Christmas Tips & Fun

Learn interesting, unusual, unique and useful facts and tips about Christmas and the winter holiday season, in America and around the world.

Music of Christmas

Who gets credit for the earliest Christmas carols?


ome say it was Pope Saint Telesphorus, who was the seventh Pope after Saint Peter and who served early in the second century AD. He is credited with many innovations in early Christianity including celebrating Easter on Sunday instead of tying it more literally to the calendar-based Jewish Passover. It was Saint Telesphorus who also encouraged his flock to sing what is now the Gloria In Excelsis or Angels Song at Christmastime.

As it was sung back then, however, it wasn’t much of a song but more of a chant or plainsong.

It most likely took another thousand years for melody to play a more important part in the Christmas service. That’s when Francis of Assisi led his 13th century followers in singing songs of praise to the Christ Child as they celebrated the Nativity. St. Francis is credited with having a "jovial singing" voice.

The idea of joyful carol singing had its ups and downs as it was promoted by Church elders and then banned by conservative reformers. The Puritans, as an example, were definitely not fond of the pagan origins of "celebrating" Christmas and banned carol singing and other forms of outward display in America in the 17th Century. It wasn’t until the publication of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that the celebratory nature of the spirit of Christmas took hold in Mid-Victorian England and then spread rapidly to America.

Written by Dianne Weller
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