One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the music. I’ve been singing as many Christmas songs as I could learn since I was first able to sing, as far as I can remember anyway (between singing Christmas songs and songs from Annie loudly, for all to hear when I was a child, it’s hard to understand why I’m terrified to sing in front of people now). Though I do actually enjoy many of the more secular songs, like “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the dearest to me have always been the more traditional songs- the songs about the true origin and meaning of the holiday. When I was younger, my favorite was always “Silent Night.” It’s slow, reverent, and beautiful. However, somehow I had missed for years the most beautiful of all Christmas songs.
Then in the early ’90s, while watching Home Alone, I heard it in the background while Kevin spoke with the “scary neighbor” in the church scene. “O Holy Night,” my favorite Christmas song gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear it done well. None of those fast-tempo versions can do that though. It must be sung slowly, and with real feeling.
Intrigued by one of the lesser performed verses of the song (indeed, it is difficult to find versions of the song with this verse), I decided to do some research into the song’s origins. I found an intriguing piece of literature on the matter, and if you’re also interested, please read. It’s a bit long, but quite interesting and worth the time.
To make a long story short, for the part of this song’s history most relevant to me, though not originally written for the purpose of abolitionism, the following verse was picked up by an American and used for an anti-slavery message during the Civil War:
“Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.”
Since I find my biggest passion to be fighting modern-day slavery, I guess it’s fitting that this is the dearest of all Christmas songs to me.
I’m sharing a beautiful and reverent version sung by an artist I have only recently heard, Kerrie Roberts. I love that she includes at least most of this often left out verse, and that she keeps the song simple and beautiful. Some modern artists insist on singing crazy vocal runs and just overdoing an already amazing song.