Not long after Christmas was accepted as one of the great religious festivals in the Vth century, the first hymns in honour of the Nativity began to appear. These hymns, written in Latin, proliferated thereafter. From the XIIIth to the XVIIIth centuries, many of these hymns were translated into a variety of languages and became popular songs.

In French Canada, these hymns are called "chants de Noël", while in France they were generally gathered under the generic term "noëls" and for North American Anglophones, under the term "carols".

The singing of Christmas carols in church and home is part of the living tradition of Christmas for many Albertans. Some Protestant churches have developed Christmas concerts and dramatic productions to reach out to the public with their understanding of the meaning of the Christmas season. One of the grandest productions in a local church is "The Singing Christmas Tree" of Central Pentecostal Tabernacle. For members of many churches and for secular people as well, this spectacle has become a part of their Christmas festivities.

Not long after Christmas was accepted as one of the great religious festivals in the Vth century, the first hymns in honour of the Nativity began to appear. These hymns, written in Latin, proliferated thereafter. From the XIIIth to the XVIIIth centuries, many of these hymns were translated into a variety of languages and became popular songs.

In French Canada, these hymns are called "chants de Noël", while in France they were generally gathered under the generic term "noëls" and for North American Anglophones, under the term "carols".

The singing of Christmas carols in church and home is part of the living tradition of Christmas for many Albertans. Some Protestant churches have developed Christmas concerts and dramatic productions to reach out to the public with their understanding of the meaning of the Christmas season. One of the grandest productions in a local church is "The Singing Christmas Tree" of Central Pentecostal Tabernacle. For members of many churches and for secular people as well, this spectacle has become a part of their Christmas festivities.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Dance and sing this happy day,
Christ is born the Son of Mary
Dance and sing all care away,
Let us all our homage pay.
Born today of David’s line
To the earth our Saviour cometh
Shepherds see the angel’s sign
Born today is the Child Divine
Dance and sing this happy day
Christ is born the Son of Mary
Dance and sing all care away,
Let us all our homage pay...

Dance and sing this happy day,
Christ is born the Son of Mary
Dance and sing all care away,
Let us all our homage pay.
Born today of David’s line
To the earth our Saviour cometh
Shepherds see the angel’s sign
Born today is the Child Divine
Dance and sing this happy day
Christ is born the Son of Mary
Dance and sing all care away,
Let us all our homage pay...


© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

The Singing Christmas Tree

For over twenty-five years one of Edmonton's large churches, Central Pentecostal Tabernacle, has produced "The Singing Christmas Tree." The tree stands 35 feet high and is illuminated with 4,785 lights and thousands of pieces of tinsel. A choir of 125, assembled from the bottom to the top of the tree, sing Christmas carols during Advent to the invited public.

Photograph : Central Pentacostal Tabernacle Church, Edmonton, Canada.
Folklife Collections, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Among the numerous French noels which have crossed the Atlantic to Canada, the best known today are undoubtedly Les anges dans nos campagnes (Shepherds in the Fields Abiding) from Languedoc, Il est né le divin Enfant (He is Born the Divine Christ), Dans cette étable and Çà, bergers.

Over time, these religious hymns from the Middle Ages became popular songs. Other carols, like Adeste Fideles, O Holy Night and Silent Night also came from Europe.

Among the numerous French noels which have crossed the Atlantic to Canada, the best known today are undoubtedly Les anges dans nos campagnes (Shepherds in the Fields Abiding) from Languedoc, Il est né le divin Enfant (He is Born the Divine Christ), Dans cette étable and Çà, bergers.

Over time, these religious hymns from the Middle Ages became popular songs. Other carols, like Adeste Fideles, O Holy Night and Silent Night also came from Europe.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

The hymn « Adeste Fideles », whose origin remains unclear, is said to be by Saint Bonaventure, a Franciscan priest who wrote the original words in Latin in the XIIIth century. Original manuscripts from the XVIIIth century, which include both words and music, are, however, signed by John Francis Wade, a musician from the English Catholic colony in Douai, France.

The name of Marcus Antonius de Fonseca, master of the King of Portugal’s chapel, is also mentioned as the composer of the music. This carol is supposed to have been sung at the end of the XVIIIth century in the chapel of the Portuguese Embassy in London.

The hymn « Adeste Fideles », whose origin remains unclear, is said to be by Saint Bonaventure, a Franciscan priest who wrote the original words in Latin in the XIIIth century. Original manuscripts from the XVIIIth century, which include both words and music, are, however, signed by John Francis Wade, a musician from the English Catholic colony in Douai, France.

The name of Marcus Antonius de Fonseca, master of the King of Portugal’s chapel, is also mentioned as the composer of the music. This carol is supposed to have been sung at the end of the XVIIIth century in the chapel of the Portuguese Embassy in London.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Placide Clappeau, an elderly wine merchant and mayor of Roquemaure in France, who wrote poems for his own enjoyment, wrote the words to O Holy Night in 1847. The music is the work of Adolphe Adam, a Parisian composer.

This Christmas carol was made famous by the baritone Faure. It could be heard as far away as Louisiana at the Midnight Mass celebrated in the Cathedral of Saint Louis in New Orleans where Acadians and Creoles of French ancestry gathered together.

Placide Clappeau, an elderly wine merchant and mayor of Roquemaure in France, who wrote poems for his own enjoyment, wrote the words to O Holy Night in 1847. The music is the work of Adolphe Adam, a Parisian composer.

This Christmas carol was made famous by the baritone Faure. It could be heard as far away as Louisiana at the Midnight Mass celebrated in the Cathedral of Saint Louis in New Orleans where Acadians and Creoles of French ancestry gathered together.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

We owe the words of « Silent Night » to Joseph Mohr, a priest from the Austrian Alps who wrote them on the evening of December 24, 1818.

The next day his friend, François-Xavier Gruber, composed the music. The carol was first sung by the Strasser brothers, four youngsters from the Tyrol.

We owe the words of « Silent Night » to Joseph Mohr, a priest from the Austrian Alps who wrote them on the evening of December 24, 1818.

The next day his friend, François-Xavier Gruber, composed the music. The carol was first sung by the Strasser brothers, four youngsters from the Tyrol.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify how people, events, and ideas of the past shape the present;
  • Describe the tradition of Christmas hymns in Canada and its historical development;
  • Compare the Christian tradition of singing hymns, between cultures and over time.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans