A New Christmas Carol

I love the old Christmas carols that I grew up singing and listening to on the radio and at church. But a couple of trees ago a new carol was written. To me, it is one of the best conveyors of the Christmas story.

Hope Has a Name.

Hope you enjoy it!

Here We Go Wassailing

Today most of us think of Christmas carols as something we hear on the radio, or we sing at church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services.

However, singing carols in many places used to be more than just singing a song at church. It was a time to connect with neighbors as people would gather together and go from house to house singing Christmas songs.

In doing research on old, unknown Christmas carols I found that it is believed caroling began in the 13th century. Neighbors would sing to one another, and the term used was “wassailing.” The word comes from an Old Norse term that meant “be well and in good health.

In England as neighbors gathered to share songs and wish each other well, they also shared warm drinks. By the 14th century the word “wassail” become associated with the warm drink shared at Christmastime. It is wine, beer or cider with sugar, spices and fruit.

Apparently as the community began to share maybe a bit too much of the wassail the Christmas season became quite a time of parties and drinking (does this sound like us today?) and the Puritans Parliament in England actually outlawed celebrating the holiday in the 1640s and 1650s.

English bishop Hugh Latimer, said that “Men dishonor Christ more in the twelve days of Christmas, than in all the twelve months besides.”

In New England Christmas caroling was condemned by the famous minister Cotton Mather who wrote in 1712 that the “Feast of Christ’s Nativity is spent in Reveling, Dicing, Carding, Masking, and in all Licentious Liberty …by Mad Mirth, by long eating, by hard Drinking, by lewd Gaming, by rude Reveling. . . .”

Growing up my church family often gathered on Christmas Eve and visited the homes of older members who might not be able to attend church services. We would stand outside their homes and sing carols. Sometimes they would invite us in to share a warm drink. When we were missionaries in the Philippines, we were serenaded at Christmas by students at one of the Bible colleges where we taught.

Even this year our church will be gathering to share Christmas carols with the community. We will gather afterwards to share warm cocoa and cookies.

If you would like to try a pot of wassail, here is a recipe from allrecipes. There are many other recipes available if you google.

Ingredients:
½ gallon apple cider
1 (46 fluid ounce) can pineapple juice
46 fluid ounces cranberry juice cocktail
1 orange, thinly sliced
5 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole cloves


Directions:

Step 1
Pour apple cider, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice into a stockpot. Place orange slices, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, and cloves in a muslin pouch or directly into the apple cider mixture. Bring apple cider mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until flavors have blended, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove orange slices and spices before serving.

Here is a second recipe from the “Williamsburg Cookbook” that is served at Colonial Williamsburg.

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
3 lemon slices
2 cups pineapple juice
2 cups orange juice
6 cups dry red wine
½ cup lemon juice
1 cup dry sherry
2 lemons, sliced

Directions:
Boil the sugar, cinnamon sticks, and 3 lemon slices in ½ cup of water for 5 minutes and strain. Discard the cinnamon sticks and lemon slices.

Heat but do not boil the remaining ingredients. Combine with the syrup, garnish with the lemon slices, and serve hot.

If you try one of the recipes, I would love to know which you tried and if you liked it. (But don’t drink too much and cause a riot.)

An American Carol We Don’t Sing

One of the earliest carols written in North America is a song we never sing. Most of us have probably never even heard of it. It was written by John de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary to the Huron Indians.

Brebeuf, along with a group of Jesuits, lived with the Hurons in what is now modern-day Ontario. The missionaries learned the native language and tried to introduce the Christian message in their language. They translated hymns and other Christian writings into the Huron language and then read them aloud to the Indians in their own mother tongue.

Brebeuf wrote the carol “Jesous Ahatonnia” (“Jesus is Born”). For the melody he used a sixteenth century French folk song. As you read the words of the carol you can see how he tried to use their own culture and understanding to tell the story of the birth of Jesus.

The Huron Carol

Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wond’ring hunters heard the hymn:
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O, harken to the angels’ word,
Do not decline
To heed the message which you heard:
The Child Divine,
As they proclaim, has come this morn
Of Mary pure. Let us adore.
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp’d His beauty ’round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high:
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on
The helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before Him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heav’n
Is born today for you.