The origins of Christmas caroling

The festive nature of the holiday season makes it an ideal time to sing, especially in groups

  • Dec. 24, 2019 9:30 a.m.

The festive nature of the holiday season makes it an ideal time to sing, especially in groups.

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that caroling, a tradition that dates back many centuries, ultimately collided with Christmas.

Caroling and Christmas caroling are two different things. According to History.org, the origins of modern Christmas caroling can be traced to wassailing, a term that has evolved for more than a millennium.

What started as a simple greeting gradually became part of a toast made during ritualized drinking. Time magazine notes that the word “wassail,” which appeared in English literature as early as the eighth century, eventually came to mean the wishing of good fortune on one’s neighbors, though no one can say for certain when this particular development occurred.

During medieval times, farmers in certain parts of Britain would drink a beverage to toast the health of their crops and encourage the fertility of their animals.

By 1600, farmers in some parts of Britain were still engaging in this ritual, and some were by now taking a wassail bowl filled with a toasting beverage around the streets.

These wassailers would stop by neighboring homes and offer a warm drink, all the while wishing good fortune on their neighbors.

During this period, wassailing had nothing to do with Christmas, but that began to change in Victorian England, when Christmas became more commercialized and popular.

It was during this time when publishers began circulating carols, forever linking the tradition of wassailing with Christmas.

Christmas caroling as Victorian Englanders knew it might have fallen by the wayside. But while carolers may no longer go door-to-door singing Christmas songs and wishing their neighbors good fortune, those intent on seeing the modern manifestation of this tradition that dates back more than a millenium may be able to find some carolers at their local mall or church.

-Submitted

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

47 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday in Alberta, still 620 active cases

3 active COVID-19 cases remain in Red Deer

PHOTOS: After a two-year hiatus, the Castor & District Museum is open for business

The hours are Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2 until 4 p.m for the duration of summer

COVID-19: Central zone at four active

Alberta confirms 130 cases Monday

Albertans get an extra free order of COVID-19 masks

Packages will be available July 13 at fast food restaurants

Church services set to resume in Castor amidst the pandemic

The province is moving through the phases of reopening

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

Charges dropped against N.S. woman injured during arrest in racial profiling case

Charges dropped against N.S. woman injured during arrest in racial profiling case

Conservative stalwart Scott Reid backing newcomer Leslyn Lewis for leadership

Conservative stalwart Scott Reid backing newcomer Leslyn Lewis for leadership

Planned class-action lawsuit alleges illegal strip-searches of federal prisoners

Planned class-action lawsuit alleges illegal strip-searches of federal prisoners

Two protesters get conditional discharge after Alberta turkey farm demonstration

Two protesters get conditional discharge after Alberta turkey farm demonstration

Daisies bring a sunny look to the garden

Daisies bring a sunny look to the garden

IIHF encouraged by NHL’s potential return to Olympics in ‘22

IIHF encouraged by NHL’s potential return to Olympics in ‘22

Raptors coach Nick Nurse knows attention to family will be key for players

Raptors coach Nick Nurse knows attention to family will be key for players

NFL, NFLPA still haven’t resolved all protocol for camps

NFL, NFLPA still haven’t resolved all protocol for camps

Most Read