The early Christmas music compositions are regarded as
chants and hymns. The original carols referred to a
circle dance which did not have any singing - that came
later. As the church struggled against the influences of
pagan customs, the singing of carols was barred from
sacred services. However, outside the church, Nativity
carols were written and became popular. Nearly all were
simple folk songs created by people from the
Francis of Assisi is credited with bringing carols into
the formal worship of the church during a Christmas
Midnight Mass in a cave in Greccio, in the province of
Umbria in 1223. It's said that the music sung that night
was more akin to what we know as carols than to hymns.
Carols enjoyed further development and popularity when
they were used in the mystery plays of the Middle Ages.
Wandering minstrels traveled from hamlet to castle,
performing carols in the distant past. In later years,
villages had their own bands of waits.
were originally watchmen who patrolled the streets and
byways of the old walled cities keeping guard against
fire and singing out the hours of the night. During the
holiday season, they would include some carols for the
people along the way, although some folks complained
that they would rather get a good nights sleep than have
somebody singing under their window. Eventually the term
was used to describe groups of musicians who sang and
played for various civic events during the Christmas
a look at a small-town newspaper lists dozens of
caroling events, not just on Christmas Eve, but
throughout the holiday.