10 Correct Opinions About Christmas Carols

Public service announcement.

The following opinions are all correct.

  1. The first carol on Christmas Day should always be Christians Awake Salute the Happy Morn. It should be sung lustily and with the last line repeated.
  2. While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night may be sung to almost any tune. It must not, however, be sung to the tune Winchester Old
    • Acceptable tunes shall include:
      • Liverpool
      • Glasgow
      • Lyngham
      • Old Foster
      • Sweet Chiming Christmas Bells
      • Cranbrook – This may only be used once in every decade in any one place. There’s a limit to how entertaining it is.
  3. The best carol of all is It Came Upon the Midnight Clear and it must be sung to the tune Noel by Arthur Sullivan. There are many things in which the US based Episcopal Church is correct but it is incorrect in its choice of tune for this carol. It may also be sung at Michaelmas. The incorrect words “It Came upon a midnight clear” are anathema. They have as much place in the Christian faith as Sundays before Advent or Sundays before Lent – ie none whatsoever.
  4. Jingle Bells is not a carol.
  5. The carol Of the Father’s Love Begotten may be sung at any time from Advent Sunday until the Feast of Candlemas. It must only be sung to the words agreed by Mr Frikki Walker and myself. The verse about seer and sybyl must always be included as it is both profound and reminds us all of Sybil Fawlty. I have every intention of broadcasting this carol unto the nation at the earliest opportunity so that everyone else may copy the St Mary’s version of the words.
  6. 10 points may be claimed for anyone spotting a heresy in any carol. A bonus of 50 points is awarded to anyone who can come up with a heresy-free version that people will enjoy singing.
    • Your starter for 10 is “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see” which sounds like Docetism to me.
  7. Anyone claiming that carols should be sung “in the original version” shall be required to sing Hark How All The Welkin Rings at the next carol service they are at and will then be required to explain to everyone at the door what a welkin is.
  8. In the Bleak Midwinter may be sung, even though Jesus probably was not born amidst snow. However, it may only be sung by a good choir singing the Harold Darke version.
  9. O Come All Ye Faithful is a Jacobite rallying call and is most proper for Scottish Episcopalians to sing.
  10. Christmas cake should be eaten with cheese and not marzipan and icing.

Thank you for your attention.


  1. Emlyn Williams says

    Do we get bonus points for mis-spellings? See Line 6 of point 5, an “a” is missing and surely in the bullet point of 6 it should be a “starter” for 10 not a “started”. We should be told!

  2. Christopher Upton says

    Addendum to no. 7: they will then be supplied with a list of sources and given 1 year to determine the exact original words (and tune) to God rest you merry, gentlemen.

  3. Pam Barrowman says

    Not all hymns sung at Christmas are carols. A carol is sung to accompany a round dance (ring a ring a roses eg) and always, always has a 6/8 skipping rhythm. Come thou Redeemer, if played fast, might constitute a reasonable fake, Of the Father’s Love, on the other hand, is the real deal. None, not one of those other hymns mentioned in your piece is a carol. And I claim the 10 points.

  4. Robert McLean says

    Just so we don’t all die of boredom I’d add a point No. 11, that there is no divine law that says that Nine Lessons needs to begin with Once in royal, especially given the moralistic tosh about children’s behaviour in the lyrics. Much better, imho, to have a bass singing the first verse of Of the Father’s love begotten unaccompanied and then go on into the rest of it. Sure, we’d miss out on Willcocks’ 4-note blast on the tuba mirabilis as the introduction but it’s a price worth paying, I think.

    • Nine Lessons rarely begins with Once in Royal here.

    • Wrong. In the Church of England opening a carol service any other way is a capital sin explicitly not covered by the Blood of Jesus, and legitimate grounds for immediate excommunication of the organist, clergy, and choir with no right of appeal.

  5. Denis Beaumont says

    I’m all in favour of “Christian children all must be mild, obedient, good as he!” It means they will all be subversive, disobedient revolutionaries. (See eg gospel for Year C Christmas 1 coming up this weekend. Doing a runner, then giving sassy, sarcastic response when found seems to set a pretty good example.

  6. Janet Fife says

    I’ve been back in the UK since 1974 and enjoy the rich and varied array of carols here. However, I still prefer the American tune to ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’.

    One modern Christmas hymn/carol I really like is ‘Who Would Think that what was Needed’, to the tune ‘Scarlet Ribbons’. It’s from Iona’s Wee Worship Group.

  7. Everyone should follow my example in singing John Bell’s “Before the world began” to the tune BETHANY (MASON). It’s a fine Christmas hymn and the tune is perfect. I refuse to listen to anyone who says otherwise without trying it at least twice.

  8. Martin Waddell says

    Re point 8, did someone else choose the hymns for the St Mary’s service on 30/12, including as they did Bleak Midwinter to the Holst tune, with no choir? Must confess I always enjoy singing it.

    Re point 10, it depends on the cheese. I recommend a slightly sweet, crumbly cheese, such as a good Caerphilly or (if you can get it) Grimbister from Orkney. Accompanied by a good malt or tawny port.

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