This chapter argues that a Christmas without Christ is, surely, ‘a celebration without meaning’. The ‘Christmas carols’ of today are of extremely varied origin, both geographically and chronologically, and their theological content ranges from the profound to the non-existent. The Christmas carol as a genre has a long history, which has gradually become intertwined with Christmas hymns and songs of all types, so that almost any short vocal piece that has a religious text relating to Christmas can now be loosely regarded as a carol. Christmas carols sometimes appeared in medieval mystery plays, though few have survived with music. There are today relatively few carol services held during the actual twelve days of the Christmas season, but a great proliferation of them from early December onwards, including the occasional Advent carol service, a more austere form with different readings and a more limited selection of carols.
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