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The Tradition of Carols


Although all of us know that carols are sung on Christmas, not many know the tradition behind caroling. Caroling is one of the oldest Christmas customs. The word 'carol' comes from the French word 'carole' which means a song that accompanies a dance. In medieval times, carolers would form a circle and dance, singing songs, which is why the term 'carole' was adopted. Every Christmas, in homes across the world, families get together and sing Christmas carols, which are songs about the birth of Christ, the Christmas season and the associated celebrations.

These songs were originally written to accompany Christmas dramas. Now, groups of elders and children go visiting houses, singing carols and collecting money, which is sent to charity. The tradition of carol singers going from door to door came about because people were banned from singing carols in churches in the Middle Ages. Also, sometime between 1647 and 1660, Christmas carols were banned in England by Oliver Cromwell who thought that Christmas should be a solemn day.

The most popular and best selling Christmas song of all time is White Christmas, by Irving Berlin. Around 350 million records and copies of this song were sold. Close behind comes Silent Night, possibly the most enchanting of all Christmas Carols. The carol Silent Night was written in 1818, by Joseph Mohr, an Austrian priest. Every year, on Christmas eve, members of the little church in Austria would sing carols on Christmas eve, to the accompaniment of the church organ. That year, Mohr was told one day before Christmas eve, that the church organ was broken and could not be repaired in time for Christmas Eve. Mohr was naturally greatly upset, as he could not think of Christmas without carols.

He then sat down and decided that he would write a carol that could be sung by the choir, to guitar music. Perhaps it was his love or dedication, but the three verses of Silent Night were since immortalized. They were heard for the first time on the eve of Christmas in 1818, and created a stir. In Australia, carols are popularly sung by candlelight. Christmas falls in the summer in Australia, and an outdoor concert is often held on Christmas Eve in a stadium in Melbourne. Everyone brings their own candles, and people start entering the stadium by around 5. When the sun sets, the audience is told to light their candles.

Essentially, the entire event is a spectacular performance, and the show includes a Santa Claus complete with costume, reindeer et al. Earlier on, entrance would be free, but then as the event gained in popularity and received sponsorship from various television channels, a charge was levied for admission to the event. All profits go to charity. This Midnight Carols by Candlelight show is widely televised throughout Australia and the world. Aussies from across the globe tune in at around 7:30 pm Australian time to catch this much loved show, as they sing along in their homes. New Zealand too has a similar tradition of carols by candlelight, but entrance to the stadiums here is free. Profits are made by the sale of candles. This tradition of carols by candlelight has continued for sixty years!


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