Christmas Eve. Voices echoed angelic songs in darkness lit by hundreds of tiny flames that flickered like stars. I held my candle carefully as I sang the miracle and mystery of a Saviour come to earth. Heaven stooping low. The glorious beauty of ancient prophecy fulfilled.
My children, beside me, looked on with wonder-filled eyes.
And with silent awe.
They don’t know these songs.
Not well enough to sing along, at least. Although we don’t typically incorporate hymn study into our eclectic homeschool, I want them to know the songs that I hold dear. Playing Christmas music isn’t enough. When I was young, we sang the songs in school and church for weeks leading up to Christmas, active participation etching them into our memories.
I’m excited to do a Christmas hymn study this year. And as I’ve researched and planned, I’m excited to share the step-by-step with you too.
1. Choose 1-2 Hymns
Begin by choosing your hymn(s). I didn’t think much about this; I simply picked my favourites. I purchased an inexpensive caroling songbook containing a collection of carols excerpted from The Christian Life Hymnal.
A Classic Christmas Caroling Songbook: 30 Sing-Along Favorites
By Hendrickson Publishers
Our best-selling favorite! Sing with joy this Christmas season!
Ideal for family get-togethers and community caroling visits, this handy sing-along booklet has clear, readable type and alphabetical song titles. Featuring lyrics and music of 30 Christmas favorites from The Christian Life Hymnal, it easily slips into a coat pocket – and is priced so that every singer in your group can have one! 32 pages, softcover from Hendrickson.
Free versions of lyrics and sheet music are available at The Hymns and Carols of Christmas, organized alphabetically.
As it takes time to learn a hymn well, we chose two to study concurrently over a six-week period, beginning in mid to late November.
2. Learn the History of Your Hymn
Who composed the hymn? When was it composed? Why was it composed? What is the message of the hymn?
Here are some resources to help you answer some of those questions:
Free Online Resources
The Theology of Christmas Music examines the message behind five Christmas hymns: Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; O Little Town of Bethlehem; O Holy Night; and Joy to the World.
The History Behind 5 Great Christmas Carols tells the stories behind the following hymns: O Come, O Come Immanuel; Joy to the World; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Silent Night; and O Holy Night.
Songsandhymns.org provides facts, devotionals and back stories for nine Christmas hymns: Angels We Have Heard on High; Away In a Manger; Gentle Mary Laid Her Child; Infant Holy, Infant Lowly; Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come; Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence; O Come All Ye Faithful; O Come O Come Emmanuel; and Silent Night.
Books and Audiobooks
Stories Behind Best Loved Songs Of Christmas is available in both book and audiobook form. It tells the stories behind more than thirty Christmas hymns and carols. The sequel is also available in both book and audiobook form.
The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs tells the history behind twenty Christmas favourites.
3. Sing Your Hymn Together
Find it on YouTube, buy a CD, have your child learn to play it on a musical instrument or sing it acapella—however you choose to do it, sing your Christmas hymn together until you have it memorized.
4. Copywork and Dictation
You can easily create copywork using the lyrics from your hymn with this free handwriting practice generator. Or use the hymn for dictation. (You can read about the difference between copywork, transcription and dictation on the Simply Charlotte Mason site.)
Practical Pages has some fantastic tips on why and how to do hymn copywork!
Other Hymn Study Resources
Here are a few other helpful resources:
- Hymn Study – Simply Charlotte Mason
- Five Important Things to Include in Hymn Study – Contented at Home
- Music of Christmas Mini-Course – Music in Our Homeschool
More than anything? Savour the season, the songs of the season and the meaning behind the songs.
Hope this is helpful!