Here We Come A-caroling… Or Not?

Kristi here. Did you know the Christmas season has arrived? To be honest, it’s pretty hard to miss, at least where I live. Driving down the street you see the lights on the lamp posts and the town square, baked goods wrapped in red and green cellophane are already appearing on our counter, and the jingling of bells greets you as you enter nearly every store.

I love Christmas. I especially love Christmas music. I’ve been known to break it out in June. While some tunes gracing the airwaves today are clearly modern inventions, others we tend to feel have been around for centuries.

Most of them haven’t.

The plethora of Christmas carols as we know and love them today came about mostly in Victorian days. Several composition dates fall in within ten years of 1850. I find it hard to believe that music wasn’t part of an English Christmas celebration, though. Given that the entertainment at many a party involved one or more young women displaying their musical prowess, I think that for many music would have been part of Christmas as well.

So, if you’re like me and you can’t help but picture your favorite Regency heroine belting out a exalting song or two while celebrating the birth of Christ, what do you have her sing? Here are a few possibilities of songs that Regency families might have had access to:

The First Nowell Song book pageThe First Nowell… sort of

The First Nowell (or Noel, as it is commonly written in America) was first published in 1823, though evidence suggests it was sung long before then. The words, however, are slightly different that the ones we sing today. At least one published version of the song had the angels singing “O well” instead of “Noel”.

Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and Angels From the Realms of Glory… sort of

While each of these songs had words closely relating to those we sing today, their tunes were very different. Many of these songs were poems or lyrics sung to the tune of other, year-round hymns. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that these songs began getting their own music.

Silent Night… sort of… not really

Unless your hero had connections in a small German town, they would not have heard of this song as it was written in 1816. Even if they did have it somehow, you’d still be singing it in another language.

Songs you could likely have sung with your favorite hero around the pianoforte:

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, O Come All Ye Faithful (Although you were more likely to hear it in it’s original language as Adeste Fideles, English translations existed as early as 1799.), The Twelve Days of Christmas, We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Some songs you wouldn’t hear because they had yet to be written:

Away In A Manger (1885), O Holy Night (1847), Good King Winceslas (1853), It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (1849), O Little Town of Bethlehem (1867), We Three Kings of Orient Are (1857).

What’s your favorite Christmas carol? Do you prefer the older carol-style songs or some of the more modern compositions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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