Christmas carols

A history of Christmas Carols for the festive season


Christmas carols are a popular tradition that is followed during the festive season. Everyone follows all the other Christmas traditions of decorating their homes, giving gifts, preparing a Christmas feast and all the other trappings of the season. The tradition of singing Christmas carols was never popular in Goa in the beginning. Not unless you counted on going to someone’s house for a Christmas party and people began singing there.

But that has changed in recent years. In fact, every year, just before Christmas, a big group gathers at the Panjim church square to sing all the Christmas favourites and they sure have a great time doing it. According to one of the organizers, they’ve been doing in for the last 15 years! That is quite an achievement and a fun one at that. Anyone wanting to join them is more than welcome. The only requisites are to wear Christmas colours and hats and bring your singing voice with you.

Christmas carols
They’ve been coming together to sing Christmas carols for the last 15 years!
Image credit – Glynn Silveira

Christmas carols are an excellent tradition but what do we know about their history? Let’s find out.

The History of Christmas Carols

The word ‘carol’ is a medieval word of French and Anglo-Norman origin. It was said to be a song of praise and joy, accompanied by dancing in a circle. But carols weren’t really referred to as Christmas carols in those days. This was because they were mainly pagan songs that were sung at the Winter Solstice which is the shortest day in the year and occurs on 22nd December. Eventually, Early Christians took over the theses celebrations and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones.

No one knows for sure as to when the first carol was written. It is believed that circa 1350 to 1550 is the golden age of English carols. It was during the 14th century that these carols became popular and since then, people all over the world have turned carolling into a much loved Christmas tradition. There was a period in history, around 1647 when the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped. This was a result of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans coming to power in England. However, it didn’t deter people from singing Christmas carols in secret.

The tradition of Christmas carolling was eventually revived once more by the 18th century as this was when many orchestras and choirs were being set up in the cities of England. People wanted Christmas songs to sing and the tradition became popular once more.

Today, the tradition of Christmas carolling is evident in Western countries in Europe and North America. In Goa, besides the group that sings at the Panjim church square, during Christmas week, don’t be surprised if groups turn up at your door singing all your favourite Christmas carols too.

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