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Canadian Christmas Songs

Canadian Christmas music is often considered a simmering stew of different flavours and aromas that blend together in perfect harmony. Many current melodies can be traced back to European cities as well as other exotic cultures around the world. The beauty of Canadian music is that there are so many different genres within the Christmas category. The most popular would be traditional Canadian Christmas songs that are commonly written about the birth of Jesus and include other aspects of Christianity. On the other side of the spectrum, some people prefer comical holiday tunes that are cheerfully sung during kitchen parties, as others choose pop ballads that are written by chart-topping artists. Whatever your style, Canadian Christmas Carols have something to warm the bottom of any Christmas lover's heart.

Although considered Canada's oldest Christmas Carol, The "Huron Carol" was not actually written by a native Canadian citizen. Jean de Brébeuf, a French missionary who martyred near Lake Huron wrote this hymn in 1643 under its original title, "Jesous Ahatonhia" ("Jesus, he is born"). Upon arriving to Canada, Jean de Brebeuf immersed himself into the Huron native culture and committed himself to their language and customs. His lyrics were initially written in the native language of the Huron indigenous people and the melody was sung in the style of an old French folksong. This hymn describes the well known religious story of Jesus and the nativity. You are more likely to hear the carol sung in English today, under the title "Twas in the Moon of Wintertime" which is not a directly translated version. This English hymn's lyrics were written by Jesse Edgar Middleton in 1926 and speak more towards a native narrative rather than one speaking for traditional Christianity. Often these English lyrics are altered to provide more of a Christian voice. Regardless of its form, The "Huron Carol" still remains in Canadian churches across the country and is widely received as Canada's first Christmas Carol.

Speaking in terms of publishing, the oldest Canadian Christmas Carol in print is regarded as "A Canadian Christmas Carol" composed by James P. Clarke. Clarke became a renowned musician and is considered one of Canada's finest composers. This song, among others belonging to him, was first published in the 'Anglo-Canadian Magazine' in 1853.

In the early 19th century, history suggests that songs regarding Christmas were mostly of European origin as the new world was still fairly young. These songs were either direct versions of carols written in the old country, or they were variants that had evolved over time. This has been observed most notably in what is known as Nova Scotia after English settlers arrived. Their carols were adaptations of old English songs which included "The Seven Joys of Mary" and "The Cherry Tree Carol".

In contrast, toward the end of the 19th century, you could say that a boom erupted within Canada in regards to composing holiday carols. Joseph-Julien Perrault, a choirmaster and composer from Montreal is considered one of Canada's most notable carol composers. He is most famous for his 1859-1860's work, "Messe de Noël: 'Deo infanti'". Composers which followed Perrualt in later years included Clarence Lucas, Arthur Poynter, and Geoffrey O'Hara who have made great contributions to Canadian music including Lucas' "The Birth of Christ", Poynter's "The Birth of our Lord", and O'Hara's operetta "The Christmas Thieves". Christmas songs around this time were not limited to lyrical hymns. Pieces that were purely orchestral were also popular around this time. Many composers including Wolfgang Bottenberg, F.R.C. Clarke and Jean Coulthard created instrumental masterpieces along with many other notable composers.

In regards to current Canadian artists, many musicians born in Canada have written original works, as well as recorded traditional carols, for their respectful albums. A number of these musicians have created special Christmas albums that are filled with wonderful festive songs for the holiday season. These artists include the widely popular Anne Murray, Celine Dion, and the children's entertainer, Raffi. Album compositions are not limited to 'Christmas only' records, with some artists including an original Christmas song on an album that is not Christmas exclusive. Bryan Adams and Tori Amos are two notable Canadian musicians who have included Christmas style carols on their non-holiday albums.

Comical carols have also been written by Canadians over the years. One of the most famous Christmas parody songs would be Bob and Doug Mackenzie's version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" which was showcased on CBC Television. We could also never forget Johnny Bower's rendition of "Honky the Christmas Goose" written by Canadian comics, Chip Young and Orville Hoover.

Whether it is your personal choice to sing a carol which is reminiscent of the holy nativity, or a comical tune to sing while having a few beer, Canadian Christmas Carols will be here to enjoy until the end of time.