Switch to Desktop Site

Why no new Christmas carols?

We're still singing songs from the nineteenth century. Why nothing newer?


Street carolers in Shamokin, PA.

Mike Staugaitis/The News-Item/AP

About these ads

A familiar exchange heard in American living rooms these days: "Hey kids, let's all gather around the fireplace and sing songs from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries!"

Looking up from their texting, the kids exclaim in unison: "Yea! Let us go a-wassailing!"

OK, maybe not – but you get the picture. People have been singing the same old Christmas carols forever.

Ever wonder why?

Historically it's been nearly impossible for a new Christmas song to break the impenetrable monopoly of "Away in a Manger" (1885); "The First Noel" (1823); "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful" (1743); "Silent Night" (1818); "Deck the Halls" (1862); "Jingle Bells" (1857); "We Three Kings" (1857); "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (17th century); "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (words 1739, music 1840) – all still caroling favorites.

Of course, to be fair, there are "new" ones, such as "White Christmas" (1942), "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" (1934), and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1948). Those are only 60 to 80 years old.


Page:   1   |   2