Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why We Carol

We were listening to Bob Dylan's "Theme Time Radio Hour" this week when he launched into a story about where the word "caroling" came from. It seems a young girl named Carol went missing in London in 1888, and friends and family were flying about knocking on every door they could to find out if anyone knew anything about her disappearance. The problem was, Jack the Ripper was on the loose, and many people were reluctant to open their doors to strangers. So people started to sing Christmas songs to show they were friendly -- hence the tradition of "caroling" was born.

How creepy!. But was Bob pulling our leg?

We found this on the Web site of Minnesota public radio, in a 2006 posting by John Zech:

".....Total of those "just so" stories, like "plucking the yew," which find favor with a gullible public.

"My research (aka "googling") indicates the word "carol" comes from a Greek dance called a choraulein, which was accompanied by flute music. As the dance spread through Europe it caught on big time in France where it became "caroller," a circle dance accompanied by singers. Originally, carols were performed on many occasions during the year, but by the 17th century the carols evolved into songs associated primarily with Christmas.

"You can find the stories behind a lot of the famous carols at this website from the U.K."

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