Sunday, December 1, 2013

'O Tannenbaum,' Historic Tannenbaum

It is fun to look into the history of Christmas carols. And today, it being the first Sunday of Advent and me struggling with the urge to put up my Christmas tree, I got thinking about "O Tannenbaum."

The tune is a 16th Century Silesian folk song, says Wikipedia. Silesia is where Germany and Poland meet, so naturally great Christmas carols will come from there.

Of course Wikipedia can't wait to tell you that it wasn't really a Christmas carol, that the words were just about a fir tree and its evergreen qualities, that it was about an unhappy love story, blah blah blah. People cannot wait to burst your bubble on stuff like this, you know? For instance they always want to pound it into you that when Mendelssohn wrote the melody to "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" he had nothing about Christmas in mind. That is another story for another day.

This is interesting, says that the Nazis used to promote "O Tannenbaum" as a Christmas song, or shall we say a holiday song, because it did not mention Christ and the Nazis wanted to secularize Christmas. I would like to see sources cited. On the one hand that is believable considering other things I have read about the Nazis and their antipathy toward religion. On the other, doesn't "O Tannenbaum" make you feel pretty warm about Christmas, whether or not it technically mentions Christ? I don't know if it would have helped the Nazis to promote it.

Oh well. Whoever did what, and for whatever reason, "O Tannenbaum" is a dandy song. I love my Christmas tree ...

... and I like how the melody goes back at least to the Renaissance. It is thrilling, the age of some of these Christmas carols.

I have always been partial to the Nat Cole version. And in German. You go, "King" Cole!

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