Everything you need to know about Christmas Songs
As soon as Thanksgiving is done, the signal is given, and Christmas music takes over every available platform. Multiple routes of exposure exist. When Christmas music suddenly seems to be everywhere, it may be a source of happiness for some. The familiar songs and standards we grew up with blend together to provide a pleasant Christmas soundtrack. Where did we come from, though? In spite of our society’s seeming fixation with seasonal music, its historical roots are hardly discussed. We’ll be delving into the history of Christmas music in this piece.
Carols have been around the longest out of all the many genres of Christmas music. Certain examples may be traced back to the 12th century in Europe, most specifically France, Italy, and Germany. Several well-known Christmas songs, like “Silent Night” and “O Christmas Tree,” have their roots in Germany.
Many of the songs performed at Francis of Assisi’s church in the 13th century were recorded by the Italian monk and preacher. When anything is put into writing, it becomes accessible to a wider audience. As a result, Italians all around the country started singing Christmas songs. Though Assisi is now revered as a saint, the impact of his involvement with Christmas songs is debatable.
The majority of Christmas carols have secular roots. Rather, these were traditional melodies and hymns that praised the beauty of winter. There were danceable versions of several tunes. As with a carousel, which rotates in a circle, the original meaning of the term carol is to dance in a ring. At Christmastime in the 1400s, an English clergyman and poet named Jon Audely compiled a collection of 25 songs. The 25 carols collected by Audely were sung in churches throughout England, leading to an increase in their popularity and the number of people who knew them.
At some point, individuals got together to go door-to-door singing Christmas songs. The carolers would offer a sip from a bowl of cider in return for a little gift. It would seem that this was tolerated at the time. But in any case, it was these caroler types who first established the stereotype that has since become ubiquitous in media.
A pair of enterprising folklorists in the 17th and 18th century compiled and published songbooks containing carols from all around England. Therefore, the popularity of carols increased. English songs were among the cultural artifacts carried by emigrants to North America. Even many hundred years later, the custom is still practiced. Holiday carols have become an indelible element of the Christmas season and the holiday season at large.
Christmas Music of the Classical Genre
Despite the fact that carols were unquestionably the people’s songs, classical composers also contributed to the Christmas music canon. Christmas music by composers such as Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, and Bach is a staple of the holiday season. Handel may have composed “Joy to the World” as well as the timeless “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night.”
Lots of these pieces were commissioned by churches and were meant to be played during services, provided there was a good organ and a skilled organist. Some of these songs, like carols, originated in local traditions. Mykola Leontovych, who composed “Carol of the Bells,” was heavily influenced by a traditional Ukrainian carol.
Attending a symphony concert around Christmastime became a custom in certain countries, and orchestras still do so today.
While the popularity of modern Christmas music continued to grow throughout the 1800s, the style itself remained mostly unchanged. A resurgence of sorts in Christmas music occurred between both the 30s and the 50s. These songs celebrated secular elements of Christmas, such Santa Claus, the Tree, and snowflakes, instead of the religious significance of the season. Pop artists rather than random individuals singing them on the sidewalk or in religious choirs.
Christmas Music in America
The popularity of Christmas music in the United States rose dramatically in the nineteenth century, after it had been brought over to the country by immigrants. All the Christmas customs we enjoy today in the United States were introduced to the continent by Moravian and Protestant Germans in the middle to late 1700s.
A new generation of American-penned Christmas carols emerged during the Great Depression Era of the 1930s, with lyrics that increasingly distanced themselves from the religious significance of the holiday while also including Western motifs. Songs like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” that were popular in the United States were mostly written with children in mind. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and “White Christmas” exposed the globe to the modern setting of Christmas music. Improved technology during the Great Depression made it possible for individuals to enjoy music beyond the stage concerts, ushering in the “Golden Age” of Christmas music.
War was almost over by the middle of the twentieth century. Songs like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and others were penned at a period when many were yearning for happier times and reunions more than ever. Songs from this album quickly became popular requests on military radio and USO programs.
Songwriters started penning tunes and giving them to well-known artists to perform in an effort to update the Christmas canon and make it more relevant. One of the first to popularize a brand-new Christmas tune was Judy Garland. She achieved this by premiering the brand-new song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in her 1944 production “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Popular artists like Nat King Cole as well as the King Cole Trio released their own item “The Christmas Song” not long after, while “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” had its cinematic premiere in “Neptune’s Daughter.” The dominance of rock & roll a few years later rendered many of these releases obsolete.
Current Christmas Music
The introduction of Elvis Presley’s Christmas record in 1957 brought a new sound to traditional holiday tunes. John Lennon and Yoko Ono tried their hand at writing a Christmas song with the politically charged “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” in response to the Vietnam War. 1980s pop-rock influenced Christmas music.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, pop music dominated the holiday music scene. At the same time, holiday albums by N*Sync, Britney Spears, and Mariah Carey were released, all of which included new takes on traditional carols.
The title track from Mariah Carey’s Christmas album in 1994, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” is now considered a classic Christmas song. It has been called “one of the few decent contemporary contributions to the Christmas repertoire” by “The New Yorker,” who have also praised this song. Although the song was barely unknown when it was first released, it has consistently charted every year since then in countries all over the globe. One of the most popular and well-known Christmas songs, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” has also been turned into an animation holiday musical movie, which has moved on to break three Guinness World Records.
There will always be new Christmas music written, and maybe you have what it takes to write the next huge hit right now.