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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Song History

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas and  Jingle Bells
“Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” is said to be based on the tune from “Jingle Bells.”  Both are said to be loosely based on Pachabel’s Canon in D.  Fun fact about Jingle Bells.  It was not originally a Christmas song at all.  It was written for Thanksgiving.  And, it was originally titled “One Horse Open Sleigh.“  But, since it is about winter fun and could technically be sung all winter, it has been adopted as a Christmas song.

Joy to the World
“Joy to the World” wasn’t originally written as a Christmas song either.   Isaac Watts originally wrote it to celebrate Christ’s return.    It is thought that the melody was written by George Frederick Handel.

We Three Kings
Finally we come to a song written for Christmas.  “We Three Kings” was written for the General Theological Society of New York for their Christmas program.  Ironically, the wise men were not at the stable.  They were on foot and traveled a great distance.  Jesus was probably between one and two when they finally got to him at his house,

Go Tell It On the Mountain
This next song was actually written for Christmas and actually tells of  Christmas events.  It was a spiritual written by slaves.  Spirituals were often sung acapella as an expression of spiritual devotion, as a way to alleviate boredom, and a way to pass on or teach truths.

Good King Wenceslas
“Good King Wenceslas” is based on a true story about a historical figure.  This is actually written about the Feast of St. Stephen (or Boxing Day) which is held on December 26.  Wenceslas went out to share the feast with a man “gathering fuel.”  When the page with him began complaining of the cold and snow, Wenceslas encouraged him to keep going and follow his tracks.    Perhaps we should follow Good King Wenceslas example and give our abundance to those in our path.

Away In A Manger
Some would say “Away in a Manger” was written by Martin Luther, but this is just a fable.  It may have been written to honor the 400th celebration of his birthday.   There happen to be two melodies to these words.  .

Angels We Have Heard on High
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men'" (Luke 2:13-14)
“Angels We Have Heard on High” was translated from a French carol.

Silent Night
“Silent Night” is a Christmas Carol with an interesting history.  It was originally written in Austria (which is my favorite part of Europe BTW)  It has been translated into approximately 140 languages.  It was sung simultaneously in French, English, and German by troops in the Christmas Truce of 1914.
It has been recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Manheim Steamroller, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Boyz II Men, Christina Agiulera, Cee Lo Green,  Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Justin Beiber to name a few.  I challenge you to go home and see how many of your Christmas recordings include “Silent Night.”  I have 14 recordings on different CDs.  I haven't checked my cassette tapes yet.  :)

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas” has become the traditional last song of many Christmas concerts or caroling events.  It is our last song here tonight.  The original carolers of this song came demanding treats.  “Now bring us some figgy pudding”  They weren’t about to leave until they got their treat. “We won’t go until we get some.”  Legend says that if a house did not have a treat for them, they would just take whatever they wanted.  Today, the song is considered much more innocent and usually only one verse is sung/played.  That is the case today and we don’t have any figgy pudding for you.

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Thanksgiving for today
307.  Ice melt
308.  Snuggling with kiddos
309.  Snow boots
310.  Sock puppet plays

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