Countdown to Christmas

With the beginning of December, the music world enters into the Christmas spirit. Christmas-related concerts will be held in many Cairo locations.

Published on Thursday 2 Dec 2010 in Ahram Online

December has  begun! During this month, the Egyptian music scene will enter into the Christmas spirit with a variety of events. With the Christian population being in the minority in Egypt, Christmas festivities are not as evident on the city’s streets and squares. Traces of Christmas trees and decorations can be found only in certain Cairo and Alexandria districts, while festivities are mostly enclosed within Christian households and churches. However, in Egypt,  the field of music is among the strongest mediums conveying the atmosphere of these beautiful festivities and musicians focus on delivering Christmas charm to Egyptian audiences.

Many singers are engaged in concerts including carols and other songs usually performed at  this time. Understandably carols  make up the best-known music associated with Christmas.  Their history sends us back to the beginning of popular songs, relating to the Nativity plays accredited to St. Francis of Assisi in Italy, back in the 12th century.  Early songs performed during those plays, canticles, were sung in the language that people watching the play could understand.  This was unusual as the music world was dominated by Latin at this time.

Psalmus in Nativitate, a Latin hymn in honour of the Nativity, is believed to have been written by St  Francis. Curiously, not all of those songs were related to Christmas festivities.  Several of them were not even  based on religious themes but on interesting historical events or legends, some  even relating to daily life. Historians tell us that St. Francis wrote mainly in Italian and Italy is considered to be the birthplace of the Christmas carol.

Dominican mystics of the 14th century followed in St. Francis’s footsteps and Blessed Henry Suso is accredited to have written In dulci jubilo.  By the 15th century travelling singers or minstrels, popularised their songs across Europe.  Singing around Christmas time suffered a decline in the 16th and 17th centuries – the Reformation  period – however,  England revived the tradition at the beginning of the 18th century.

From this time we have Joy to the World written by Isaac Watts and first published in 1719. It was during the 19th century that singing around Christmas became particularly popular and accordingly songs started carrying more themes related to religion and the nativity. Stille Nacht (Silent Night) was written by a German priest, Father Joseph Mohr, in 1818, O Holy Night was composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem Minuit, Chretiens.

However, Jingle Bells doesn’t have a religious theme as it is a winter song though often sung around Christmas time all around the globe.

In the 19th century more people started singing carols to entertain people, especially on Christmas Eve. Today, carol singing  has become an important part of Christmas traditions and Christmas-related concerts are organised throughout the world during the festive season.

Ahram Online brings you closer to Christmas events which will take place in Cairo during the month of December.

see schedule here

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