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Author Topic: Christmas Carols & Such in Victoreana timespans  (Read 619 times)
Prof Marvel
Zeppelin Captain
United States United States

learn from history, or be doomed to repeat it

« on: December 23, 2018, 10:10:15 am »

Welcome to another edition of Prof Marvel's Rambling Walls Of Text

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols.
They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone
circles. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around the
22nd of December. The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used
to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at
Christmas has really survived.

Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people
Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones. In 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song
called "Angel's Hymn" should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. Another famous early
Christmas Hymn was written in 760, by Comas of Jerusalem, for the Greek Orthodox Church.
Soon after this many composers all over Europe started to write 'Christmas carols'.

However, not many people liked them as they were all written and sung in Latin, a language
that the normal people couldn't understand. By the time of the Middles Ages (the 1200s),
most people had lost interest in celebrating Christmas altogether.

This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi when, in 1223, he started his Nativity Plays
in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or 'canticles' that told the story during
the plays. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but normally they
were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in!
The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries.

The earliest carol, like this, was written in 1410. Sadly only a very small fragment of
it still exists. The carol was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem.
Most Carols from this time and the Elizabethan period are untrue stories, very loosely
based on the Christmas story, about the holy family and were seen as entertaining rather
than religious songs. They were usually sung in homes rather than in churches! Traveling
singers or Minstrels started singing these carols and the words were changed for the local
people wherever they were traveling.

One of the carols that changed like this is 'I Saw Three Ships'.

When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration
of Christmas and singing carols was stopped. However, the carols survived as people still
sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men
called William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages
in England.

Thus, We should all be aware that almost all the modernisch Christmas traditions
are based on the Victorian Christmas Revival - the direct result of
Queen Victoria adopting the traditions of her Spouse and the Love of her Life
Prince Albert ( of Germany). When Victoria was born in 1819, carols were only
sung in a few isolated communities in rural England.

 In pre-industrial England, the Squire and the traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas
(December 26 through January 6)8 were a reality for many. But as they came to the
industrial cities in search of a better life, the old traditions died, and there
was nothing to replace them.

Eric Routley wrote:

    It was not so much the puritan way of life or the puritan religion as that
urbanization, that elevation of commercial values which began to take place in
those ages, and of which puritanism was only one (and a partly unintended) cause,
that nearly killed the carol.

In many ways, Christmas was "reinvented" by authors Washington Irving (USA) and Charles Dickens (England)

Howver, Many attribute the change to Queen Victoria, and it was her marriage to the
German-born Prince Albert that introduced some of the most prominent aspects of
Christmas. In 1848 the Illustrated London News published an illustration of the royal
family celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree, a tradition that was
reminiscent of Prince Albert's childhood in Germany. Soon every home (that could afford it)
in Britain had a tree bedecked with candles, sweets, fruit, homemade decorations
and small gifts.

The Christmas feast has its roots from before the Middle Ages, but it's during the
Victorian period that the dinner we now associate with Christmas began to take shape.
Examination of early Victorian recipes shows that mince pies were initially made from
meat, a tradition dating back to Tudor times. However, during the 19th century there
was a revolution in the composition of this festive dish.

While carols were not new to the Victorians, it was a tradition that they actively
revived and popularised. The Victorians considered carols to be a delightful form
of musical entertainment, and a pleasure well worth cultivating. Old words were
put to new tunes and the first significant collection of carols was published in
1833 for all to enjoy.

When Prince Albert married Queen Victoria, he brought with him German customs.
One such custom was the celebration of Yule, or Yuletide, a winter festival
that emerged from an ancient German pagan religious festival. The customs and
pageantry of Yuletide were mixed with the English celebration of Christmas.
Christmas was now re-invented and included elements such as the evergreen tree,
greenery, exchanging gifts, caroling, and Christmas cards.

Though the tradition of caroling is old, many of the Christmas carols
we sing today did not exist until the late 1800s. Those that were sung
in this time period (with their year of origin) included

Angels from the Realms of Glory (1816),

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabelle
    aka  Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle (1553),

Deck the Halls (1500s),

The First Noel (1600, possibly earlier),

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (1833),

Good Christian Men Rejoice (1837),

The Holly and the Ivy (1600, possibly earlier),

Joy to the World (1839),

O Christmas Tree (1824)  aka O Tannenbaum,

O Come All Ye Faithful or Adeste Fideles (1200s),

O Come, O Come Emmanuel (1100s),

Sing We Now of Christmas or Noël Nouvelet (1400s),

Twelve Days of Christmas (1780),

We Wish You a Merry Christmas (1500s),

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks (1700).

"Silent Night" (1818-63)

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (1840)
"It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" (1846-50)
"O Holy Night" (1847-55)
"Good Kind Wenceslas" (1853)
    BTW, There really was a Wenceslas – Vaclav in Czech – although he was Duke of Bohemia,
    rather than a king. Wenceslas (907–935) was a pious Christian who was murdered by
    his pagan brother Boleslav; after his death a huge number of myths and stories gathered
    around him.

"Angels We Have Heard in High" (1855)
"We Three Kings of Orient Are" (1857)
"Jingle Bells" (1850-59)
"What Child is This?" (1865-71)

"O Little Town of Bethlehem" (1868)

"Away in a Manger: (1885-87)

"Jolly Old St. Nicholas" (late 1800s)

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (1855),

Jingle Bells (1857),

Silent Night aka Stille Nacht (1859),

What Child Is This? (1865).

Then there are the Wassailing songs. Even tho they are now often sung as Christmas Carols
they are acually based on the "New Years" custom of Wassailing in which the wassailers go
door to door, singing and drinking to the health of those whom they visit. It goes back to
pre-Christian fertility rites where the villagers went through apple orchards at mid-winter
singing and shouting loudly to drive out evil spirits, and pouring cider on the roots of
trees to encourage fertility, and often beating the trees with clubs (which actually causes
them to bear more fruit!)

A. H. Bullen writes:

    This custom was kept up till the end of the last century. Brand relates that in 1790
a Cornish man informed him it was the custom for the Devonshire people on the eve of
Twelfth Day to go after supper into the orchard with a large milk-pan full of cyder with
roasted apples in it. Each person took what was called a clayen cup, i.e. an earthenware
cup full of cyder, and standing under each of the more fruitful trees, sung —

    “Health to thee, good apple-tree,
    Well to bear, pocket-fulls, hat-fulls,
    Peck-fulls, bushel-bag-fulls.”

    After drinking part of the contents of the cup, he threw the rest, with the fragments
of the roasted apples, at the trees, amid the shouting of the company. Another song sung
on such occasions was

    “Here’s to thee, old apple-tree,
    Whence thou may’st bud, and whence thou may’st blow,
    And whence thou may’st bear apples enow
    Hats full! caps full!
    Bushel-bushel-sacks full,
    And my pockets full, too, huzza!”

    It is supposed that the custom was a relic of the sacrifice to Pomona [the Roman Goddess of Fruits].

The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon greeting Wæs þu hæl, meaning "be thou hale"
—i.e., “be in good health”. The correct response to the greeting is Drinc hæl meaning
"drink and be healthy".

According to the Oxford English Dictionary waes hael is the Middle English (and hence post-Norman)
spelling parallel to OE hál wes þú, and was a greeting not a toast.

The American Heritage Dictionary, fifth edition, gives Old Norse ves heill as the source
of Middle English waeshaeil.

In Best-Loved Christmas Carols, Clancy and Studwell notes that the custom of wassailing may go back
to the fifth century, although the first mention in print was in 1140; Vortigern, mentioned below,
dates to the early fifth century. Sandys believes that the custom could date to the third century.

So, going back further we find:
Dr. Rickert's mention of "used in pledging" is especially interesting. William Sandys, in his
1853 work Christmas-tide includes the following passages which bear on this theme:

    The wassail bowl, of which the skull of an enemy would thus appear to have formed their
beau idéal, is said to have been introduced by them. Rowena, the fair daughter of Hengist,
presenting the British king, Vortigern, with a bowl of wine, and saluting him with
   “Lord King Wass-heil;”
to which he answered, as he was directed,
   “Drine heile,”
and saluted her then after his fashion, being much smitten with her charms.
The purpose of father and daughter was obtained; the king married the fair cup-bearer,
and the Saxons obtained what they required of him.

    This is said to have been the first wassail in this land; but, as it is evident that
the form of salutation was previously known, the custom must have been much older among
the Saxons; and, indeed, in one of the histories, a knight, who acts as a sort of
interpreter between Rowena and the king, explains it to be an old custom among them.

    By some accounts, however, the Britons are said themselves to have had their wassail bowl,
or lamb’s wool — La Mas Ubhal, or day of apple fruit — as far back as the third century,
made of ale, sugar (whatever their sugar was), toast and roasted crabbs, hissing in the bowl;
to which, in later times, nutmeg was added.

    The followers of Odin and Thor drank largely in honor of their pagan deities; and, when
converted, still continued their potations, but in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Apostles,
and Saints; and the early missionaries were obliged to submit to this substitution, being
unable to abolish the practice, which afterwards degenerated into drinking healths of other
people, to the great detriment of our own.


Since America is and was a melting pot, it all depends on who you are , where you are from,
and what sort of ethnic community you were in.  All through the mid 1800's the Germanic and
Norse (Swede, Norwegian, Finn, and Danes) who settled in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnestoa, Texas
and elsewhere kept up their old traditions which mixed Christmas Traditions  such as the Feast of St. Lucy
.(Lucy, whose name means 'light' is the patron saint of the blind,  where the Eldest girl in a Scandinavian
Family dons a helmet of candles and brings breakfast to the adults)  with Yule traditions,
including the Yule goat (Julbocken), which somehow transmorphed from being Thor's Chariot Goat
into a goat ridden by Father Christmas when distributing gifts.

Many of the American Traditions, tho were influenced by Jolly old England.

(much of this was shamelessly borrowed from several interweb tomes. no original documents were harmed)

prof mumbles

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~~~~~Professor Algernon Horatio Ubiquitous Marvel The First~~~~~~
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