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Favorite Religious Carols

Last week, I wrote about my favorite non-religious Christmas song, “Silver Bells. This week I turn to my favorite religious Christmas song, hymn, or carol. Which is it?

A song is a song, and every music is a song. Hymns are sung by congregations while worshipping God. They are religious poems, such as in the Book of Psalms.

According to, “The music which is used for hymns is called “chordal” by trained musicians. Chordal music is believed to have a very positive, uplifting character. It is melodious and has a specific rhythm that is harmonious. In hymns, the main focus is on the words, and the music only emphasizes it. The theme of hymns originated from classical music. It is almost always a four-part harmony. Hymns have melody, harmony, and music, which reinforce positivity. Read more: Difference Between Carol and Hymns | Difference Between

Carols are upbeat. They are typically religious and sung in or outside a formal worship service.

I will leave it up to you. Is a song such as “Silent Night” a carol or a hymn? Both?


This is a tough one, so I will list two – one I can sing and one I cannot.

It is hard not to choose “Silent Night” with its simple melody and the powerful story or the majestic “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful” with its clarion call. However, my choice is “The First Noel.” I love the music even though many experts point out flaws in its construction. I like the text about shepherds and the wise men coming to see him who was born King of Israel.”

As I researched the history, I liked the carol even more because it is of Cornish roots—the oral form dates to the fifteen century and started to appear in Helston, Cornwall. Cornwall is in the southwest part of England for those who do not know your geography. I spent six incredible mission months in Redruth, Cornwall.

The carol was first published in a revised edition of Some Ancient Christmas Carols (1823). The hymn increased in popularity ten years after its publication in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833) by William Sandys in London.

Initially, there were nine stanzas. Five are commonly used today.

According to, Noel was initially spelled as Nowell. “Nowell,” the English transliteration, comes from the old French “Nouel” or “Noël,” modern French. The derivation of this word probably relates to the earlier Latin term “natalis” or birth. In Latin, “Dies natalis” means “birthday.” Some suggest that “Noel” is also related to “novellare” or “nouvelle” meaning “new” —something to tell. As hymnologist and hymn-writer Carl P. Daw, Jr. indicates, The Oxford English Dictionary notes the earliest use of “Nowel” is in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (c. 1395) where the poet cites “The Franklin’s Tale” (1255): “And ‘Nowel’ crieth every lusty man” (Daw, 2016, 154).”

Now for the song, I can’t sing. So my choice is “O Holy Night.”

The words and music stir my heart. Sometimes, I feel like I am there that “Holy Night.”

This history is full of details and rumors. Placide Cappeau wrote the words in 1843. The poem was titled “Minuit, Chrétiens” (Midnight, Christmas).

Adolphe Adam, a composer of secular operas, set “Minuit, Chrétiens” to music in 1843 or 1847. Soon after it was written, the song became controversial because of a rumored tie to the French Revolution.

“There is no sign that Adolphe Adam expected he would be remembered principally for “Minuit, Chrétiens,” alongside the ballet “Giselle.” His 1857 memoirs do not even mention it.(

A Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight translated “Minuit, Chrétiens,” into our familiar “O Holy Night” in 1855.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth; Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Chorus Fall on your knees, Oh, hear the angel voices! O night divine! O night when Christ was born. O night, O holy night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming; With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand: So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here come the wise men from Orient land, The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger, In all our trials born to be our friend;

Chorus He knows our need, To our weakness no stranger! Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend! Behold your King! your King! before him bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is Love and His gospel is Peace; Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, And in his name all oppression shall cease, Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we; Let all within us praise his Holy name!

Chorus Christ is the Lord, then ever! ever praise we! His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim! His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!

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"Men [and  women] are that they might have JOY..."

2 Nephi 2:25

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