Social Success: Promoting Victorian Carols

While the singing of carols to celebrate Christmas is by no means new, it is a tradition which has been given a new lease of life in recent years. Along with other imports and innovations which have seen the celebration of Christmas grow from a small holiday to a grand festive period, carols are now de rigueur for anyone claiming to be in the possession of ‘Christmas Spirit’.

However, in this season of goodwill, there is no good reason why we cannot promote and celebrate the more recent carols created by our fellow Victorians. This is, after all, an age in which we do seem to be rather fond of blowing our own trumpet.

To that end, Behind The Past is proud to unveil its guide to Victorian Carols:

  • O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) which first appeared c. 1868.
  • It Came Upon The Midnight Clear by Edmund Sears (1810-1876) which was originally published in America in 1849.
  • Once In Royal David’s City by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) and which first appeared in 1848.
  • As With Gladness Men Of Old, written by William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) in 1859 is technically an Epiphany hymn, but it’s often sung as a Christmas carol anyway.

With regards to their singing, it is suggested that you consider the venue. If in Church, then enthusiastic vigour tempered with reverence and respect is perhaps best. If one is actually out and about carolling, then loud and bold is generally the order of the day, although do employ judgement and discretion! If dogs, cats and small children start to cry, it is perfectly acceptable to mime and allow others to do the actual singing…


‘History of Christmas’, BBC, (

Hymns Ancient and Modern – New Standard, (Beccles and London: William Clowes Ltd., 1984).

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