Favourite Christmas Carols... what gets your vote?


Christmas Carols are a time honoured tradition... but which is your favourite?

The top four carols sung at All Saints and St Barnabas are:

1. Silent Night

2. In the bleak mid-winter

3. O little town of Bethlehem

4. Hark the herald angels sing

We would love to know if you like these the best, or if you have others that you prefer. Perhaps 'Once in Royal David's City', or 'While Shepherds watched their flocks by night' bring back happy memories of childhood nativities.

Here's a little history about the four popular carols listed above:

Silent night

·         The music for this carol was written in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber with the words by Joseph Mohr, a local catholic priest.  They lived in the small town of Oberndorf bie Salzburg in Austria.

·         The story goes that the church organ was broken due to flooding and so Gruber and Mohr sang this at the frist Christmas Mass, with Mohr on the guitar.  The choire repeated the last 2 lines of each verse as they did so.

·         It was translated into English by John Freeman in 1859.

·         Bing Crosby sold 30 million copies when he sang it in 1953!

·         It was also sung by the English, French and German troops during the Christmas truce in 1914.

·         It has been translated into 300 languages.


In the bleak mid-winter

·         This carol was written by Christina Rossetti as a Christmas poem in 1872 to reflect the quiet heart of Christmas.

·         Gustav Holst composed the music in 1906.

·         Rossetti paints a picture of the dreary and desolate world into which Jesus was born – she used the image of a British winter, which is why we associate snow with Jesus’ birth.

·         The last verse – when a woman wrote these words in 1872, women were largely excluded from professions and higher education.


O little town of Bethlehem

·         This carol was written in 1868 by Pillips Brooks for Sunday school children old and young.

·         In 1865 as a young man Brooks went on pilgrimage from America to Israel and rode on Christmas Eve from Jerusalem to Bethlehem; and it’s believed that this journey with its beauty and simplicity inspired him to write the words.

·         The carol came to England in 1906, with a tune ‘Forest Green’ written by Ralph Vaughan Williams.


Hark! The herald angels sing

·         This carol was written in 1839 by Felix Mendelssohn and was called ‘Hark how the welkin rings, gory to the king of kings’.

·         ‘Welkin’ is an old term for ‘sky’ or ‘heavens’ and it was rumoured that it was changed because only the writer could possibly ever know what that word meant!

·         It was originally called a ‘hymn for Christmas Day’ and was translated by Charles Wesley.

·         There were originally 10 shorter verses.

·         The refrain: ‘Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king’ was added in 1840.

·         The version we sing today is a result of numerous alterations by many individuals to help people understand the meaning of the carol, and the last 4 verses have been removed.


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