Christmas here on My Kingdom for a Hat isn’t quite the affair of Halloween. It’s a more private joy, less performative. But when it comes to my love of medieval and Renaissance music, the winter solstice is my time to shine.
I’m here to announce that – collective gasp – you don’t have to hate Christmas music! I know seasonal music is right up there with taxes and DMV appointments in “things people love to hate”, but it’s so much more than tinny mall speakers blasting Frosty the Snowman. Here are some of my favorite little-known historical carols that – bless the thought – haven’t yet been overplayed.
- “The Huron Carol” (Heather Dale) | Canadian missionary carol from 1643
- “The Holly and the Ivy” (Mediaeval Baebes) | traditional British carol from approx. 1711
- “Entre le boeuf et l’ane gris” (The Warsaw Singers) | one of the oldest extant carols, dated variously to the 13th and the 16th centuries. I sang this in women’s madrigal choir in high school; it’s been one of my favorites since then.
- “Coventry Carol” (Loreena McKennitt) | 16th-century English carol. Not a Christmas song per se – it actually refers to Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents, the feast of which takes place on December 27-29. (The name of this feast day? “Childermass”, which is also the name of one of my favorite literary characters ever. Lizard people, etc. etc.
- “Gaudete” (Mediaeval Baebes) | sacred carol from the 16th century
- “Panis Angelicus”(Celtic Woman) | part of the 13th-century hymn “Sacris Solemnis”, and written by Thomas Aquinas!
- “O Come O Come Emmanuel” (Blackmore’s Night) | 12th-century hymn
My personal favorite, though, will always be “Adeste Fideles” (or “O Come All Ye Faithful” for the plebs). My iPod boasts literally twelve different versions of it. Some highlights:
- Harvard University Choir (Latin)
- Celtic Woman (English)
- Heather Dale (Latin)
- Westminster Abbey Choir (English)
Blazer: ’40s vintage, via Carla Sue Vintage
Dress: Tatted Tina’s Designs
Hat: vintage, thrifted
Everything else: thrifted