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The Sound of a Templar Christmas

Christmas - Turkey dinners, gifts, Siôn Corn (Santa), and tinsel all set to the soundtrack of carols being sung in the streets, in churches, and in schools throughout Christendom. But what would a Templar Christmas sound like?

Most of the carols we all know and love are actually only around 200-years old at most with many being written far more recently. The tradition of caroling as we know it didn't come into being until the 19th Century when bands of local leaders, such as councillors for example, would come together and sing on Christmas Eve. These groups were known as "Waits" because Christmas Eve was then more commonly known as "Watchnight" or "Waitnight" (named for the shepherds who were watching their sheep when the angels appeared to them). It was important to have councillors or other local leaders within the group as they were the only people who could take money in the street from the public. If anyone else did it they would be prosecuted for begging.

People, have however, been celebrating this time of year for far longer. In pre-Christian times people would celebrate the solstice by feasting, dancing around stone circles, and of course singing. The word carol actually means a dance or song of praise and would be performed during all four seasons. But it's only the tradition of singing them at Christmas that has survived.

Reportedly, one of the first known Christmas hymns is "Jesus Refulsit Omnium" ("Jesus, Light of All the Nations"), written by St. Hilary of Poitier in the fourth century. The second is "Corde natus ex Parentis" ("Of the Father's Love Begotten") which was composed by Roman Christian poet Prudentius, also in the fourth century.

Although more Christmas-themed music was written and produced in the fourth century, these songs weren't observed during religious services until much later in the 12th century.

At the time Christmas themed songs were all written in Latin. But sonce the general population didn't use the language they proved unpopular.

That was, until, in 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or 'canticles' that told the Christmas story during the plays. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but more normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in! The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries.

For the Templars, however, tradition would prevail and they would most likely have sung chants such as "Verbum Caro Factum Est". A respond for Mass on Christmas Day. You can listen to what it might have sounded like below:

Direct link to video above on YouTube -

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