The Merry Tradition of Christmas Caroling

“Christmas Carol Singing Revival.” Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 11, 1919.

Christmas carols have been sung for hundreds of years, first as hymns in churches and then performed all around town. Have you ever sung a carol in front of your neighbor’s door?

In the early 1800s, hymns, including many songs for Christmas, were published in books that were readily available to the lay person outside of churches. This made singing Christmas carols more popular. There was a revival of caroling in the early 1900s in cities and towns all across the United States including Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia. Events were advertised and described in detail in newspapers across the country. In Detroit, caroling was revived as a way to raise money for children’s charities (Omaha Daily Bee, December 18, 1919).

Newspapers helped to continue this tradition by further promoting it and by even printing the music for many popular carols in their pages. Here you can enjoy the music and lyrics to “Silent Night” and “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen,” in addition to the lyrics for “The First Noel” from the Midland Journal.

“The Christmas Carol: Pleasing Revival of an Old-Time Custom.” Midland Journal (Rising Sun, MD), December 4, 1925.

The Evening Star even published an entire booklet of carols which you can find and print from our website Chronicling America.  The booklet includes such classic songs as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” and more!

“The Evening Star Christmas Carols: National Song Service.” Evening Star (Washington, DC), December 24, 1926.

The traditional “Silent Night” can also be found published in German, “Stille Nacht,” in a number of newspapers.

“Christmas Mummeries and Christmas Songs.” New-York Tribune (New York, NY), December 20, 1914.

To learn more about the Christmas carol revival and to find additional carols in the pages of historic newspapers, take a look at our guide “Topics in Chronicling America – Christmas Carols.”

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