Monday, December 14, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas- TWELVE Favorite Christmas Carols

Christmas carols are based on Christian lyrics and relate, in the main, to the Nativity. Christmas carols were introduced in to church services by St Francis of Assisi in the 12th century. As for the word carols, "carol" is a derivative of the French word caroller, the interpretation of which means dancing around in a circle. Carol and carols, eventually came to mean not only to dance but included music and lyrics - hence Christmas Caroling.The joyous themes for many traditional Christmas carols were banned in England by the staunch Protestant Oliver Cromwell and many of the very old Christmas carols and songs were subsequently lost for all time. Christmas carols were only fully popularized again during the Victorian era when they again expressed joyful and merry themes in their carol lyrics as opposed to the normal, more somber, Christian lyrics found in hymns. As religious observances in the United States and England were closely linked the popularity of Christmas carols grew in both countries in the 19th century. (from

12. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Charles Wesley at his best; I'll claim him. "God and sinners reconciled"--gospel truth, right? It doesn't get any clearer than that.

11. Angels We Have Heard On High
Glory to God in the Highest!

10. Angels From the Realms Of Glory
It's just a coincidence that three of my faves have to do with angels. It's not a coincidence that I grouped them together. Obsessive. Compulsive. Disorder.

9. Do You Hear What I Hear?
I didn't know, until recently, that this isn't a "traditional carol", as it was written in 1962. It was written as a "plea for peace" during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I still consider it a Christmas carol, though!

8. Good King Wenceslas
I didn't even know the words to this one for a long time; I just loved the "merriness" of it. It's kind of an anomaly as far as Christmas carols go, in that it doesn't mention the nativity. The lyrics are great, nonetheless--a kind king helping the poor at Christmas time.

7. The Little Drummer Boy
I just adored this song as a little girl. It is so sweet and always gets me thinking about what I could give the King! It has been a huge hit for many recording artists. Interestingly, one of the biggest has been the Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet. It doesn't get much weirder than that combo, does it? Oh, wait, it does. That duet was actually old Bing's biggest hit since his famous "White Christmas"!

6 . Deck the Halls
This was another childhood favorite. Cookie and I loved to dance around the ottoman in our living room while my mom played it on the piano. And, yes, there is video footage.

5. O, Come All Ye Faithful
I still get goose bumps when I hear Perry Como sing "Sing choirs of angels...." and by the time he starts singing "Adeste Fideles" in Latin the goose bumps have usually turned into tears. Another childhood favorite.

4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
I'm beginning to see a trend here, but most of these songs have been favorites for a very long time. I can't remember a time that I didn't listen to the Notre Dame Chamber Choir sing this around Christmas.

3. The Holly and the Ivy
This actually is a more recent favorite. The holly blossom as white as lily flower. The holly berry as red as any blood. The holly prickle as sharp as any thorn. The holly bark as bitter as any gall. The symbolism. The appeal to the senses. The lyrical journey from the manger to the foot of the cross. And the tune is beautiful, which can't hurt.

2. Ding Dong Merrily On High
I just love this song. It is so MERRY. I won't pretend to know what half the lyrics mean (um, matin chime?). Apparently, according to website referenced above, this song is loved by children because of the onomatopoeia (yes, I didn't think I had touched on literary devices enough yet in this post) and the "breathless state achieved when singing 'Gloria...'".

1. Go Tell It On The Mountain!
Probably my all time favorite Christmas song, ever. To the point that I get withdrawal and need to listen to it at other times of the year. When I was halfway decent at playing the guitar, I would start up with playing this about mid September. Simon and Garfunkle (who are also a favorite) have a great rendition that I just stumbled across--it's number 41 on my playlist on the right. I also love James Taylor's version. Or, anytime black people sing it. Or anytime. Ever.

When I was a sinner
I prayed both night and day
I asked the Lord to aid me
And He showed me the way.

Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and ev'rywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born

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