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The tradition of singing Christmas carols in return for alms or charity began in England in the seventeenth century after the Restoration.
Town musicians or 'waits' were licensed to collect money in the streets in the weeks preceding Christmas, the custom spread throughout the population by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries up to the present day.
The first Christmas songs associated with Saint Nicholas or other gift-bringers also came during 19th century, including "Up on the Housetop" and "Jolly Old St. Many older Christmas hymns were also translated or had lyrics added to them during this period, particularly in 1871 when John Stainer published a widely influential collection entitled "Christmas Carols New & Old".
Few notable carols were produced from the beginning of the 20th century until the Great Depression era of the 1930s, when a stream of songs of often American origin were published, most of which did not explicitly reference the Christian nature of the holiday, but rather the more secular traditional Western themes and customs associated with Christmas.
The earliest examples are hymnographic works (chants and litanies) intended for liturgical use in observance of both the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany, many of which are still in use by the Eastern Orthodox Church.Also from the seventeenth century, there was the English custom, predominantly involving women, of taking a wassail bowl to their neighbours to solicit gifts, accompanied by carols.Despite this long history, many Christmas carols date only from the nineteenth century onwards, with the exception of songs such as the Wexford Carol, "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen", "As I Sat on a Sunny Bank", "The Holly and the Ivy," The status of Christmas as an important feast within the church year also means there is a long tradition of music specially composed for celebrating the season.Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work of John Audelay, a Shropshire priest and poet, who lists 25 "caroles of Cristemas", probably sung by groups of wassailers, who went from house to house.During the Commonwealth of England government under Cromwell, the Rump Parliament prohibited the practice of singing Christmas carols as Pagan and sinful.