As much as I enjoy hearing and making music at Christmas time, some folks tell me they get awfully tired hearing Christmas carols from mid-November to New Years Eve. But you bah-humbuggers will be happy to know that when carols were introduced more than a thousand years ago, some folks didnt want to hear them at all.
Perhaps if the early carols hadnt begun as dances - the word "carol" once meant "to dance in a ring," and they hadn't been set to secular tunes, the church hierarchy wouldnt have denounced their use. And maybe, a few centuries later, if carolers hadnt reminded Abbot Aelred of Rievaulx of "womens voices and neighing horses," the carols wouldnt have been removed from the church or reintroduced as interludes between acts of plays.
There is even a story from Chester, England, that these carol-interludes became so popular one audience beat the actors and wrecked the stage because they liked the carols better than the play.
Eventually more carols were heard even in churches. But with the rise of the Puritan movement in the 17th century, Christmas festivals became linked to pagan winter rites, and once again good Christian men could no longer rejoice in good conscience with their seasonal songs.
Carol singing as we know it didnt become widespread until well into the 19th century when musicologists and folk song lovers began jogging memories of the elderly and listening to them sing their favorite carols. Through those personal contacts, plus searching church and music libraries, they were able to compile many of the carol collections still in use today. It was also in the 19th century that composers like George Frederick Handel, Felix Mendelssohn, and Ralph Vaughan Williams added their music to several existing carol texts.
So, how well do you know your favorite Christmas songs? Would you still recognize them if all their titles were listed in synonyms instead of their original words and phrases? I came across just such a list the other day and thought Id share them.
There is no reward for getting all of them right, but if you e-mail me your answers, Ill print the names of our thesaurus experts next along with the correct answers.
1. Move hitherward the entire assembly of those who are loyal in their belief.
2. Listen, the celestial messengers produce harmonious sounds.
3. Nocturnal time span of unbroken quietness.
4. An emotion excited by the acquisition of good given to the terrestrial sphere.
5. Embellish the interior passageways.
6. Exalted heavenly beings to whom hearkened.
7. Small municipality southeast of Jerusalem.
8. Diminutive, masculine master of skin-covered, percussionistic cylinders.
9. Omnipotent supreme being who elicits respite to ecstatic, distinguished males.
10. Obese personification fabricated of compressed mounds of minute crystals.
11. Yuletide celebration devoid of color.
12. In awe of the nocturnal time span characterized by religiosity.
13. Proceed forth declaring upon a specific geological alpine formation.
14. Jovial Yuletide desired for the second person singular or plural by first person plural.
15. Tintinnabulation of vacillating pendulums in inverted, metallic, resonant cups.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local, free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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