Prepared by Alime Bari, student of the department of English philology, Taurida Academy, V.I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University // The word “carol” in the English language means “a festive song”. This word goes back to the Old French word “carole” (derived from the Latin “choraula”) which in the Middle Ages was used to call a fairly energetic circle dance accompanied by singers. These dances were common throughout Western Europe – from villages to royal palaces. Basically it was dance music. Then these “dance songs” were performed at religious festivals-mysteries. One of the oldest known songs “Coventry Carol” was recorded in the mid-16th century. Then the mysteries and songs were banned as pagan. This is not surprising – take at least the old song “The Holly and the Ivy” where “ilex aquifolium” was a sacred tree to the Druids (Sun symbol) and Romans too (Saturn).
In England the tradition of caroling is also associated with wassailing. Wassailing is a very ancient custom that is rarely done today. The word “wassail” comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase “waes hael”, which means “good health”. Originally wassail was a drink made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. It was served from huge bowls, often made of silver or pewter. Jesus College, in Oxford University, has a Wassail bowl that is covered with silver. It can hold 10 gallons of drink! Wassailing was traditionally done on New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night, but some rich people drank Wassail on all the 12 days of Christmas. The Wassail drink mixture was sometimes called “Lamb’s Wool”, because the pulp of the roasted apples looked all frothy and a bit like lamb’s wool.
Wassailers went from house to house and wished health and prosperity. Those who were richer shared with those who were poorer. Perhaps, this tradition goes back to pre-Christian times, but no one knows how ancient it is. Songs “Here We Come A-wassailing” or “Wassail, Wassail, All Over the Town” are connected with this tradition.
One of the most popular modern Christmas carols is “Carol Of The Bells”. The music of the carol was composed by Ukrainian composer Mukola Leontovich who almost all his life worked on the adaptation of the Ukrainian folk chant called “Shchedryk”. It was introduced to Western audiences by the Ukrainian National Chorus during its 1919 concert tour of Europe and the Americas, where it premiered in the United States on October 5, 1921 to a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall.
Prepared by Alime Bari