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Christmas Card from the Past

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dick Perue

Christmas Carols

Each holiday season, the familiar words of tuneful Christmas carols ring out all over the country. The origin of these songs is both interesting and colorful.

While some of them were composed here in America, others were written and set to music in other parts of the world.

Below is a brief history of the origin of some of these better known songs.

O’ Little Town

O’ little town of Bethlehem,

how still we see thee lie;

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

the silent stars go by . . .

These words were written in 1868 by Phillips Brooks, young rector of Philadelphia, after a visit to Palestine. His Church Organist Lewis Redner wrote the melody. It came to him “in a dream” on Christmas Eve.

I Heard The Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

their old familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet the words repeat

of peace on Earth, good will to men.

When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to this song, the U.S. was experiencing its second year of the Civil War. The words, “peace on Earth,” gave expression to the hope of millions.

It Came Up

The Midnight

It came up the midnight clear,

that glorious song of old –

from angels bending near the Earth,

to touch their harps of gold.

Here is another beloved carol, which was composed in America. The words were written in December 1849 by Rev. Edmund Sears. It was sung to an old hymn-tune until its present melody was composed by Richard Willis in 1851.

O’ Come, All Ye Faithful

O’ come, all ye faithful,

joyful and triumphant,

O’ come ye,

O’ come ye to Bethlehem.

Origin of this hymn is controversial. When introduced in England about 1800 it was known as the “Portuguese Hymn.” Its lines do not rhyme because they were translated from Latin.

The First Noel

The first Noel the angels did say

was to certain poor shepherds in 

fields as they lay,

in fields where they lay keeping their sheep

on a cold winter’s night that was so 


This is a true folk song, claimed by both France and England. According to tradition, the verses are sung by shepherds and the refrain by the angels.

This brief history of a few of our Christmas carols appeared in the Dec. 19, 1911 issue of the Uinta Chieftain.

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