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Christmas Songs

Christmas Songs - Many Christmas carols have unique stories. In honor of Christmas Day and the tunes that have moved us for ages, here are the stories behind the words of some of our favorite carols, as researched by Dale V. Nobbman and Ronald Clancy:

"Hark the Herald Angels Sing"

Words: Charles Wesley (brother of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church), 1739.

Scripture reference: Micah 5:2, Luke 2:14.

Wesley wrote more than 6,500 hymns. His "Hymn for Christmas Day," as it was originally called, was not placed with music until 1855 -- 116 years after he wrote it. Composer Felix Mendelssohn created the score in 1840, intending it as a march to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the printing press. But in 1855 William Hayman Cummings, an organist in England, paired Wesley's poem with Mendelssohn's arrangement, creating "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." At the time, Mendelssohn was unhappy with the pairing, Clancy said.

Christmas Songs

"But, if he were living today, he probably would not be so displeased," Clancy said.

"O Holy Night"

Words: Placide Chappeau de Roquemaure. Music: Adolphe Charles Adam, 1847.

Scripture reference: Luke 2:7

First performed at Christmas Eve midnight Mass in 1847, the hymn "Cantique de Noel" was criticized by the church for "lack of musical taste and total absence of the spirit of religion," Nobbman wrote in his book. And Chappeau, a part-time poet, would eventually disown the lyrics and his Catholic faith, Clancy said. In 1855, John Sullivan Dwight translated the hymn from French to English.

Christmas Songs


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