As you prepare the tree, deck the hall, bake the cookies, and wrap those special presents I invite you to fill the hall with glorious Christmas music. With this holiday comes traditions and history that date back before Christianity!
For instance, ancient Druids believed that decorating their dwellings with holly would protect them from the rigors of winter. The early Greeks and Romans sent holly boughs and gifts to their friends as a token of their friendship. Consequently, today we enjoy the carol The Holly and the Ivy as well as the joy of giving gifts.
Ancients held nature in great reverence. According the Julian calendar, December 25 marked the winter solstice and was observed by pagans as the birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The Romans spent the last two weeks of December paying tribute to Saturn, their god of agriculture. The Teutonic tribes of Northern Europe feasted and drank in honor of the supreme deity, Wodin, during “Yuletide.” Early Christians dovetailed these celebrations and marked the evergreen as a symbol of ever-lasting life in the celebration of Christ’s birth.
The Christmas season brings the entire world together with traditions coming from every corner: Chestnuts from Great Britain, the Christmas tree from Germany, and the crèche from Italy. And the songs have an equally varied historical basis: Jingle Bells and We Three Kings of Orient Are from the US, O Holy Night and The First Noel from France, What Child is This? from England, Silent Night from Austria. The list goes on and on. Take the time to explore your favorite carol. Allow it to impact your love for the tune.
To add to the interest of the Christmas Carol Season take your favorite carol’s melody and design a variety of interesting accompaniments. Most carols use very basic harmonic structure. Play around with simple tonic and dominant harmonies with creative accompaniment patterns.
Enjoy a Merry Christmas with music as an integral part of your preparations and celebration! For a little Christmas trivia fun enjoy the following carol quiz.
1. Name the Christmas Carol that begins with a descending major scale.
2. Name the Christmas Carol that begins with an ascending major scale.
3. Name the carol that was first sung with guitar accompaniment because the organ was broken.
4. Name the Christmas character that was created as an advertisement for Montgomery Ward in 1939.
5. Name the carol that dates back to Henry VIII and is originally known as Greensleeves.
6. Name the carol that was composed for Sunday school students in Medford, Massachussetts in 1857.
7. Name the carol made written by a Jewish composer and made famous by Bing Crosby.
(Answers: 1. Joy to the World, 2. The First Noel, 3. Silent Night, 4. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, 5. What Child is This?, 6. Jingle Bells, 7. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas)