What would Christmastime be without Christmas music? Whether it’s Christmas carols or popular Christmas songs, the music of Christmas is forever linked to the holiday season.
But how did we get here? In this article, we explore the origins of some of your favorite Christmas music.
The Beginning: Medieval Christmas Hymns
The oldest Christmas hymn that is still sung is “Veni redemptor gentium” (“Come, Redeemer of the nations”) written in the fourth century by St. Ambrose of Milan. This Latin-language hymn about the divinity of the Holy Trinity haunts listeners with its beauty.
The Birth of the Christmas Carol
English-language Christmas carols first appeared in 1426, thanks to English chaplain John Audelay. While much of his work is lost to time, his 25 Caroles of Cristemas have survived. These would be sung by groups of wassailers traveling from house to house.
The 19th Century: Carols for the Commoner, Gift Giving, and Santa
During the 1800s, it became common for homes to have a piano or an organ. The demand for Christmas music that could be played in the home led to the creation of some of the most iconic carols. Here are three that are still popular today.
Silent Night | Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818
O Holy Night | Placide Cappeau, 1843
O Little Town of Bethlehem | Phillips Brooks, 1868
Also, at the heart of the Victorian era, the commercial side of Christmas was invented. Christmas carols started to include references to gift giving and Santa Claus, and the end of the century brought the traditions we’re familiar with, such as businesses closing on Christmas Day and decorating trees.
Up on the Housetop | Benjamin Hanby, 1864
Jolly Old St. Nicholas | Emily Huntington Miller, 1865
The Great Depression: The Start of the Golden Era of Classic Christmas Songs
During the Great Depression and through World War II, America saw an explosion of secular Christmas songs. This included, for the first time, Christmas music aimed at children.
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town | J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, 1934
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer | Johnny Marks, 1939
Also, some of the most beloved Christmas crooners of the time — such as Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra — had classic Christmas hits.
White Christmas | Irving Berlin, 1942
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas | Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, 1944
The Reason for the Season
Even though Christmas music has changed over the centuries, connecting with family and friends has not. Hearing loss makes it difficult not only to enjoy the music of the season but also to connect with loved ones, potentially making the holidays very isolating. If you or someone you love has hearing loss that necessitates the need for captioning, consider CaptionCall to help them feel included this season.