What Christmas carols are really celebrating

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tags: Christmas, Christmas carols



Southeastern Louisiana University communications professor Joseph Burns researched the history of Christmas carols thoroughly for a presentation he made recently at the university’s annual Fanfare festival, a fall celebration of the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Burns said many people can get the wrong idea by going solely according to the title or lyrics. For example, in “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” he singles out the comma placement.

“It has nothing to do with happy, merry men. It was first published in the mid-1700s and is referenced in Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ ” said Burns, who produces the weekly radio show “Rock School” on the university’s station, KSLU-FM. “The word ‘merry’ means strong or mighty, as in ‘merry old England,’ and the word ‘rest’ means to keep or make. So the title translates to ‘God keep you mighty, gentlemen,’ and refers to the lamplighters and additional men hired to patrol during the holidays.”




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