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Holiday Song Stories 2018

The Stories Behind Some of Our Favorite Holiday Songs

In the Bleak Midwinter

"In the Bleak Midwinter” is a Christmas carol based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti. The poem was published, under the title "A Christmas Carol", in the January 1872 issue of Scribner’s Monthly.

The poem first appeared set to music in The English Hymnal in 1906 with a setting by Gustav Holst. The lyrics tell the tale of a English country winter Christmas.

“In the bleak mid-winter

Frosty wind made moan;

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter

Long ago.”

Jesus Refulsit Omnium

The oldest known Christmas Carol is “Jesus Refulsit Omnium” (“Jesus, Light of All the Nations”). It was written between 310 – 367 CE by St. Hilary of Poitiers of France. It is believed that he may have created the song after the first recorded Christmas celebration took place in 336 AD.

Maoz Tzur

Maoz Tzur (Hebrew: מָעוֹז צוּר Māʾōz Ṣūr) is a Jewish liturgical poem or piyyut. It is written in Hebrew, and is sung on the holiday of Hanukkah, after lighting the festival lights. The name is a reference to the Hasmonean stronghold of Beth-zur. This Hebrew song is thought to have been written sometime in the 13th century.