View Full Version : Most popular Christmas carols and the words?

Steve Acker
10-08-2008, 11:58 AM
Some chums and myself are planning a "Christmas on the Picket Line" for December near Green Bay, Wisconsin and one of the things we want to do is sing period Christmas Carols. I am not well versed on period holiday songs and their verbage so am looking for some help. What holiday songs would soldiers of both sides sing and what are the words are the questions of the post?

Thank you,
Steve Acker

10-08-2008, 02:39 PM
Are you looking for religious or secular carols? What part of the country for the event setting? What parts of the country for the soldiers involved? Where have you looked so far?

(There are some wonderful hymnals on-line, if you're looking for mid-century religious music options, for instance.)

Lone Guard
10-08-2008, 02:51 PM
In a Civil War Historian article, last year I believe, there was an article about hymns, and I think there was a list of a couple CW-era Christmas songs.

If you attend a church and they have a hymnal sometimes dates, composer and lyricist, original titles (if written in another language), and melodies are listed under the songs. This would be a great resource.

An example from the LBW (Lutheran Book of Worship):

The First Noel (56)

Text: English carol, c. 17th cent. The First Nowell
Tune: English carol, c. 17th cent.

Another example with better dating:
Lo, How a Rose Is Growing (58)

Text: German 15th cent.; tr. Gracia Grindal, b. 1943 Es Ist Ein Ros
Tune: Alte Catholische Geistliche Kirchengesäng, Köln, 1599

Note that the version in this book is translated in the 20th century, but may have a translation dating to the time of the Civil War. Or you could just sing the song in German :D.

Hope this helps.

Steve Acker
10-09-2008, 10:02 AM
The concept is two picket lines meeting on Christmas day, one members of a Wisconsin regiment yet to be determined decides to share a fire and peace with members of a Confederate unit ( decided by the research of who was opposite our Wisconsin choice). So regionally I'm looking for Wisconsin and probably Virginia.

The religious pieces are a big part of what we're looking for but mostly the songs sung by hearth with family and friends. Of course we'll kick in some camp songs as well and although the songs are not the crux of the experience it will hopefully make a moment for the fellas as they sit by the fire sharing the beauty of song with fellas in the opposing army.

Thanks for the help,
Steve Acker

10-09-2008, 02:15 PM
...What holiday songs would soldiers of both sides sing and what are the words are the questions of the post?Thank you,Steve AckerONV

Steve -

None better than "One Horse Open Sleigh". the song that became "Jingle Bells", but which has a little different tune if you can unlearn the modern version. Makes for an entertaining talking point for your audience. It was written as a Thankgiving song but soon was adopted for singing through Christmas season.

Attached is a copy of the period sheet music, and here's a link to listen to the tune as a digital midi "One Horse Open Sleigh.mid" from


Of course the song sounds better accompanied by real instruments like banjo or guitar.

Dan Wykes

10-09-2008, 03:34 PM

We are working on a project for Christmas for an 1844 church and are using the following music list. Maybe it will help you some.


Adeste Fidelis-1853 O Come All Ye Faithful -Latin 18th cent Eng.1853 Fredrick Oakley
Angels We Have Heard on High - Traditional French Carol
Carol of the Birds-Traditional French Carol
Deck the Halls - Traditional Welsh melody and words added in the mid-19th century
Ding, Dong Merrily On High-16th century French Tune
Don’t Stay Away (My Jesus Says There’s Room Enough)-1870
First Noel, The - first appeared in print in English in 1833.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - English Traditional
Hark the Herald Angels Sing-1851-Charles Wesley 1739; Music: F. Mendelssohn 1859
Here We Come a Wassailing-17th century English Traditional
Holly and the Ivy, The-English, Tune over 1000 years old
I Heard Bells on Christmas Day - Henry W. Longfellow - Dec. 25, 1863
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear -1849
Joy to the World - Issac Watts 1719 (Psalm 9)
Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming-15th century tune: 1599
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel-12th Century, 1851 translated to English
O Tannenbaum-1824
Oh, Holy Night - M. Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure - 1847
One Horse Open Sleigh, The - Oliver Ditson 1857
(Originally a Thanksgiving song but in 1859 the title was changed to Jingle Bells.)
Silent Night, Holy Night - Joseph Mohr - 1818
Twelve Days of Christmas - appeared in print in 1790
We Three Kings of Orient Are - 1859
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night - Nahum Tate - 1700
What Child Is This - William Chatterton Dix - 1865 set to the tune of Greensleeves.

Steve Acker
10-09-2008, 03:52 PM
Perfect and thank you all for the help. The last thing I want to do is put on my kit, immerse myself in an 1862 setting and then sing Jingle Bell Rock.

Thanks again,
Steve Acker

Dale Beasley
10-09-2008, 05:00 PM
I was thinking on the lines of "Santa and His Ole Lady" by Chech and Chong....DOnta esta Santa Claus...walking down the street with no choes on his feet..."...Hey Man, Santa is a Mamsieta...ok...I'll stop.

Jefferson Guards
10-09-2008, 05:43 PM
One song I see pop up quite frequently in soldier's letters around the holidays is "Home Sweet Home."

10-09-2008, 10:32 PM
Here's a thought....I don't know if the research community would consider this a good source....but check Dickens. Maybe you could find some songs that were brought over from Jolly 'Ol England!

10-11-2008, 06:16 PM
We use the 1857 Episcopal Hymnal......

Don't forget that Adeste Fidelis at half tempo during the ACW was used at MANY funerals.....probably not the song to sing for merry times.......