Heap on more wood!--the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We'll keep our Christmas merry still.
(Sir Walter Scott, Marmion)
Some might call me a Christmas music snob. I consider myself a devout purist. Years ago I set aside Frosty and Rudolph in favor of holiday tunes of an ancient variety embraced by our ancestors. Christmas revelers in 16th century Europe sang a mixture of religious and pagan hymns at Yule tide, none of which included “Do They Know It’s Christmastime at All?” or any references to Comet, Cupid, Donder or Blitzen.
Before you call me a humbug, let me say that I absolutely love Christmas music. It’s just that the music that warms me most at Christmas time is that of the oldest carols. These songs roll back the centuries and connect us to our ancestors, who huddled around fires and roasted the last fatted pig to get themselves through the winter. And so in the spirit of merriment I present to you the best Christmas carols you’ve never heard. So give yourself a break from Justin Bieber’s rendition of “Let it Snow” and indulge your ears with these ancient melodies. I made all of these youtube videos myself so it’s safe to click on them. Merry Christmas!
Célébrons la Naissance, 16th century French carol
Riu Riu, 16th century Catalan (Spanish) hymn
Anuna, Celtic Origins
Il Est Ne, Le Divin Enfant, 17th century French carol
(Sometimes heard in English as “He is born, the holy child”)
Diane Taraz, Hope! Says the Holly
Gaudete, 16th century Latin carol, believed to have originated in Scandinavia
The Boar’s Head Carol, 15th century English
(This one was in my mother’s piano book but I’ve never heard it played in the USA)
The Cheiftans, Bells of Dublin