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Christmas merrily on high

Christmas merrily on high

Traditional carols are very popular with our residents, with 'Silent Night' being the firm favourite, so we took a look at some of the nation's favourite Christmas carols and the history behind them...



The famous tune we know today was composed in a single afternoon, in time for the Christmas Eve mass that same evening. It went on to become one of the more popular Christmas Carols, and although the original church was destroyed, there now stands in its place a chapel known as the 'Silent Night Chapel' in honour of the composition. brighterkind Christmas Flower

The song was also cause for stopping World War 1 over Christmas in 1914. When German soldiers were heard singing the song, British troops responded by joining in in English. This resulted in troops emerging from the trenches to sing and even play games together, such as football. Fighting resumed on 26th December. 


Ding Dong! Merrily on High is one of the oldest carols on record. The earliest record we have of the song is from 1588, making it at least 428 years old. Its origins however were unrelated to Christmas -  it was a standard tune used for French dances

The sung vowel sound "o" of "Gloria" extends in a florid falling pattern, a technique known as a melisma - one syllable takes no less than 33 notes to sing!


The 12 days of Christmas is the period in Christian theology that marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, the three wise men. It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through January 6 (the Epiphany). 

The origin of the song may have been a 'forfeit game' where the singer has to test their memory and sing all the verses correctly, or suffer some kind of light-hearted forfeit.

In 1979, John Denver released a version of The Twelve Days of Christmas in collaboration with The Muppets as part of a television special John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together. The Muppets have released several versions of the song over the years, most lasting well over four minutes!


This carol is unique amongst Christmas carols for its haunting and melancholy tone. The text was written by Christina Rosseti and first appeared in January 1872.  It's dark tone comes from a time in Rosseti's life when she was very ill with a rare thyroid problem and somewhat depressed. 

One of the intriguing features of the poem is the mention of 'snow' falling at the birth of the baby Jesus. Whether snow was a feature of the climate in the Bethlehem of 2000 years ago is the subject of considerable suspicion - but it's also possible to read it as metaphor or artistic licence.


The English tune owes its connection to composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Vaughan Williams was an avid collector of English folk songs, he would travel from village to village collecting songs wherever he could. One day in Forest Green, Surrey in 1903, he collected a song called "The Ploughboy's Dream" , who, according to Vaughan Williams' manuscript notes, was a "labourer of Forest Green near Ockley – Surrey. ([aged] about 60?)" Vaughan Williams adapted the tune to Brooks' lyrics, and the carol we know and love today (in the UK at least!) was born.


Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” (more commonly known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”) was written by Mel Torme ironically during a summer heatwave in 1945, as an attempt to ‘stay cool by thinking cool’.



To find out more about Christmas in a brighterkind home, click here to view the bright life - Christmas Edition 2021