Carols: Did you know … ?

‘Tis the season! It’s the time of year when we try to forget about politics, problems and pandemics, and simply enjoy the music – namely, carols.

A carol is actually a song of joy or mirth. Today they’re usually religious, but they don’t have to be. In fact, the earliest carols were pagan songs. Here are a few more fun facts about this festive form of music!

Loosey-goosey lyrics

We tend to think of song lyrics as being pretty standard, but it wasn’t always that way. Back when traveling minstrels sang carols, they changed the words for the audience in each locale.

And there were multiple versions of many songs, anyway. Sometimes “Three Ships Come Sailing By” (a.k.a. “I Saw Three Ships”) was about Jesus on Christmas morning, and sometimes it was about pretty girls on New Year’s Day.

Secret songs

Oliver Cromwell is said to have been a real stick in the mud who “cancelled” Christmas in the mid-17th century. It was actually the English Parliament that outlawed Christmas festivities. Quite a few Protestants of the time felt that holiday celebrations had become too debauched.

Luckily, some people kept their traditions alive in secret until carols were revived in Victorian times.

A plea for peace

The classic carol “Do You Hear What I Hear” was actually written as a prayer for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Noel Regney, a musician and WWII veteran, was asked by a record producer to write a holiday song. As someone all too familiar with the horrors of war, the crisis was very much on his mind. Noel was inspired to write the song’s lyrics when he spotted two mothers strolling down the street with their babies. His wife, Shayne, then composed the accompanying music. Read the full story here.

Don’t forget the dreidels

Some popular Christmas carols have been written by Jewish composers: “Let it Snow” by Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne; “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” co-written by Mel Torme; and “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin, to name a few. But there are also a few Chanukah carols out there for our enjoyment:

We wish you all a musically rich holiday season!