Each year, as the days grow shorter and temperatures a little colder, we begin to experience a sense of anticipation and excitement, as the holidays draw near. ‘Tis the season for delicious smells, heart-warming sights, and joyful sounds; no other time of year is as filled with musical celebrations and good will, when even strangers come together and raise their voices in song!
The practice of singing special hymns and songs to celebrate Christ’s nativity surely date to the earliest house churches, and in fact, many were adapted from pagan songs celebrating the Winter Solstice and other pre-Christian festivals. In 129 AD, a Roman Bishop decreed that a new, specially composed song known as the “Angel’s Hymn” to be sung at the Christmas services in Rome. Another famous early Christmas Hymn was written in 760AD, by Comas of Jerusalem, for the Greek Orthodox Church.
As the church’s liturgy continued to develop, Christmas songs were gradually replaced by Latin hymns and Gregorian chant.
It wasn’t until 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi began presenting his Nativity Plays in Italy that the common folk were once again encouraged to sing songs and ‘canticles’ in honor of the season. In contrast to the slow-moving, monotonous sound of religious chant, these new “canticles” had popular melodies that were easy to sin