Words and music by James Pierpont Though, for most of us, “Jingle Bells” has come to be practically synonymous with Christmas, James Pierpont wrote it in 1857 for a Thanksgiving program at the large Boston church where he taught Sunday school. He titled his song “The One-Horse Open Sleigh” and made the rhythm so […]
Words by Edmund Hamilton Sears Music by Richard Storrs Willis Oliver Wendell Holmes once declared this hymn to be “one of the finest and most beautiful ever written.” Sears, a retiring young Unitarian minister from Massachusetts, was dismayed by such public praise, saying he preferred to lead a quiet life in some half-forgotten parish. […]
Traditional “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is one of the carols that was sung by the waits, those municipal watchmen in old England who, like the town criers, were licensed to perform certain duties, such as singing seasonal songs, including those of Christmas, to the proper people. It was first published in 1827 as […]
Traditional Many years ago, shepherds tending their flocks in the wintry hills of southern France had a custom of calling to one another on Christmas Eve, each from his own peak, singing “Gloria in excelsis Deo, gloria in excelsis Deo,” just as the angels might have first announced the birth of Christ. The traditional […]
Traditional In the days of Merrie Olde England, a good part of life went on to the sound of music. Rich merchants hired bands to accompany them on strolls; peddlers enhanced their sales pitches with song; and a municipal chorus of singers, called waits, were licensed to sing out the hours of day or […]
(Adeste Fideles) English words by Frederick Oakeley, Latin words attributed to John Francis Wade, music by John Reading John Francis Wade was an 18th-century British exile who moved to a Roman Catholic community in France, where he eked out an income by copying and selling music and by giving music lessons to children. Perhaps […]
Traditional The Christmas song telling the story of “The First Noël” (“Noël” is the French word for Christmas and stems from the Latin natalis, meaning “birthday”) is thought to date from as early as the 13th or 14th century, when the Miracle Plays, dramatizations of favorite Bible stories for special holidays, were popular. The […]
Words by Isaac Watts, music by Lowell Mason Though the triumphant words “Joy to the world” exemplify the Christmas feeling, the familiar text is actually a translation based on five verses from Psalm 98 in the Old Testament. Isaac Watts, the English hymnist and cleric, published his Psalms of David, which contains these […]
Words by Charles Wesley, music by Felix Mendelssohn Felix Mendelssohn composed The energetic tune to which we now sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” in 1840 as part of a cantata commemorating printer Johann Gutenberg. Fifteen years later, an English musician, W. H. Cummings, applied Mendelssohn’s musical phrases to a hymn written in […]
(The Wassail Song) Traditional “Here We Come A-Caroling” is an old English wassail song, or song to wish good health, which is what “wassail” means. In days of yore, the Christmas spirit often made the rich a little more generous than usual, and bands of beggars and orphans used to dance their way through […]
Every family has a pile of marginal photographs that have never made it into the photo album. Recycle them with this new twist on an old game that makes a great gift.
These easy-to-make toys are terrific gifts for younger siblings.
These balls are so much fun, be sure to make one for yourself.
This recipe makes enough for at least two gifts-plus some to keep for yourself.
Pomanders have a glorious fragrance, make wonderful gifts, and are easy enough for even young children to make. Note, however, that curing your pomander will take at least 2 weeks.
This is a super-quick project that produces lovely results. Choose candles that are wrapped in cellophane, as these already have an adhesive surface to which the gilding will adhere.
Start downloading some great tunes from the albums writer Sarah Liss recommends adding to your mp3 player this month.
Find out which classic and current films writer John Semley recommends making some time for this month.
In the December 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest Canada, you may have caught a brief version of our interview with the Montreal-raised New Yorker writer, Adam Gopnik. Read the rest of the interview to find out what books and TV shows he’s into right now.
Looking for the perfect holiday gift? Or maybe just looking for a good book to snuggle up with this winter? Whatever your needs, don’t head to the bookstore without consulting writer Emily Landau’s list of 10 great reads.