Q. 1. Can you tell me the origin of Christmas carols? Do they go back as far as the early days of the Catholic Church?
A. 1. Based on written records, it appears that carols were first introduced in the 12 th century by St. Francis of Assisi, who is also credited with creating the first Nativity scene.
St. Francis of Assisi wanted to teach the faithful about the birth of Jesus through music. So he added religious lyrics to well-known tunes. The concept of Christmas carols then traveled throughout Europe, including to Germany where many carols were written in the 14th century.
Carols today often retain the medieval choral patterns from the tradition of the early carols. As time went on, the popularity of Christmas carols and hymns grew, and from this we have some of the most popular Christmas songs today.
The well known song, "Silent Night," can be traced to 1818 at the midnight Mass in Austria. “O Come All Ye Faithful” (also well-known by its Latin name, “Adeste Fideles”), was composed by John Francis Wade in 1743. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” comes from England, written sometime in the 15th century. The carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was written in 1739 by Charles Wesley.
Without the heavenly sounds of the Christmas Carols, Christmastime would be like a cake with no icing on it. The carols, sung at home or at the Church, especially those accompanied by the organ instrument, bring joy to the hearts, elevate the spirits towards the Heavenly Father, and leave a lasting memory to those who hear them and/or participate in the singing.