Join us on Wednesday, December 12 at 5:30 PM to go out caroling!
The act of singing and traveling to different homes comes from an ancient tradition. In England, the word wassail — derived from the Old Norse ves heill meaning “be well, and in good health” — came to mean the wishing of good fortune on your neighbors. No one is quite sure when the custom began, but it did give us the song, “Here We Come-A-Wassailing” — sung as carolers wished good cheer to their neighbors in hopes of getting a gift in return. (“A Wassailing” also evolved into the popular “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” — its last verse, “Bring us some figgy pudding” stems from the wassailers’ original intent.)
The two traditions of singing and visiting first merged in Victorian England, as church carols began to merge with Christian folk music. Many of today’s most popular carols date to this period. Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern published in London by British lawyer William B. Sandys in 1833, was the first to print “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “The First Noel” and “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.” “Joy to the World” first appeared in the Anglican Church hymnal Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1861.
Saint Francis Assisi plays a major role in the history of Christmas Caroling, as he is the person who made Christmas Carols an important part of the church services. It is said that Saint Francis Assassi introdced the carols in the church during a Christmas Midnight Mass in a Church in Greccio, in the province of Umbria in 1223 and the songs sung that night were more similar to carols rather than hymns.
Most of the carols tell us a story, it may be about the birth of Jesus Christ or about the tradition of gifts or any other story associated with Christmas. But the common factor among them is that either their themes are related to the festivity of Christmas or they have a religious side to it. Christmas carols provide the opportunity to express the feeling of joy and happiness. So the carols are primarily of a joyful nature.