A little bit of Christmas cheer falls to the strength of song

PARKES, in company with a few other towns throughout Australia, has found a way to keep its shoppers happy in the days before Christmas.

Loudspeakers around the central business district have been playing Christmas carols.

The sounds have encouraged shoppers to embrace the Christmas spirit.

Whether they spent more was, no doubt, a side issue, but it's an idea that other country towns might think of embracing, if they haven't done so already.

I have in my file of useless information an old newspaper clipping regarding a Jewish man's unsuccessful attempt to stop a school Christmas concert which featured carols.

Carols can be sung at times other than Christmas.

The word can be traced to the Greek choraules, with choros representing dance and aulos meaning flute, or reed instrument.

Carole moved into English in 1300 to represent dancing, with the dancers singing to the music.

Often the dancers formed circles, holding hands, leading some etymologists to suggest a historical connection with the Latin word corolla, meaning little crown or garland. Others dispute this interpretation.

The Oxford Dictionary defines carol as a ring dance with song, hence a song usually with joyous strain, a song or hymn of joy.

It dates the Christmas carol from 1502.

Early Christmas carols were sung in English or Latin and frequently in a mixture of both.

Jingle Bells is one of the better known Christmas songs, but it was not written for Christmas.

It was written to be sung for Thanksgiving.

Medford Historical Society in Massachusetts says it was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1850 in High Street, Medford, under the title of One Horse Open Sleigh.

The society says it was inspired by sleigh races, described in some places as "drag racing", conducted in Medford in the 1800s.

Part of the first verse is:

Dashing through the snow

In a one-horse open sleigh

O'er the fields we go

Laughing all the way.

Part of another verse says:

A day or two ago

I thought I'd take a ride

And soon, Miss Fanny Bright

Was seated by my side.

Pierpont later became music director of the Unitarian Church in Savannah, Georgia.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, was published for the first time on December 19, 1843.

In 1939 Bob May, an employee of the Chicago-based mail order firm of Montgomery Ward, was asked to create a lovable character for a children's Christmas book and, despite his personal problems with a terminally ill wife, he came up with Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Johnny Marks wrote the words of the song in 1949 and Gene Autry made it famous.

Silent Night, Holy Night came about after mice had eaten away part of the bellows at a church in Oberndorf, Austria, in 1818, on the day of the Christmas Eve mass.

Father Josef Mohn asked schoolteacher Franz Gruber to set to music a poem he had written on the theme of Christmas, but it had to be ready for that night.

The two performed the carol that night as a duet with their own guitar accompaniment.

Many quotes exist about Christmas.

Comedian Jay Leno commented that Washington DC didn't have a nativity scene because "they couldn't find three wise men and a virgin".

Did you send Christmas cards this year?

Reports from the United States said the White House sent out 6 million cards.

Regardless of religious affiliation, we should all be able to come together at Christmas and share the goodwill that is so evident in our Christmas carols.

Rejoicing in the beliefs of one group of people does not have to represent an attempt to destroy another group's beliefs.

lbword@midcoast.com.au

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