Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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cxv
introduced in the songs and dances on some of the early festivals of the saints, probably sprang from this source. The early Christians were in the con­stant habit of singing psalms and hymns, especially on their festivals and on the vigils of their saints, when, according to Burney, they sang sacred songs after supper. The practice is referred to both by St. Paul and St. James; and Pliny the younger, in his letter to Trajan respecting the Christians, a.d. ] 07, says, " They were wont to meet together on a stated day, before it was light, and sing among them­selves alternately a hymn to Christ as to God."
According to Durand, the bishops in the earlier ages of the Church were accustomed on Christmas-day to sing hymns among their clergy, from whence may be derived our Christmas hymns or carols. J Bishop Taylor observes, however, that the " Gloria in Excelsis," the well known hymn sung by the Angels to the Shepherds at our Lord's Nativity, was the earliest Christmas carol. In the second century Telesphorus, in his " Decretall Epistle," mentions the practice as already noticed.*
In the fourth century the Ambrosian chant was established in the church at Milan, when St. Am­brose was bishop of that place, and church music began to take a more settled and imposing form. The Anglo-Saxons, after their conversion to Chris­tianity, preserved their fondness for religious music, and it was a common article among their guilds or fraternities, that each member should sing two psalms a day, one for the living members, the other for those that were dead.f
They had also, no doubt in consonance with the practice of other countries, peculiar hymns for par­ticular feast days, and especially for the feast of the
* Page xiii. ante.
t IJenry's History of England, vol. iv. 367.

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