A Treasury of Christmas Carols


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Frequently Asked Questions



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How did all of this get started?

What is the purpose of this site?

What are your sources of hymns and carols?

Do you have the tunes or sheet music on this site?

Why I can't get the graphics to print correctly?

What is the source of the MIDI files?

What is an OGG?

What is Noteworthy Composer? (Plus: XML files)

Browser plug-ins: The continuing saga.

What about carols from the Middle English?

Why can't I find "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (or other modern songs)?

How to correct an error.

"I can't believe you don't have "xyz" old hymn/carol?"

Are there any other carols you don't have in this collection?

What happened to your histories?

How often is this site updated?

Can I link to this site?

Can I copy these hymns and carols?

Then why is this site copyright?

Concerning unsolicited email (e.g., "spam).

If you have received a benefit from this site.


How did all of this get started?

It all started so innocently. I was playing guitar in a bluegrass trio. The leader of the group, Dick Weber, suggested that we do a mini-concert at a local VA nursing home during the holiday season. I've always loved Christmas carols, and volunteered to get a few together.

That was in about 1996, and I've just keep adding and adding to the collection. This page contains additional information about me and the collection.

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What is the purpose of this site?

The purpose of this site is to preserve the rich history of carols and hymns which might otherwise be lost. Since it would be impractical to publish in book form, the collection is published to the World Wide Web (As of October, 2005 the printed collection consisted of 2,300 hymns and carols, and is 5½ feet wide — 18 three-inch binders). The ultimate goal is to have the largest collection of hymns and carols of Christmas ever published in the English language. Carols or hymns in a language other than English are not usually incorporated, as I do not speak any other language than English (more or less).  I strongly encourage speakers of other languages to create similar pages, to which I will gladly link!

I began the incorporation process of the main collection on January 7, 2002. It was time-consuming process — 8 months and a day before the whole collection (excluding songs under copyright) was added to the site. Additional hymns and carols are being incorporated on a regular basis. Please check back.  I'll note my progress on the What's New page to this site.

At last count, the site has over 4000 hymns and carols (including variations), plus several hundred Christmas poems and prose.

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What are your sources of hymns and carols?

A primary source for older hymns and carols are old hymnals and collections of carols. I've got dozens of old hymnals or carol collections which form the basis of the collection — and I'm acquiring more on a regular basis.  Some other hymns and carols have been collected from more contemporary collections (subject to copyright restrictions) and other web sites; credit is given in the Bibliography. The complete list is in this listing: Hymnals_And_Carol_Collections.pdf. This does not include reference material.

     Note: I haven't been good about updating this listing (last update was August 2006). As I've just moved (Dec. 2007), it's not likely to be updated again soon since the books are all in boxes. Still ... it's a start.

I'm always on the lookout for a carol or hymn which would be appropriate for inclusion, or for information about a particular hymn or carol which has heretofore escaped my attention (author, composer, history, etc.).  If you know of one, please  it to me (lyrics, background, and music in any of several formats: MIDI, scans of the music (in GIF or JPG, etc.), or Noteworthy Composer® files — a free player is available at their site; you'll need the reader to see scores that are saved on this site.). If I use the material you send, I'll give appropriate credit on the Acknowledgements page.

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Do you have the tunes or sheet music on this site?

If I know what tune or tunes are associated with a given carol or hymn, and if I can find a copy on the Internet that isn't copyright, I will include it on the site.  The tunes that are included are in the MIDI format. In a few cases, I've sequenced the tune myself, but this is more of a long-term project. On the page of a given hymn or carol, look for a "MIDI" link.  This is the link to the tune itself.  For more information on MIDI files, see below.

There is a some sheet music on the site, but not as much as I would like.  If I have a MIDI file of the tune, I can convert it into a score using Noteworthy Composer®  (see below).  In a few cases — such as tunes printed in Bramley & Stainer (1871) and Hutchins (1916) — I've scanned the music into a graphics format and included it on the site. Some of these scans of old hymnals and collections is not of the highest quality; age has taken its toll on many of these sources.

Due to copyright restrictions, there are no modern copies of sheet music on this site (later than 1923).  There are links to sheet music distributors on a special Sheet Music Links page.

Recordings can be found throughout the World Wide Web, some of which are in violation of copyright. One "safe" location for recordings is the Library of Congress. Recordings can be accessed from 'Online Audio Collections and Presentations.' The Library provides access to a portion of its audio collections through the Recorded Sound Reference Center's web page, the American Memory site, The Performing Arts Encyclopedia and the American Folklife Center pages.

Where no tune is known (and this is very common, especially among older hymns), feel free to use any tune that matches the meter of the words of the hymn or carol. The Church of God website contained several good discussions on musical meter: CG Music Library, which I recommend. You can also take a look at my mini-essay on the topic: What Is Musical Meter?

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Why I can't get the graphics to display or print correctly?

Display issues are usually a browser problem.  Some browsers adjust the size of a graphic to what the program thinks it should be — usually with poor results. You can instruct the browser not to adjust the size of the graphic. Usually, it's under "Options."

When I want to print a graphic, I copy the graphic to my computer (Windows users: right-click on the graphic and select "save as.").  Then I open a word processing program and "insert" the picture onto a blank page.  The graphic can then be appropriately resized and printed.  Instead of a word processing program, you could also use a presentation program, publishing program, graphics program, etc.

As noted above, much of the scanned sheet music is from old hymnals and collections.  The end result is not of the highest quality as age has taken its toll on many of these sources.

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What is the source of the MIDI files?

In most cases, MIDI files have been obtained from other sites on the Internet.  I've sequenced only a very few myself, but expect to sequence more of them in the future, using Noteworthy Composer®.  In all cases, I have retained any internal authorship identification. I have included a MIDI file and Noteworthy Composer file where ever possible. In some cases — especially the most ancient — no such files exist.

If I sequence the file, it will usually include only the melody line and the first verse.  As time goes by, I'm including the full score (usually SATB).  Write if you have a specific need.

You will need to have a program on your computer that will play MIDI files in order to access files.  Windows® users can use the built-in Media Player® or other similar program.  As I don't speak Apple, I can't make any recommendations for users of the Macintosh;  the same applies to users of other operating systems, such as *nix.  My best advise is to go to CNET; select the "Downloads" section and do a search.

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What is an OGG?

Ogg Vorbis (OGG) is an open-source, compressed audio format similar to MP3 and WMA, both of which are proprietary formats protected by patent (Microsoft recently lost a lawsuit brought by France's Alcatel-Lucent SA concerning licensing of the MP3 format in Windows, and was ordered to pay $1.52 billion in damages).

The developers of OGG claim that it has higher performance than either MP3 or WMA. OGG supports Windows, UNIX/LINUX, MAC OSX, OS/2, and Pocket PC (and, in my experience, produces smaller files).

To play an OGG file, you either need to load a Codec for your system, or you need to use a program which has native support for OGG; see Vorbis' Third Party Software and the Free Software Foundation's Ogg Vorbis. For more information about this format, see XIPH.org and Vorbis.com. Sites accessed November 15, 2006.

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What is Noteworthy Composer?

Music scores are in the Noteworthy Composer®  format, which is a program in which you can view, generate or modify files which can be printed as musical scores (or saved as MIDI files).  In order to access these files, you will need to download the free Noteworthy Player® and plug-in, or both.

By the way, I do not provide support for Noteworthy Composer® or any other program that is needed to view the files on this site.  Please contact the authors of such programs for support. 

I am not able to provide direct support other formats of music notation software, such as Finale® or Scorch®. However, all Noteworthy Composer files have been converted to the MusicXML format: XML.iso (88,294 KB, using James Lee's nwc2xml program; as of December 6, 2006). I am told that Finale 7, Scorch 4, and other programs support this format. The ISO file was successfully tested on my computer (using Roxio™). My thanks to Wheat Williams for his invaluable assistance in this project.

     See: MusicXML for updates.

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Browser plug-ins: The continuing saga.

The ability to access a Noteworthy Composer file (*.nwc)  from within a browser is dependent upon the browser that you use. A Browser Plug-in has been available for quite some time, but changes to operating systems and changes to browsers make the ability to open a NWC file a challenge.

Some time ago, Noteworthy Composer issued a browser plug-in; we responded by creating the special type of files needed to open NWC files with that plug-in. However, the browser plug-in is no longer available as a separate download, and the special Browser Plug-in files that we created no longer work. Currently, a NWC browser plug-in is built into the newest version of the Noteworthy Composer Viewer program. But installing the Viewer doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to open a NWC file from within any browser.

The result, at this time, is that some browsers will open NWC files, and others won't, as follows:

Browsers that will open NWC files are Opera, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Edge (the Win10 browser), if you have either Noteworthy Composer or NWC Viewer installed. These programs will give you the option to download or to open a NWC file; you can also make this choice the default action.

Neither Mozilla Firefox nor Google Chrome will open a NWC file within the browser (Chrome automatically downloads the file; Firefox opens a page of gibberish). If you use either of these browsers, in order to view a NWC file, you must first download it and then open it using either Noteworthy Composer or the NWC Viewer. Neither of these browsers check your operating system defaults to determine whether or not you have Noteworthy Composer or the NWC Viewer program installed.

This is something that we are powerless to control. In addition, the next version of a given browser may change its treatment of these files.

Last Updated: November 13, 2016.

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What about carols from the Middle English?

The earliest carols were written in Middle English, which in some cases bears little resemblance to modern English (or even "American"). In these cases, I have not attempted to translate the original into modern English (as I have no facility with Middle English - or any other "foreign" language).  As much as possible, I have retyped the originals as I found them (especially those from William Sandys, for example). 

Because Middle English contains letters not found in modern English, I used a special font, "Junius Modern" created by Professor Peter S. Baker, Professor of English, University of Virginia on some pages.  I will note on the individual carol's page which ones need this font. Recently, Dr. Baker has created an updated font package called "Junicode," a Unicode implementation of fonts for use by medievalists. You can obtain a copy of this font from his website Old English at the University of Virginia (select "Windows TrueType," or right click here, and then select "Save File As" to save a copy of the zipped file to your computer).  This font must be downloaded and installed before these pages will display accurately.

You can read more about Junicode at Why You Should Use Junicode. The 175 Middle English pages on this website are in the process of receiving this update.

Note: I don't have a Mac, and can't say whether or not the Macintosh version of this font works on these pages. Sorry.

Some special characters — especially for the letter "s" — are not contained in Dr. Baker's font.   When a change to the modern letter has been made, I will italicize the letter. Also see Dr. Baker's The Electronic Introduction To Old English.

Some other carols, especially those from the 16th century, are reproduced using a font called "Old Blackletter." For some pages, this font must be installed in order to accurately represent the text.  You can download this font from that "impecunious antiquarian" Red Henry's  Old English Page (or right click here and then select "Save File As" to save a copy of the file to your computer). Again, I will note on the individual carol's page which ones need this font.

You will also find some interesting historical English fonts at the English Department, Shepherd University (Dr. Baker's Junius and Junius Modern fonts are also included on this page, as well as numerous other interesting specimens).

The reader may find the following resource to be helpful: A Concise Dictionary of Middle English  by A. L. Mayhew and Walter W. Skeat (from Project Gutenberg).

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Why can't I find "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (or other modern songs)?

This is an issue of copyright. Much of what was written in the 20th Century is under copyright, both the words and the music (or contemporary arrangements of older music), and recordings.  These songs will not intentionally be included on this web site unless the copyright holder permits it (at this time, I will not be seeking these permissions).  In some cases, for example the Alfred Burt carols, the carols are posted on a site of someone who has obtained the rights to post the carols from the copyright holder (the lyrics have been removed from the site since this was originally written).  In such cases, I've linked to those sites; all external links will open in a new window.

For more information about Copyright law, the U.S. government maintains a copyright site, which I recommend.  Also, you might want to read the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Elred v. Ashcroft (537 US ___, 2003), which affirms the validity of the 1998 amendment to US Copyright law and which contains the Court's history and understanding of US copyright law.  A copy of this decision is available at the Supreme Court website. Note that this law brings US law into conformance with the European Union term adopted in 1993

A simple explanation is that the 1998 law extends copyright protection to 70 years following the death of a known creator for works created on or after January 1, 1978.  For anonymous works, pseudonymous works, and works made for hire, the protection is from creation to 95 years following publication, or 120 years from creation, which ever expires first. For works published between 1923 and 1977, the period will often be 67 years (there are exceptions). Note: I do not hold myself out as an expert in copyright law; please do not rely upon this interpretation. If you have copyright issues, please consult a qualified attorney.

For a good summary, see the page Copyright Term and Public Domain in the United States.

If I have inadvertently included a carol or hymn which is under copyright, I apologize. If you want that material removed from this site, please  me. I'll remove it as quickly as I can; links will be replaced with a link to the author's site (if any).

In sum,

  1. If a carol or hymn is listed, it is in my collection.

  2. If linked, it is in the public domain (as far as I can tell) or linked to a site with copyright (for example, Austin Rudy, Albert Burt, and the Rabid Fans Sports Carols).

  3. If unlinked, it is under copyright and not available at this site (in some cases I have created a "notes" page with basic information about the hymn or carol, but not including the lyrics or music, as appropriate).

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"I can't believe you don't have "xyz" old Christmas hymn/carol!"

You might be surprised how often I get these kinds of indignant emails. Hey folks, I find old hymns and carols when I find them. One collection leads to another (bibliographies are wonderful things) But some old collections are almost impossible to find (especially if they were published only once 150 years ago). Some old hymnals are even more difficult to find (for the same reason). Some individual hymns and carols were never published — just privately printed and distributed.

I'm always happy to go looking, but sometimes it takes a long time to find a specific carol, hymn or collection. I have a large "looking for" file, and I'm always happy to add your request. The more details you can add (religious denomination, approximate year, location, etc), the better. For example, Lutheran churches that came from Scandinavian background often had different translations and tunes than Lutheran churches that came from a German tradition.

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Are there any other carols you don't have in this collection?

I have intentionally excluded from this collection humor and parodies of carols in the areas named below. In each case, I feel that the humor is misplaced, usually in a poor attempt to ridicule human conditions which either the individual has little or no control, or where there is simply nothing to celebrate.

  • Alcohol abuse and alcoholism

  • Animal abuse

  • Drug abuse

  • Obscenity

  • Racism

  • Sexual innuendo

  • Violence, and finally

  • Generally lacking in the Christmas spirit

If you're interested, such parodies can be readily found on the World Wide Web.

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What happened to your histories?

The following histories have been removed:

  • "Sing, Choirs of Angels": The History of Christmas Carols

  • "Seasons Greetings!": A Brief History of Christmas Cards

  • "From Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus": A History

  • "O Tannenbaum": The Christmas Tree

  • "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing": The Role of Angels

All of these histories have been removed. They were all written several years ago, and do not reflect the most current scholarship. I hope to rewrite and republish as time and health allow.

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How to correct an error.


I would like to take this opportunity to quote from the Introduction of "Ancient Mysteries Described" by William Hone (1823):

"Lastly, I am bound to confess the existence of a few errors, not affecting the sense, that were discovered too late for correction, though in sufficient time to enable me to affirm, as a warning to others, that the worst editor of an author's writings is himself."

Point taken.

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How often is this site updated?

This site is updated regularly, but not on any schedule.  This is a "hobby" site; I used to have a full-time job that paid the bills and, at that time, I usually worked 5 1/2 days a week, plus spent another 7 1/2 hours per week on the freeway.

Now, due to illness, I am retired, and feel that I have even less time to devote to my favorite hobby.

The updates will continue coming — whenever I have new hymns or carols to contribute. Please check back often.

{By the way, I have a file folder box beneath my desk marked "pending Christmas work." There's lots more to come!}

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Can I link to this site?

Please feel free to link to this site.  And I'm always happy to link to other Christmas sites. If yours is not a Christmas site, please don't ask.

Suggested text:

Title: A Treasury of Christmas Carols: The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

URL: http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com

Text: Over 2,800 Christmas carols and hymns, and over 300 Christmas poems, preserving a rich history of Christmas literature and music which might otherwise be lost.

Or, some code (for those who like to work "under the hood"):

<p><a target="_blank" href="http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/">A Treasury of Christmas Carols: The Hymns and Carols of Christmas</a>. Over 2,800 Christmas carols and hymns, and over 300 Christmas poems, preserving a rich history of Christmas literature and music which might otherwise be lost. </p>

All in one, copy and paste:

A Treasury of Christmas Carols: The Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Over 2,800 Christmas carols and hymns, and over 300 Christmas poems, preserving a rich history of Christmas literature and music which might otherwise be lost.

If you like banners, here's one to consider:

Banner: http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/images/HHC-Logo448.jpg

Here are two others; feel free to resize to fit your needs:

Again, I will gladly link-back to your site if your site is one which relates to Christmas.  I only link to sites which relate to Christmas in some manner; it must be a family-safe website. Please email your website's Title, URL and text. To keep this site accessible to those with dial-up connections, I do not generally post banners (such as the one above).

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Can I copy these hymns and carols?

You can feel free to copy any and all files that strike your fancy.  Downloading the entire site would probably be too time-consuming for those who have a dial-up connection; the current size is nearly 1 GB and growing. But if you have a broadband connection (DSL, cable or a T-x), feel free to copy as much as you like, including the entire site (see below).

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Then why is this site copyright?

This site and all its contents are copyright. The only reason for this is to prevent someone else from copying the site, setting up mirror, slapping a copyright on it, charging a fortune to get copies, and forcing me to close this web site.  It's happened to others. The strangest story of all: a private "entrepreneur" copied a public-domain family-support military site, reposted it under another name, and posted a copyright notice! Go figure.

However, you can feel free to copy any and all files that strike your fancy. In fact, I encourage it! Everything is copyright, but placed in the public domain, although subject to the caveat that no one may copy the contents of this site, or any portion thereof, and charge another to reproduce the contents.

Downloading the entire site would probably be too time-consuming for those who have a dial-up connection; the current size is nearly 1 GB and growing. But if you have DSL, cable or a T-1, feel free to knock yourself — and your bandwidth — out. Please make a copy (often!).

I no longer offer a CD of the site.  I have neither the professional-quality equipment nor the time.  The only copy I ever sold cost me twice the (then) suggested donation.  Way more trouble than it was worth (I hasten to add it was nobody's fault; things happen).  Just download the site and save us all a lot of time and trouble.

Why do I encourage people to copy the site? Because I want the contents of this site to be preserved long after I'm gone. The more copies the better. Copy and share!

Note: On September 16, 2006, I used the open-source software HT Track Website Copier (Version 3.40-2) to mirror the website. At the time, the site had 31,959 files and had a size of 969 MB. I have a home cable connection. The computer was connected from the access point with a 25' CAT-5 commercial cable. I was copying to my USB-connected backup drive. The copying of the site took 9 hours, 26 minutes.

The only files that didn't copy were the Noteworthy Composer™ files. (Here they are: NWC.iso).

Subsequently, all NWC files were converted to the MusicXML format: XML.iso (using James Lee's nwc2xml program; as of December 6, 2006). To download both the NWC and XML directories: nwc2xml.iso. All three files were successfully tested on my computer (using Roxio™).

My thanks to Wheat Williams for his invaluable assistance in this project.

I have no financial or other relationship to HT Track Website Copier™ software or Noteworthy Software™.

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Concerning unsolicited email.

In July, and again in September, some jerk "spoofed" the name of this site with unsolicited emails (commonly called "spam.) Let us be clear: this site does not send out unsolicited emails under any circumstances. Period.

If you received an email purportedly from this site, it was "spoofed." It did not come from this site, and this site is unable to halt this distribution.

Considering the hundreds of "bounced" messages that inundated my inbox, I can assure you that if I could halt this type of distribution, I would (not to mention the ill-informed, irate emails that I receive — get a clue, people ... nobody sends out this kind of garbage under their own name ... they steal the good names of other, innocent people!).

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Making a Donation?

For some time, I had a link at PayPal, so that interested parties could make a cash donation to help defray the costs of the site.  I've removed that link.

The current policy is this: this site is donation-ware.  I'd prefer, if you have received a benefit from this site, that you make a donation to a children's hospital, a women's shelter, a soup kitchen or food bank, or a similar charity. Please recall the exhortation to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, greet the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison (Matthew 25:31-46). 

I don't require any acknowledgement of any gifts given to such a charity.  While your faith should shine like a beacon before mankind (Matthew 5:14-16), gifts are best given with less fanfare, recalling the instruction that "when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you....[Let] your alms ... be in secret." (Matthew 6:2-3).

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13: 2

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Notes Concerning Certain Carols


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