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

Just Posted

Clearview Public Schools invites nominations for the Clearview Award of Merit and the Clearview Star Award

Full details can be obtained through Clearview’s web site or from central office in Stettler

County opens 2020 with first wave of public engagement sessions

The County is asking ratepayers what they think about various topics

Multiple items discussed during first Town of Castor council meeting of 2020

Council has passed Bylaw 1071, the ‘Operational Borrowing Bylaw.’

School buses operated by Clearview Public Schools will not be in service on Thursday, Jan. 16th

Buses will not operate for morning and afternoon services, as well as any planned field trips

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Sylvan Lake RCMP seek assistance in locating missing male

Mark Crier, 17, was last seen in Sylvan Lake on Jan. 13

UPDATE: Supreme Court dismisses B.C.’s appeal in Trans Mountain pipeline case

Judges decide whether B.C.’s power to protect environment can include impeding a federal project

Alberta says universities over-budget; need to freeze travel, hiring, hosting

Demetrios Nicolaides says spending is not meeting expectations

Over 16,000 people nabbed by RCMP between border crossings in 2019

In 2019, 63,830 claims were filed, up from 55,040 in 2018

Iran must compensate crash victims’ families, Canada-led group agrees

‘We are judging Iran every day, demand by demand,’ says Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne

Beer-league hockey player awarded $700,000 for body check that caused head injury

Ontario court rules in a March 2012 incident in which a 36-year-old hit his head on the ice

Most Read