Saturday, December 10, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Traditions~ Christmas Carols

Welcome Christmas friends to Day 10 of my 12 Days of Christmas Traditions Series.

I'm so glad you have stopped by to share in some Christmas cheer! If you weren't able to visit yesterday, please click here to read all about Christmas food from around the world!

Today's post is all about Christmas music!

Since we have already talked about Christmas traditions around the world I thought it might be fun to talk about one of my favourite parts of Christmas...the wonderful Christmas carols! I am so honoured to welcome another very special guest blogger to Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive, 365 today to share her knowledge of the history of  Christmas carols for today's special musical post! Thank you for helping me today, Holly!

Holly Massie is one of the original members of theStairwell Carollers, a charitable a cappella Ottawa choir, who sings sacred and secular renaissance music, as well as settings of traditional and contemporary Christmas carols.

group shot jpg

Winner of the 2010 OMFA provincial competition, this non-profit group has raised over $40,000 for local Ottawa/Gatineau charities,through the sale of concert tickets, CDs and cookbooks.

Holly is the author of a few blogs, most notably, The Stairwell Carollers Choir Blog and My Ottowa, Canada's Capital, where she plays tourist in her own home-town! She has also guest-posted for me at my other blog, 5 Minutes Just for Me. Please click here if you would like to read her post about Peace on Earth.

If you haven't already visited Holly before please do pop by and visit this very talented musician.


Thank you for Decking the halls with holly and wassailing all around the town...Holly!

Leah, soprano, from our 1993 Regional Contact episode for CTV
Holly, Mistletoe and even our Christmas tree are most likely vestiges of a pagan heritage that some Christians would rather forget. To avoid persecution from the Romans, Christians adopted a number of the traditions usually practiced for Saturnalia. This helped them blend in with the pagans and avoid harassment for their christian faith.

Holly leaves and berries are often added to wreaths because of a folk tale dating back to the first century that said the crown of thorns was mixed with holly. John McCollister

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly

Though most of us now live in modern homes rather than great vaulted halls, we still (deck) decorate at Christmastime. with holly, wreaths, candy canes and ivy.

There is evidence that this old carol originated in Wales but the words are believed to be American. If you wonder why American lyrics would celebrate old English customs, the answer is simple. The lyrics were written in 19th century America when Mr.Washington Irving was glorifying English customs and Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" was at the height of its first popularity. 

Christmas Caroling
 "It may seem strange to us today that carols were originally used for dancing, since to dance in church smaks of irreverence. ... The Franciscan Friars were particularly devoted to dancing, and it may be that they brought the carole and its associated dances to England in the early 13th century."
From The Book of Christmas Carols, Fairmount books, inc.

The earliest carols were plainchant hymns from the middle ages.Modern choirs prefer many voices, so these songs are rarely sung. Holy Songs, 1582, by J. M. Neale collected the best carols of the Medieval period. Through the centuries, hymns and songs of Christmas, originated throughout Europe, were in vigorous use until a sudden decline of interest in the 18th century. It was reversed with the new idea of a  "congregational hymn" encouraging multiple voice parts to lift the songs to exciting new heights.
From the New Oxford Book of Carols (easily the most exhaustive Christmas carol book on the planet!)

Wassailing from house to house involved carrying a wooden bowl filled with spiced wine as a gift for the household.
Stairwell Carollers carrying a wassail bowl --That's me on the right. This is also from our 1993 Regional Contact episode

Thanks so very much for taking the time to write this amazing post all about Christmas Carols, Holly!

Do you have any special Christmas carols that you always play at Christmas? Do you have a favourite Christmas song? If you do please leave me a comment and let me know! I love playing carols at our place and when I don't have them playing at home I just come and read this blog and I can hear them any time of year!

Since we are on the subject of Holly I would love it if you could keep my sister Holly in her prayers this week...she is about to have baby number three! The baby is due any day now and we are all waiting anxiously for her arrival...yes, they are having a little girl! I will keep you posted about the baby's arrival but if you could Holly and John and their sweet little family in your prayers I would be so appreciative!

Well, I'd best be off to see if there is any news! Before I go I must thank Becky for having me today at her Songs of Christmas link up!

Blessings and best Christmas wishes,

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Natasha -- the post looks great-- and to think I was sick as a dog when I wrote it - And you, taking the time to do this when your life is already so full!! Talk about dedication!
    All the Best!


Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself...
Norman Wesley Brooks, "Let Every Day Be Christmas," 1976

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