Haley O'Brien: Centuries-old Christmas carols about more than the holiday

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— Christmas season is often signaled by the change in music on the radios; the day after Thanksgiving (and even sooner), music in stores and radio stations play songs that we somehow know all the words to. "Winter Wonderland" and "Let it Snow" are some of the classics; then there are songs with a new age twist, like "All I Want for Christmas is You."

Songs sung in the winter solstice originated from countrymen. Christians took this idea and began singing Christian songs that replaced pagan ones. St. Francis of Assisi started plays where the chorus would sing songs to the audience, which was able to freely join in. Early Christmas carols (meaning to dance around or sing with joy) began around the 1400s. By the 15th century, these songs were considered art and were written for a trio or quartet to sing, still themed on religion. Caroling faded in the 16th century but picked up again in the 18th century, when most of the common carols that we are familiar with originated.

Today, more than the religion influences our culture's holiday tunes - the season in which the holiday falls, winter, has been its own theme in itself. Songs associated with the winter season, such as "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow" and "Winter Wonderland," never mention Christmas, but sing of winter adventures and the peace of graceful snowfalls. We have associated these tunes so often with Christmas music that they're infrequently played after the holiday season ends.

As songs were not written about religion, many were not written about the Christmas season at all. "Linus and Lucy," from the cartoon Charlie Brown, became a Christmas song because of its feature in A Charlie Brown Christmas; "Baby it's Cold Outside" was played throughout all seasons in the 1960s. "Winter Wonderland," made famous by Louis Armstrong, which never refers to Christmas at all, has recently gained popularity.

Nevertheless, Christmas music has for centuries brought joy and happiness to those who listen. Its fusion of modern and traditional themes keep all audiences entertained and prepare those for the upcoming celebrations of winter.

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