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  • Chris Anderson

A Brief History Of Christmas Carols

As we approach the festivities of December I thought we’d take a look at the history of Christmas Carols which dates back many centuries and has evolved over time.


  • Early Christian Hymns:

  • The tradition of singing during festive seasons, including Christmas, can be traced back to ancient times. Early Christians sang hymns and songs as part of their worship.

  • Medieval Carols:

  • During the medieval period, the word "carol" was associated with a dance accompanied by singing. Carols began to take on a more festive and celebratory tone and were often performed during various celebrations, including Christmas.

  • 16th Century: Reformation Influence:

  • With the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, there was a shift in the way religious music was perceived. Martin Luther, a key figure in the Reformation, encouraged congregational singing. This led to the creation of hymns and carols that could be sung by the public.

  • 17th Century: Rise of Popular Carols:

  • Many of the Christmas carols we are familiar with today began to emerge in the 17th century. Composers like John Francis Wade and Charles Wesley wrote hymns that became popular during the Christmas season.

  • 18th and 19th Centuries: Carol Revival:

  • The 18th and 19th centuries saw a revival of interest in Christmas carols. Composers like Isaac Watts and William Sandys collected and published traditional carols, preserving them for future generations.

  • Victorian Era: Carolling Tradition:

  • The Victorian era played a significant role in shaping our modern celebration of Christmas, including the tradition of carolling. Many of the popular carols we know today, such as "Silent Night" and "O Holy Night," originated during this time.

  • 20th Century: Commercialisation and Globalisation:

  • With the advent of recording technology and radio, Christmas carols became more accessible to a wider audience. The commercialisation of Christmas also contributed to the popularity of carols, and they became an integral part of the holiday season.

  • Contemporary Era: Diverse Interpretations:

  • In the contemporary era, artists from various genres have created their own interpretations of Christmas carols. From traditional renditions to modern adaptations, Christmas carols continue to evolve and remain a cherished part of the holiday season.


Throughout history, Christmas carols have served as a way for communities to come together, celebrate the joy of the season, and share the story of Christmas through music. They have become an enduring tradition that transcends cultural and religious boundaries.

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