The writing of carols, too, continued in the 20th century, although primarily in a secular vein with some notable exceptions (for example, Do You Hear What I Hear?). Particularly after the release of the movie Holiday Inn in 1942, the writing of carols increased significantly, especially in the 1940s and 1950s. The improvements and popularity of inventions in the late 19th century of the phonograph, the radio, and television would bring carols to even larger audiences.
It has been said that the First Golden Age of Christmas Carols occurred in the 15-16th century, and that the Second Golden Age of Christmas Carols occurred in the 19th century. Based on the list below, the 20th century was surely the Third Golden Age.
Studwell noted that there was a uniquely productive period of Christmas carol writing from 1932 to 1951, including:
"Nineteen holiday favorites in about the same number of years!" exclaimed Studwell. 
In 1998, ASCAP President and Chairman Marilyn Bergman announced the Society's 25 most-performed holiday songs. "These classic songs brighten the season year after year, and are a cornerstone of the ASCAP repertory," she said. "Most of them have been recorded in renditions by artists in every genre, yet each song retains the original stamp of its creators." Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" heads the list of ASCAP holiday hits of the Twentieth Century. The date behind each carol is the date of publication.
The oldest songs on the list were "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "Winter Wonderland", both written in 1934. The newest song is "Feliz Navidad" (1970).
The writer with the most hits on this list was Johnny Marks with three:
The team of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne contributed two songs:
Songs introduced in motion pictures included:
One song was introduced in a television special: "A Holly Jolly Christmas" in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1962) [performed by Burl Ives]
Finally, the most recorded song was Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (1942), which has been recorded over 500 times, in dozens of languages. ASCAP released Holiday , a CD of the top 25 -- often with the first or most popular performer -- in November, 1999. It was still available in October, 2001. The cost was $14.95, plus postage and handling.
On December 27, 1999, ASCAP announced its top 25 songs of the century (in terms of most often performed). Four Christmas songs made the list:
Not making the list of most performed Christmas songs is the significant body of carols written by composer Alfred Burt (see right), with lyrics by his father, Rev. Bates Burt, and family friend, Wilha Hutson (following the death of Rev. Burt). The last of these carols was written shortly before the death of Alfred Burt in 1954. The Alfred Bates carols and their dates of composition are:
All carols bear the copyright date of 1954. Lex de Azevedo's Millennium Choir has recorded all of them on a single album — the first digital CD recording of the entire collection. Caroling, Caroling is available on both CD and cassette on Deseret Book's Shadow Mountain label. For more information about Alfred Bates and his carols, see the Alfred Burt Carols website formerly maintained by Anne Shortt Burt, Al's wife, and now maintained by his daughter, Diane Burt D’Amico. This sites gives details about Alfred Burt and his carols that cannot be found elsewhere.
This is not to say, however, that the traditional hymns and carols have been ignored. Bing Crosby's first Christmas recordings in 1935 were Silent Night and Adeste Fideles (O Come, All Ye Faithful). Indeed, my collection of over 1100 recordings in the winter of 2001 included 45 different versions of Silent Night, which was the most number of recordings of a single song in the collection. Second, by the way, was White Christmas (28 recordings) and third was Adeste Fideles/O Come All Ye Faithful (29 recordings). The traditional hymns and carols continue to be well represented in the popularly published collections of Christmas music, and in Christmas music released on CDs and cassette tape on an annual basis.
In spite of the many changes which this genre has seen over the centuries, the carol remains generally festive in manner, as opposed to hymns which are more devotional and theological in nature. Unlike the Puritans, today we hear Christmas carols and hymns in almost every venue during the month of December: elevators, stores, malls, banks, homes, schools, churches, on radio, and on the dozens of television specials devoted to this special time of year. And each year, new artists release new carols; perhaps the new carol you hear this holiday season will be the "classic" carol a century from now.
1. William Studwell The Christmas Carol Reader (New York: Harrington Books, 1995), pp. 178-179. Another, more extensive, list is created by Dale V. Nobbman, Christmas Music Companion Fact Book (Anaheim Hills, CA: Centerstream Publishing, 2000), pages 8-13. Return
By the end of 2004, the ASCAP list had changed. The full list, as of December 2, 2004:
1. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) Mel Tormé, Robert Wells)
The Hymns and Carols of Christmas
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