T'is The Wassailing Season
Carols, now a regular feature of most church services during the Advent and Christmas seasons, didn’t make their way into religious services until late in the 19
century. The first example of English Christmas Carols appears around 1426. However, at this time they were not considered religious enough to be sung in church. Carols were the province of wassailers – villagers or townsfolk who went from house to house singing in return for a wassail bowl of ale. Carols were communal folk songs – street, field, and alehouse songs, often quite bawdy, sung at times such as harvest as well as Christmas. The modern practice of caroling in public places harkens back to this earlier tradition.
With the publication of Christmas music books, the craze for singing carols in church went viral – in a 19
century sense of that word. As we move into the 20
century many church composers and musicians were encouraged to write in the carol form as well as research and revive older carols. Examples abound - Christ Was Born on Christmas Day, I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing By, Good King Wenceslas, Good Christian Men Rejoice, and the showstopper of many a Christmas Eve celebration Adeste Fidelis (O Come All Ye Faithful) - were added to the standard repertoire. In fact, nearly all the popular carols we sing today in church derive from 19
century popularization of earlier carols or 20
This coming Sunday at 3:00 pm we will continue the older tradition of carols in the third year of our annual carol sing-along event. Held in the Great Hall and not in the Church, this is a community, rather than a religious, occasion. Invite neighbors and friends so they can celebrate the season with our St. Martin's community. As you can see from my picture above, there are even special clothes for me to wear to suit this occasion!
I joked in the Sunday announcements that this is an event we can invite others to without fearing the suspicion of wanting to convert them, which seems to still be the major fear for Episcopalians when mentioning they go to church. Last year the Great Hall was filled to capacity with families, groups of friends and neighbors, all singing heartily.
We hope this year’s carol sing-along will be every bit as good as last year’s, if not better. So, I hope to see as many of you, with friends and neighbors in tow, as are able to be here on Sunday at 3:00 pm. Singing is hungry-making work and the carol sing-along will be followed, not by bowls of ale (unfortunately), but by equally delicious Christmas goodies and drink.
See you there or be square!
Also, see you in Church for Advent 3.