Fr Ian reflects on Christmas Carols and our faith stories:
Sergeant Frank Naden of the 6th Cheshire Territorials described how he kept Christmas Eve 1914 in the trenches of northern France. “On Christmas Eve fireballs went up from the German lines and we shouted ‘Hurrah’ and ‘Let’s have another’. We sang Christians Awake and other Christmas hymns.’
One Christmas Day, William Brown, of Richmal Crompton’s wonderful William books, rises at 5am and places his family presents at bedroom doors while “singing Christians Awake at the top of his voice.”
Christians Awake isn’t as popular as it was, although we do sing it each Christmas morning at St Chrysostom’s, appropriately too, given it was written in Manchester by a local man of letters, John Byrom.
Even with traditional carols fashions change. Chatterton Dix’s As with gladness is still regularly sung, but what of his once popular Christmas carol Joy fills our inmost heart today? I’ve never heard that sung.
Is there a carol which you seldom hear today which you remember from earlier years? One for me it is the rather eccentric King Jesus hath a Garden, with its ‘paradise bird’ and collection of unusual instruments. I remember it from school days, and it carrys with it for me the association of that time and place. If I were to move hearing Christians Awake will always remind me of Christmas morning at St Chrysostom’s.
Where did you learn the carols of Christmas? Who taught you? What memories return when you hear them?
When we sing a carol this Christmas spend a moment to remember those who in the past helped us give voice to Christmas joy, and be prepared to share your favourite carols with others.