"'But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.'"
Country Focus: Italy
Tradition: Christmas Carols
Activity: Have a Christmas Caroling Party!
Materials: Christmas Carol Lyrics and goody bags filled with treats
Directions: Pick some friends and some music. Take some of your goody bags and visit your neighbors. For a bit of added fun, you could dress in festive outfits.
A Christmas carol is a special hymn with lyrics written specifically to celebrate Christmas. This makes it a little different than other hymns. They are also different from Christmas or winter songs since they are written to celebrate the birth of Christ, and not just to celebrate the season.
Although the word, carol or carole is French, it is believed that Saint Francis of Assisi was the first to introduce carols into formal worship in 1223. The practice of singing carols during Christmas Eve midnight mass continued until the Reformation. In some Protestant churches, carols were not sung, although that is not true of Lutheran churches. Martin Luther authored some carols and encouraged his congregation to use carols in their worship.
During the early Renaissance, wandering minstrels would go from home to home singing carols. They entertained the home owners in hopes of getting a treat or hot drink. Watchman sitting on the city wall were also often heard singing carols as a way to pass the time. Carols were also sung at Christmas fairs, which were village festivals that included food vendors, singing, and dancing. This may be when the name carol was added to the songs, since the word carol means circle-dance.
Some famous Christmas carols and their authors...
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley
O Come All Ye Faithful by John Francis Wade
Away in a Manger finished by James R. Murray
Joy to the World by Isaac Watts
The First Noel edited by William B. Sandys
If you are looking for the lyrics to some Christmas carols to sing with your friends, you can check out Christmas-Carols.net. Have fun! And stay warm!