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The History of Christmas Music

Christmas is considered a time for universal love, hope and happiness. For those rooted in the Christian faith, they consider this as a time to look back on the time their Saviour was born and would then bring salvation to all mankind. As Erma Bombeck put it, it’s a time for the adults to become children too. Rather than worry themselves sick over last minute shopping and huge expenditures, it ought to be a time when all they care about is the joy of the season.

Other than the hectic Christmas activities, the Christmas Carols make the season worth celebrating. Christmas music has witnessed a lot of change in theme from the age-old narrations of the Saviour’s birth being announced to a group of shepherds to what it mostly is today. The historic twist in themes around Christian music dates all the way from Louis Armstrong’s Christmas music of the 20th century to the days when tales of Santa Claus began, almost 4 centuries earlier. Most modern Christmas songs are filled with tales of Santa Claus, his reindeer sledge and the bags full of toys.

The advent of Santa Claus-based Christmas songs began in Netherlands and Belgium through one Saint Nicolas. As a favourite of many, he had nicknames such as “Sinterklaas” or “De Goede Sint”, which means “The Friendly Saint”. In commemoration of the friendly saint, celebrations would be held every year on December 6th, whereby people would give gifts to one another. With the rise of the protestant faith in the 16th century, the Christians changed the Sinterklaas-centered celebrations to the birth of the Saviour, “ChristKindl”. In this line, the dates for the same changed from December 6th to the 24th.

In the year 1773, Sinterklaas was changed into “Santa Claus” in the North American British colonies. From the bishop Sinterklaas was birthed the plump Santa Claus in red and white apparel. Close to fifty years later, a book titled, “A New Year’s present, to the little ones from five to twelve” was published in 1821 in New York. “Old Santeclaus”, a poem in the book, brings out the picture of an jolly old man distributing gifts to children while riding on a reindeer sleigh.

The character of St. Nicholas is illustrated further in the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, which is better known today as “The Night before Christmas”. The common characteristics known of Santa are illustrated in the poem including riding in a sleigh, which lands on the roof. Santa then stealthily enters the house through the chimney with a bag full of gift toys. St. Nicolas is portrayed as a chubby, round, happy old man with a nice, round belly which shook in cue with his laughter.

The tale behind most of today’s Christmas songs is indeed worth telling.

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Why not learn more about Music?