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Among the classic holiday jingles, there are two that have been around for centuries.

Michelle Darrisaw
November 20, 2017

Around this time of year, every day begs for decking the tree, decorating a gingerbread house, playing in the snow, holding a cup of hot cocoa, and singing a Christmas carol (or two).

In regards to the latter, if you step foot inside of a shopping mall, church, or even onto your front doorstep during the holiday season, you’re bound to hear the joyous sounds of Christmas music permeating the air and generating feelings of cheer. While you may know songs such as "Silent Night," "Joy to the World," "Away in a Manger," and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" by heart, what you probably don’t know is that these classics aren’t the oldest Christmas carols.

No, most of the Christmas songs we’ve come to enjoy from traveling carolers are actually less than 200 years old. Not only that, but the earliest songs to ring in the season with weren’t Christmas carols at all—they were hymns.

The first known Christmas hymns were reportedly "Jesus Refulsit Omnium" ("Jesus, Light of All the Nations"), written by St. Hilary of Poitier in the fourth century, and "Corde natus ex Parentis" ("Of the Father’s Love Begotten"), which was composed by Roman Christian poet Prudentius in the fourth century.

You can listen to "Corde natus ex Parentis" below:

Although more and more Christmas-themed music was written and produced in the fourth century, these songs weren’t observed during religious services until much later in the 12th century.

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So as you’re playing music around the house to get in the holiday spirit this season, just remember that there were two timeless tunes sung long before "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing" or "The First Noel."