Kali Mama points out the liberal use of pagan imagery in Christmas carols. Of course, she is right. Here is a site pointing out the many pagan connections (it is, by the way, an anti-Christmas as well as an anti-pagan site). The singing of Christmas carols has been forbidden by the church (which often also meant the government) in England, France, Scotland, and the United States at various times in the past. Confessed witches have included the singing of Christmas carols among the “crimes” they listed.
But my favorite pagan caroling story is about one of the rarer Christmas carols. “Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning” is an Epiphany hymn. It is a fine Victorian tune, really beautiful when sung well, but a pleasure to sing around the piano no matter what it sounds like.
Some people found that the expression “sons of the morning” reminded them of Lucifer, so they changed it to “stars of the morning.” This did not solve the problem. The Penguin Book of Carols assures us that “several hymnal editors have refused to include the hymn on the grounds that it incites star worship.” Am I the only one who finds this hilarious?
Not only is the idea of inciting people to worship oxymoronic — take it to its conclusion. Imagine yourself in church on the Feast of the Epiphany, the grand conclusion of the entire exciting Christmas season, celebrating the Trinity in song. You find yourself singing the phrase “Star of the East, the horizon adorning,” and an odd feeling steals over you.
You had intended to go home after church and clean up after the Twelfth Night party, but instead you … um, I’m a little at a loss here… set up an altar to Gacrux? Hie yourself over to the nearest Temple of Star Worship with a covered dish?
A little unlikely, perhaps. If I were an evangelistic pagan bent on inciting people to star worship, I wouldn’t count on the presence of the word “star” in a hymn to do the trick.
You may be too orthodox to sing an Epiphany carol during Advent. If so, why not enjoy “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” while you deck your halls with pagan symbols? Here’s the guitar tab, and here a songsheet with chords in case you can’t read tab.
This song was written by Johnny Marks, composer of many of the best-known modern Christmas songs, including “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It was first and most famously recorded by Brenda Lee, although Amy Grant, Rockapella, Aretha Franklin and Sha Na Na are among the many others who have recorded it. It was on radios a lot last year, sung by some girl who seemed to be having digestive troubles, but I do not know who that was. Suffice it to say that you will have no trouble finding an album if you want the whole electric accompaniment and can’t provide it for yourself.