Is it because I am a philologist that I find it rather irritating when people use “carol” when they mean “song”? (Do I hear cries of “Pedant!”??) Perhaps, but let’s be clear: Ariadna’s version of “Last Christmas” by George Michael, on this year’s Christmas Party list (see below), is most definitely NOT a Christmas carol! Let’s start with the facts:

  • a carol is of religious origin, celebrating major events in the liturgical calendar
  • contrary to popular belief, while the best known carols are sung at Christmas, there are plenty of others, to celebrate the Spring and Easter, for example
  • Neither George nor Ariadna were thinking about the Sacred Heart when they talked about giving it away…

The Oxford English Dictionary definition, which I’ve used in this site’s interactive dictionary, refers to folk songs, as many carols have their origins in popular worship, long before the days of universal musical education. But the ecclesiastical focus of these carols is, I would argue, undeniable. So while a particularly precious English tradition, especially in villages, is to gather in the carols-by-candlelightstreet to sing carols, these days they are often combined with songs, especially children’s favourites such as Jingles Bells and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. You don’t hear those songs in churches (not mentioning the main character of Christmas, and all that) and they are what make street events more informal and, dare I say it, fun. (For the record, I still love a traditional, candlelit carol service in church, especially where there is an organ involved.)

It is this which also makes carols different from traditional Catalan “Nadales”, as I point out on my choir’s website, writing about the Coral Shalom’s Christmas concert, at which we are singing both contemporary English Christmas Carols by John Rutter and traditional Nadales. I refuse to translate “carol” as “nadala” (either in the concert programme or the website), which caused bemused expressions at first… It is true that many carols, like nadales, have popular/folk traditions, but the style of carols has generally evolved over the centuries from a simple melody and in most cases everyone knows the long-established harmonisations (that said I myself have written a more modern arrangement of Silent Night (Santa Nit) for piano, so I am perhaps in danger of blurring the very lines I seek to highlight).

But let’s not get confused. Christmas carols are religious, generally more formal, and certainly not pop music. Christmas songs are informal, secular and popular music – equally valid, especially if they raise people’s spirit at this special time of year. Or at least if they make one think and appreciate what we have, as is the case of one of my favourite, if somewhat twisted, songs, Fairytale of New York (The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl).

So, let me get to the original purpose of this post, before I decided to turn it into a socio-cultural-linguistic debate. The Christmas Party list of songs and carols to read the lyrics for, check the meaning and practice. We will, of course, sing and play more carols and songs, including last year’s Twelve Days of Christmas, but we’ll focus on these ones for practice. I’ve included lyrics and YouTube videos or audio right on this page, below, just click on “Show Lyrics” to see them. Enjoy and don’t forget, if you play an instrument, please bring it next week! See you then!

  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town
To see the Lyrics click here.To hide the Lyrics click here.
 

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
He’s gonna find out
Who’s naughty or nice
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

You better watch out!
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town.
 

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town.

Here’s one of my favourite artists singing it – Michael Bublé:


  • Silent Night
To see the Lyrics click here.To hide the Lyrics click here.
Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace. 

 

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight
Glories stream from heaven above
Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.
Christ the Saviour is born,
Christ the Saviour is born.

Here’s the boy’s choir of Guildford Cathedral (my hometown) singing a more traditional version of Silent Night, though with a different organ arrangement. Just click the play button to hear it.

  • Last Christmas
To see the Lyrics click here.To hide the Lyrics click here.

Here’s Ariadna Grande’s version of George Michael’s classic…a bit superficial for my taste, but we have to roll with the times! The video below has the lyrics on-screen so you can follow along. If you want to see her singing it live, click here.

I hate that I remember

I wish I could forget

What you did last December

You left my heart a mess ( a mess )

Boy, you blew it

How could you

Do it, do it, oh yeah

Oh yeah

Last Christmas

I gave you my heart

But the very next day

You gave it away

This year

To save me from tears

I’ll give it to

Someone special

Ohhhhh yeah

But last Christmas

I gave you my heart

But the very next day

You gave it away

This year

To save me from tears

I’ll give it to

Someone special

Thought we belonged together

At least, that’s what you said

I, should have known better

You broke my heart, again

Boy, you blew it

How could you

Do it, do it, oh yeah

Last Christmas

I gave you my heart

(Gave you my heart)

But the very next day

You gave it away

(Gave it away)

This year

To save me from tears (You got it)

I’ll give it to

Someone special

Ohhhhhh

Last Christmas (Oh baby)

I gave you my heart

But the very next day you

gave it away (Gave it away)

This year (You got it)

To save me from tears

I’ll give it to someone special

Ooooo yeah.

How could you leave

Christmas morning

You broke my heart,

With no warning

Boy, you blew it

How could you

Do it, do it

Oh yeah

Last Christmas

I gave you my heart

(Gave you my heart)

But the very next day

You gave it away

(You gave it away)

This year

To save me from tears (Oh baby)

I’ll give it to

Someone special (This season)

Last (last), Last (last), Christmas

You broke my heart

Last (last), Last (last), Christmas

You broke my heart

This year (ahhh, ahhh)

To save me from tears

I’ll give it to someone special

Ohhhh

(Last) I hate that I remember

I wish I could forget

What you did last December

You left my heart a mess

(To save me from tears)

Baby (someone special)

You blew it, blew it

I hate that I remember

I wish I could forget

What you did last December

You left my heart a mess