The birth of Christmas carols

As+traditions+dictates%2C+the+2014+senior+class+enthusiastically+sang+Christmas+carols+to+the+Convent+of+the+Sacred+Heart+community+last+December.%0ACourtesy+of+Cynthia+Thomas+%2716

As traditions dictates, the 2014 senior class enthusiastically sang Christmas carols to the Convent of the Sacred Heart community last December. Courtesy of Cynthia Thomas ’16

As the Christmas season begins, nearly every department store and radio speaker in the country thumps to the beat of a variety of Christmas carols. But, the story behind how these tunes transformed into world-renowned carols spans centuries.
The term carol is a medieval word of French and Anglo-Norman origin, translated as a dance song or circle dance accompanied by singing. Originally, carols were first sung in Europe as pagan songs celebrating the Winter Solstice, according to whychristmas.com.
Nearly 2000 millennia later, Christians gave religious meaning to the original carols. For instance, the origin of the Christmas classic “Silent Night, Holy Night” dates back to the snowy winter of 1818 at St. Nicholas’ Church in Obendorf, Austria.
Mr. Joseph Mohr was the assistant to a local priest needed to provide music for a Christmas ceremony. However, he faced a dilemma when he realized the church organ was broken. To solve his musical drought, he adapted his 1816 poem into lyrics.
Mr. Mohr asked his friend Mr. Franz Gruber to compose music to accompany the poem, and the song was performed Christmas Eve 1818. Centuries later, the harmonic tune remains a world-renowned Christmas carol, according to home.snu.edu.
In addition, another popular holiday song, “Jingle Bells,” was originally titled “The One Horse Open Sleigh.”
Mr. James Pierpont, a Medford, Massachusetts resident, wrote the songs in 1850 as a celebration of the one-horse-open-sleigh races on Salem and Pleasant Streets between Medford Square and Malden Square. He originally wrote the chipper tune in Simpson’s Tavern, a boardinghouse with the only piano in town. Producers Mr. Bruce Gellerman and Mr. Erik Sherman changed the song’s name to “Jingle Bells” two years later, according to americanmusicpreservation.com.
The popular tune “Frosty the Snowman”, written by Mr. Steve Nelson, dates back to Village Square in Armonk, New York in 1950 where Mr. Nelson imagined a snowman dared children to “catch me if you can.”

As traditions dictates, the 2014 senior class enthusiastically sang Christmas carols to the Convent of the Sacred Heart community last December. Courtesy of Cynthia Thomas '16
As traditions dictates, the 2014 senior class enthusiastically sang Christmas carols to the Convent of the Sacred Heart community last December.
Courtesy of Cynthia Thomas ’16

These holiday jingles play an important role in Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Christmas traditions. Every Advent, on the last day of school before winter break, the senior class members don white angel outfits as they gather in the Dubois gymnasium to sing these medleys. Although due to the construction, the caroling will either take place in the theater or outside depending on the weather this year.
Faculty, staff and Upper, Middle and Lower School students surround the seniors as they belt the lyrics to classics including “Silent Night, Holy Night,” “Jingle Bells,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas,and a few more modern songs such as “Jingle Bell Rock.”
Dancing typically accompanies the singing and the rest of the student body joins the festivities.
“This is my fourth and final year at Sacred Heart, so of course I am so excited to finally participate in the Christmas caroling event,” senior Sheila Moran said. “It’s such a great tradition that I’ve loved watching year after year.”
– Katie Nail, News Editor