Christmas Carols tradition on the Corn Islands

The tradition of Christmas Carols, locally known as Christmas Carolling, has deep roots in the religious practices of the first European Christians who settled on the Corn Islands nearly two centuries ago. This tradition unfolds throughout December, particularly in the days leading up to Christmas.

Initiated by the Baptist Church at the close of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, the tradition gained momentum with the introduction of hymnals by missionaries from Belize, England, and the United States. These hymnals brought with them a repertoire of classical and globally recognized Christmas songs, enriching the musical tapestry of the islands.

Originally performed during the religious services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the practice evolved as the congregation extended the joy of these gospel songs beyond the church walls. Groups of carollers would traverse the island at night, paying visits to different households, especially those of elders or the sickly. Typically commencing around 11:00 pm and concluding before the break of dawn, around 3:00 a.m., this tradition became a communal celebration.

The onset of Christmas Carolling occurred on the weekend following the 1st of December with a modest assembly of participants. As the days progressed, and particularly after the 15th of December, the groups increased in numbers, encompassing elders and children. At certain homes, the carollers were graciously offered light cake or ginger beer if the family was awake and had prepared these treats. Notably, carollers would continue their melodic renditions even if a house was closed or its occupants were asleep.

As time passed, the musical ensemble expanded to include acoustic instruments like the guitar. Additionally, other denominations, such as the Moravian, Anglican, Evangelic, and Catholic churches, joined in, contributing their traditional English Christmas songs to the collective repertoire.

In contemporary times, Christmas Carolling has taken on a new form, concentrated in a specific location within a particular neighbourhood on weekends with the participation of the Baptist, Moravian, and Evangelical churches, who would also offer prayers. Subsequently, they visit specific households to extend festive greetings, and a car, equipped with a speaker playing Christmas tunes, makes rounds on the island. 

The culmination of these celebrations occurs on the 23rd of December with a grand Christmas Concert, where all churches come together in harmonious celebration.

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