A lot of us don't actually know the stories behind some of our favorite Christmas carols -- we just sing them anyway and be merry AF. Why do we need to know their origins, you ask? Well, we don't need
to know, but it's christmas and it's the season to share! So why not learn a bit more about our favorite holiday and the wonderful carols we get to sing, unashamedly every year. Here are some surprising stories behind such carols, so when we sing them this year we'll be singing with love and an extra bit of knowledge.
1. 12 Days Of Christmas
Well this song was originally written by Catholics as a means to celebrate their faith in secret, away from the prying eyes of the Christians. Between 1552 and 1829 it was illegal in England for Catholics to practice their kind of Christianity, so they decided to make a song with secret messages to enjoy the festivities. However, lots of people have pointed out that these hidden clues could be interpreted by Protestants and other Christians too, so it's still vague as to whether this story is true. Here is what each line supposedly meant:
Partridge in a pear tree = God, as a partridge was used as a symbol for a sacred king.
Two turtle doves = The Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Three French hens = The Christian Trinity: God the Father, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Four calling birds = The four Gospels in the New Testament of the Bible.
Five golden rings = The five senses.
Six geese a-laying = The six days of creation.
Seven swan a swimming = The seven 'liberal arts' studied in medieval universities.
Eight maids a milking = The eight beatitudes, Jesus' teachings on happiness.
Nine ladies dancing = The nine muses from Greek Mythology.
Ten lords a-leaping = The Ten Commandments in the Bible.
Eleven pipers piping = Eleven thousand [meaning a lot of people] who had been martyred for the Christian faith.
Twelve drummers drumming = The twelve disciples of Jesus.
2. Santa Claus is Coming To Town
This carol was originally written by James Gillespie, in a state of mourning. He was asked to write a christmas song but he was dealing with the trauma of his brother recently passing away. He said that he was on the subway reminiscing of his childhood with his brother and the warnings his mother would tell them of Santa Claus' watching eye, that he immediately thought up the lyrics and sent them to the composer the same day.
3. Deck The Halls
Thomas Oliphant was the reason this song has become a Christmas favorite. Back in sixteenth century Wales, Oliphant translated a typical New Year's song "Nos Galan" into the Christmas tune we know today. The tune and lyrics are basically identical, just with slight changes from "oh! how soft my fair one's bosom / fa la la la la la la la la" to "deck the halls with boughs of holly / fa la la la la la la la la." Just sing those and you'll see the resemblance.
4. All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
This song actually came to be due to Donald Gardner and his wife Doris singing with a bunch of second graders. They all had to sing about what they each wanted for christmas, with many of them wishing for their two front teeth. Gardner says that he found their cute lisps endearing and decided to write an entire song about it.
5. Jingle Bells
One of the most iconic Christmas songs of all time, was originally written for Thanksgiving. However due to the holiday's similarities it soon became known as Jingle Bells and was even the very first song broadcast in space from the spaceship, Gemini 6.
6. O Little Town Of Bethlehem
This carol came to be after its writer Phillip Brooks' profound experience. He apparently rode on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to participate in the nativity scene held in Bethlehem. He says that the experience was so inspiring he decided to write a song about.
7. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
This song was originally written by Hugh Martin for the film Meet Me In St Louis
in which Judy Garland sings it. However, it dealt with rather dark themes of loss and saying goodbye to family, as was the synopsis of the film. The director and fellow cast members pressured Martin into changing the lyrics into something more joyous and hopeful, so now we have the jolly carol!
8. White Christmas
Written by Irving Berlin one night in snowy New York when he was missing his family back home. It was aired on the radio soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and so became a sort of anthem for the soldiers the following christmas. They would sing it in memory of their families far away, just as Berlin did when it was written. This has a rather sad origin, but the peace it brought to the soldiers makes it a sweet story.
9. Carol Of The Bells
This was never intended as a Christmas carol at all, but instead it was written as a Ukrainian folk song called "Shchedryk" which celebrated the coming of spring. It talked about a bird flying into homes to bring good fortune and joy for the homeowners. It was soon overheard by an English composer and so he altered it, making the traditional carol we sing today.
10. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
This famous song was actually intended to be an autobiographical children's book. Writer, Robert L. May, felt like an outcast all throughout his childhood due to him skipping grades and being younger than his classmates. He wrote it with the intentions of making it into a children's book, but it was picked up and transformed into the song. No wonder it resonates so much with kids!