The silence was broken by Saint Francis of Assisi. Many call him the father of the Christmas carol. He wanted to find a way to make the Christmas story come alive for the common people, who could not read and had no access to the Bible or other books.

He decided in 1223 that he would build a life-size manger scene, complete with live animals such as ox, ass, and sheep. He would get various villagers to play the roles of the Holy Family and the shepherds and wise men. Then he would have people sing songs about Christmas – so caroling was born. This is the origin of the crèche that so many of us have set up in our homes today.

“The First Noel” is unknown in origin but is generally thought to be the oldest carol in the English language dating back to the sixteenth century.

Before the invention of the printing press, carols were a way to communicate the Christmas story and pass it from one generation to another. An example of this is “The Twelve Day of Christmas,” which was written for English Catholics to illustrate the truths of their faith during a time of persecution. One partridge in a pear tree – God’s gift of love to mankind: the advent of Jesus and His death on the cross. Two turtle doves – the Old and the New Testaments. Three French horns – the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity, or the Holy Trinity. Four calling birds – the four Gospels. Five gold rings – the first five books of the Old Testament telling the story of man’s fall from grace. Six geese a laying – the six days of creation. Seven swans a-swimming – the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Eight maids a-milking – the eight Beatitudes. Nine ladies dancing – the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Ten lords a-leaping – the Ten Commandments. Eleven pipers piping – the eleven faithful disciples. Twelve drummers drumming – the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

As we continue to sing these and other carols during the Christmas Season allow them to speak to your heart. If you are in the area around Saint John Bosco Parish in Parma Heights – plan to join us this Sunday, January 7 at 2:00 pm in the Church for our Annual Christmas Concert and Sing-along. It is an hour of Christmas Music with our Music Ministry and Choir on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, followed by a Christmas cookie social in the Bell Tower.

Coming together to sing the carols of the season is a great way to bring the Christmas Season to a close – which will conclude with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord on Monday, January 8.

Question – Are you still singing and listening to the songs of Christmas in your home? What is your favorite Christmas carol?

January 3rd, 2018 |