Christmas Carols

The legendary Christmas Truce of World War I in 1914 began with a Christmas carol. Down in their trenches on Christmas Eve, the men on both sides of the conflict could hear the enemy singing carols. They started to take turns singing to each other, one side sang a carol from their country and then the other side sang one from theirs. Eventually, they came upon a carol both sides knew and they joined their voices in song – albeit in different languages. The Christmas carolling that took place in the trenches that night led to so much good will that early the next morning on Christmas Day, unarmed British and German soldiers came out of their trenches and met on no-man’s-land. They shook hands and wished each other Merry Christmas, exchanged gifts of cigarettes and chocolate and even played soccer.


Take this quiz and see if you can name these popular Christmas carols. Perhaps there are a few you could sing in your own language.

 1.   This song by Irving Berlin debuted in the 1942 movie Holiday Inn, where it is sung by a homesick New Yorker played by Bing Crosby, who must remain in sunny and warm California over Christmas.


 2.   This carol’s melody comes from a Welsh song about New Year’s Eve and dates back to the sixteenth century. Decoration advice for the season and a reminder to put your glad-rags on are included in its lyrics.


3.   This song was not written to commemorate the holiday, but to praise this – an object commonly found in nature – as a symbol of faithfulness. The German title makes that more obvious. The English title reveals why the song began to be sung as a carol – people started bringing these into their homes for decoration.


 4.   The original title of this song was „Carol of the Drums“ because of the line „pa rum pum pum pum“ which is repeated throughout the song.


 5.   This carol was first introduced to the world by a priest who played it on a guitar in a village church in Oberndorf, Austria. It was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011.


 6.   Before Siri or Alexa, there was someone who saw when you were sleeping and knew when you were awake. He also knew when you’d been bad or good. This carol made its debut on a radio show in 1934 and became an instant hit, selling more than 30,000 records within 24 hours.


 7.   The word in its title is an Early Modern English synonym of Christmas, but this carol about the Annunciation to the Shepherds may date back as far back as the thirteenth century.


 8.   Well loved by children, the „rude version“ of this carol includes the line: (Title of Song) Batman smells, Robin laid an egg, Batmobile lost a wheel and the Joker got away, hey!


 9.   The Latin version of this carol, „Adeste Fideles“, was written by John Francis Wade (1711 – 86), who fled England after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion to teach music in a school for British Roman Catholic exiles in Douai in France.


10.  If you think Christmas is a big celebration these days, just imagine – the party used to last from Christmas Day to Epiphany Eve, which is on the 5th of January. And if you can figure out what amount of time that is, you will have the title of the final carol.




Answer key

 1.   White Christmas: listen to Bing Crosby singing it here.

2.   Deck the Halls

3.   O Christmas Tree

4.   Little Drummer Boy

5.   Silent Night

6.   Santa Claus is Coming to Town

7.   The First Nowell

8.   Jingle Bells

9.   O Come All Ye Faithful

10.  The Twelve Days of Christmas. Let’s finish as we started – with Bing Crosby:
this time joined by the Andrew Sisters.


And in remembrance of those brave soldiers who found a ceasefire – however brief – through Christmas carols: peace on earth and good will to all men!


Merry Christmas to all our readers from the editors of World and Press.