Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmas carols and the United Daughters of the Confederacy

In the Nov. 2007, Vol. 70 No. 10, issue of UDC Magazine, the official publication of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), on pages 12-14, Sybil R. Willingham, UDC Historian General 2006-2008, has an article, "Christmas Songs as Propaganda," about which Christmas songs were written by abolitionists.

Willingham doesn't directly say don't sing Christmas carols written by abolitionists. What she says in the conclusion of her article is:
As you gather round with friends and family this Christmas, perhaps you will join in singing some of the old favorites that our Confederate ancestors sang too. Merry Christmas.
The unspoken message is that the reader should consider whether their Confederate ancestors would have sang a particular Christmas carol or not depending on whether it was authored by an abolitionist in their selection of Christmas carols to sing. A UDC member would not have to be told not to sing a particular song, they would reject it knowing it was written by an abolitionist.

Willingham also writes:
Some of our favorite hymns that we enjoy singing today contained controversial verses that have since been removed.
"O Holy Night"

The article explains that the carol "O Holy Night" was written in France. Willingham informs the reader that this Christmas carol became very popular starting before the Civil War and during the Civil War because of the 3rd verse of the song.
Truely He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His Gospel peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
This must be one of the versus which Willingham finds controversial. Breaking chains to free slaves! Ceasing oppression! Well, perhaps this is controversial for the UDC membership.

The carol "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day" Willingham informs us is based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, titled "Christmas Bells," set to music in 1872. The carol omitted the 4th and 5th versus of Longfellow's poem which referred to the Civil War.

Willingham then concludes the article with a section, "The Songs We Love." She comments, "It is doubtful that the aforementioned songs were sung in their entirety in Southern churches and homes during the War" in referring to songs written by abolitionists.

She then describes Christmas carols which were sung in the Confederacy: "Hark, the herald angel sings,"; "O Come, All Ye Faithful,"; and "Silent Night." These would be the "Songs We Love."

Willingham also points out that "Jingle Bells," was written by John Lord Pierpont, who enlisted in the Confederate First Georgia Cavalry."

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