Is It a Christmas Song, Christmas Hymn, or Christmas Carol?
What do you call your Christmas music?
We might call all Christmas music by the same name: Christmas songs, Christmas hymns, or Christmas carols. However, Christmas music comprises different genres usually heard before and during the Christmas season and put on the shelf until the following year.
Much of the Christmas music and lyrics have some of the same themes, but they were not written to be grouped into the same category. Therefore, the relevant question is: Which are Christmas songs, Christmas hymns, or Christmas carols?
Most people enjoy Christmas music around their houses, in their cars, on the streets, and in religious settings. They hear the music in stores, in elevators, and all around town for about a month before the Christmas season even begins. So, what are the music and lyrics really called?
First of all, they are not all grouped into the same category. Secondly, they are all songs because they are being sung. Thirdly, there is a distinction between a Christmas song, a Christmas hymn, and a Christmas carol. While some people might think it doesn’t matter, there are some differences in the music you hear and the lyrics you sing.
Most Christmas music is called by its generic name: a Christmas song. While all Christmas music falls under the umbrella of Christmas songs, there is something distinct about popular Christmas songs that they could be called Christmas hymns or Christmas carols.
Generically, a hymn is a type of song. However, the word hymn helps people understand that hymns are usually sung in a religious setting because it was specifically written for the purpose of adoration, praise, or prayer. In the Christian tradition, a Christmas hymn is typically addressed to God with biblical themes. There is a wide selection of Christmas hymns in church hymnals because they are mostly religious with biblical-based themes.
A Christmas carol is defined as a song or hymn with Christmas or winter themes, traditionally sung during the Christmas holiday season. Christmas carols may or may not have a specific religious context. Christmas carols were written in a festive style traditionally sung leading up to Christmas Day and a short period after that.
Did You Know?
Much of Christmas music today was adopted from music initially created for other purposes. They later became associated with Christmas in some way.
Many songs are about the time of year without any mentioning of Christmas at all. Some favorites include Winter Wonderland, Let it Snow, Frosty the Snowman, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, and Sleigh Ride. Those songs are not about at all. Instead, they have wintry themes.
Winter-themed songs are generally played on the radio leading up to Christmas. Even though there is plenty of winter remaining after Christmas, those winter songs are not played after the Christmas holiday has ended. After Christmas, Frosty melts away until next year even though it doesn't get warm until the spring.
Many Christmas lyrics are geared toward children, but adults love them just as well. Such songs include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells.
The Bottom Line
Whether you call the music and lyrics a Christmas song, a Christmas hymn, or a Christian carol, feel free to listen to and sing along with all of them. In fact, some of the music might be categorized as one, two, or all three of the genres.
Some people like all Christmas music, but others have favorites to listen to no matter what the genre is. In fact, they often say, "It's not Christmas until I hear my favorite song." This writer says it is not Christmas until the Temptations wishes her Merry Christmas and sings Silent Night.