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Christmas carol

A Christmas carol is a song or hymn whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas, or the winter season in general. They are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas. The tradition of Christmas carols goes back many years, and often these songs are intended for singing in church, or as part of religious services including Carol services[?], but advisedly not in Christingle[?] services. Some such songs have words which are clearly not on a religious theme, but are often still referred to as carols.

Songs such as White Christmas are clearly not Christmas carols, though are popular in the period before Christmas, and should therefore be considered to be Christmas songs.

Some of the more popular traditional Christmas carols include:

  • "Silent Night" (written by Franz Xaver Gruber)
  • "Away in a Manger"
  • "The First Nowell"
  • "Good King Wenceslas"
  • "The Holly and the Ivy"
  • "I Saw Three Ships"
  • "Ding Dong Merrily on High" ("Gloria in Excelsis Deo")
  • "Adeste Fideles" ("O Come All Ye Faithfull")
  • "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"
  • "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear"
  • "In the Bleak Midwinter"
  • "Boars Head Carol"
  • "Once In Royal David's City"
  • "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem"
  • "Coventry Carol"
  • "While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night"
  • "In Dulci Jubilo"

Carols can be sung by individual singers, but are also often sung by larger groups, including professionally trained choirs. Many churches have special services at which some of the more religious carols are sung, and often these are combined with readings about the birth of Christ, as in the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols[?] at Cambridge. Some of these services also include other music written for Christmas, such as Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols (for choir and harp), or excerpts from Handel's Messiah.

There is also a tradition of performances of serious music relating to Christmas in the period around Christmas, including Handel's Messiah, the Christmas Oratorio[?] (J.S.Bach), Midnight Mass for Christmas (Charpentier), and L'Enfance du Christ[?] (Berlioz).

In England there is a tradition of Christmas carolling (earlier known as wassailling[?]), in which groups of singers travel from house to house, singing carols, for which they are often rewarded with money, mince pies, or a glass of an appropriate drink. Money collected in this way is normally given to charity.

Christmas carols can also be played on musical instruments, and another tradition is for brass bands[?], such as the Salvation Army brass bands, to play carols before Christmas.

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