Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas [NOOK Book]


Behind the Christmas songs we love to sing lie fascinating stories that will enrich your holiday celebration. Taking you inside the nativity of over thirty favorite songs and carols, Ace Collins introduces you to people you’ve never met, stories you’ve never heard, and meanings you’d never have imagined. The next time you and your family sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," you’ll have a new understanding of its message and popular roots. You’ll discover how "Angels from the Realms of Glory," with its sublime ...
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Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

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Behind the Christmas songs we love to sing lie fascinating stories that will enrich your holiday celebration. Taking you inside the nativity of over thirty favorite songs and carols, Ace Collins introduces you to people you’ve never met, stories you’ve never heard, and meanings you’d never have imagined. The next time you and your family sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," you’ll have a new understanding of its message and popular roots. You’ll discover how "Angels from the Realms of Glory," with its sublime lyrics and profound theology, helped usher in a quiet revolution in worship. You’ll learn the strange history of the haunting and powerful "O Holy Night," including the song’s surprising place in the history of modern communications. And you’ll step inside the life of Mark Lowry and find out how he came to pen the words to the contemporary classic "Mary, Did You Know?" Still other songs such as "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" trace back to mysterious origins--to ninth-century monks, nameless clergy, and unknown commoners of ages past. Joining hands with such modern favorites as "White Christmas" and "The Christmas Song," they are part of the legacy of inspiration, faith, tears, love, and spiritual joy that is Christmas. From the rollicking appeal of "Jingle Bells" to the tranquil beauty of "Silent Night," the great songs of Christmas contain messages of peace, hope, and truth. Each in its own way expresses a facet of God’s heart and celebrates the birth of his greatest gift to the world--Jesus, the most wonderful Christmas Song of all.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310873877
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 5/4/2010
  • Sold by: Zondervan Publishing
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 172,577
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Ace Collins is the writer of more than sixty books, including several bestsellers: Stories behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, Stories behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, The Cathedrals, and Lassie: A Dog’s Life. Based in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, He continues to publish several new titles each year, including a series of novels, the first of which is Farraday Road. Ace has appeared on scores of television shows, including CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and Entertainment Tonight.

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Read an Excerpt

Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

By Ace Collins

Running Press Book Publishers

Copyright © 2004 Ace Collins
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0762421126

Chapter One

Amazing Grace

If America were to have a national Christian hymn, many would argue that it would have to be "Amazing Grace." Because of its roots and the miraculous turnaround found in its message, "Amazing Grace" is a song that reflects both the good and the bad found in America's past, present, and future, as well as on the road to individual salvation.

This inspirational standard, written, ironically, by an Englishman, was born not from an experience of love but from a sordid tale of human exploitation. So while much of what is both human and divine can be seen in John Newton's short verses, to fully appreciate the hymn one must know the story behind it and discover the verse that has now been deleted from the song.

John Newton was born in London, England, on August 4, 1725. Though he was not poor, Newton did not have a wonderful or secure home life. His father was a hardened sailor, the owner of a trade ship that sailed the Mediterranean. The elder Newton was often gone for months at a time, leaving the boy alone with his mother. Mrs. Newton was a loving Christian woman, a devoted parent who took a vital interest in her son, but she was also chronically ill and physically weak. Because of his mother's frailty, John literally had the run of the house from the time he could walk. The energetic child was in constant trouble, often missed school, and was usually at the center of neighborhood pranks. After his mother died when he was only seven, his one hope for a normal life ended. He dropped out of school, all but living on the streets. Four years later, at the age of eleven, John followed in his father's footsteps and became a cabin boy on a ship. It was probably the only thing that kept him out of juvenile prison, but it didn't keep him out of trouble.

Even as a teenager, Newton was hard drinking and ill-tempered. Law officers in the port towns called the youth vicious, brutal, and fearless. His public brawls were legendary. When he wasn't in jail, he could often be found in a ship's brig. Newton even scared veteran sailors with his unpredictable and violent behavior. By the time he was twenty, he had lived enough adventures to fill the lives of four men, spilled more blood than most career soldiers, and consumed enough alcohol to stock London's largest pub. He later described himself as a godless monster, and few who knew him during his youth would have disagreed.

His attitude and illegal exploits finally drove him out of Europe to Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. There Newton discovered a band of men who were as wild and depraved as he. For the next few years this group was responsible for untold suffering and death. Newton and his shipmates sought out tribal chiefs and traded guns, spices, liquor, and clothes for strong young native men and women. This innocent human cargo was then loaded aboard tiny ships and transported across the Atlantic to the New World. Of the more than six hundred people who were literally chained shoulder to shoulder in each ship's hold, between 20 to 40 percent died on the journey. Those who somehow survived were then sold at auctions, and Newton and his shipmates shared the bounty. In most ports, pirates were considered more respectable and honorable than slavers; thus, Newton was considered one of the lowest of the men who sailed the seas.

John Newton's decadent life was fueled by America's demand for slaves. Strangely, many of the men who bought Newton's cargo were Christians who found no moral dilemma in their actions. Some slave owners were even ministers. The moral indifference of many in the church just made it easier for Newton to help engineer a system that reflected the very worst of humanity. Like millions of others, he felt no regret and no shame. In the slave trade, black human beings were just soulless products to use and dispose of. As Newton tossed dead men and women overboard or watched others being sold on auction blocks, he could only say, "So be it."

The time spent crossing the Atlantic offered sailors an opportunity to play cards, swap stories, or read. In 1758 twenty-three-year-old Newton was studying a book called The Imitation of Christ. By now this veteran of several slave runs could easily tune out the moans and screams of the chained cargo. He had also grown used to the smell of the human waste, disease, and death that came from the cargo hold. Nothing really bothered him, not even a fellow crewman dragging a dead body up on the deck and heaving it overboard.

On this calm day as Newton read, he forgot about the world around him. He grew so lost in the pages of his book that he even failed to note the storm that had quickly gathered in the west. Only when wild winds began to jostle the ship's masts and pelting rain hit the deck did the sailor turn his attention from Thomas A. Kempis's The Imitation of Christ to his duties. By then it appeared to be too late.

The storm that suddenly struck the slave ship that day was the worst Newton had ever experienced. As the ship was tossed about like a leaf in the wind, rolling from side to side, the veteran of scores of storms sensed that this time he was not going to survive. He felt sure the ship was going to be crushed and he would be tossed into an unforgiving sea with no hope of rescue. While others cried, cursed, and begged, Newton thought back on his own miserable life. As the Atlantic churned back and forth across the decks, the sailor concluded that the only person he had ever known who really loved him was his mother. He also realized she would be heartbroken if she knew what he had become. Feeling a need to try to seek some kind of redemption before it was too late, Newton fell to his knees, clinging to a rope, and began to pray. He pleaded with the Lord to save him. The sailor promised that if God would give him a second chance at life, then Newton would become a moral man.

In a matter of minutes the storm abated and roared off to the east. Miraculously, not one person lost his life that day, and the mildly damaged ship was able to complete its journey and deliver its cargo. Yet for the first time, when Newton was given his cut of the profits, he did not seek out a bar to celebrate. Instead, the man who had felt the touch of God's saving hand returned to his ship and read the Bible.

Within two years of the storm, John Newton became the captain of a slave ship. He oversaw his cargo from the capturing and chaining of young African natives to the delivering to auction blocks of those who lived through the ocean crossing. Yet as he watched his men carry out these operations, he could no longer say, "So be it." With Christ in his heart, the immorality of his acts began to nag at Newton's soul. Unable to mesh his Christian convictions with his duties as a slave trade captain, Newton resigned, returned to England, and sought a way to serve Christ. Under the guidance of Charles Wesley, the famous father of the Methodist movement, the former hardened sailor and slave trader became a preacher.

In 1779, two decades after he was literally and spiritually saved, Newton was pastoring a church in Olney, England. One Sunday morning he delivered a message on the grace of Jesus. From the pulpit the now respected moral voice and beloved community leader spoke of his life at sea. He freely admitted his past sins and told his congregation how the Lord had come to him during a violent storm. He finished his message by singing an autobiographical song that began with this touching but now forgotten verse.

In evil long I took delight, Unawed by shame or fear, Till a new object struck my sight, And stopped my wild career.

Newton's "Amazing Grace" may have been composed for a single sermon, but it quickly made its way into songbooks. The hymn was published the same year it was written, and it was quickly brought to the United States. In America, Newton's verses were matched to a number of different tunes, but it was a folk song called both "Kentucky Harmony" and "Virginia Harmony" that became the vehicle that took the message across the new frontier and then back to England. Ironically, "Amazing Grace" first gained wide acceptance in the American South. Little did those in slave states realize that the song had been inspired by a man's realization of the immorality of the very thing that was sustaining many of their livelihoods. By the start of the Civil War, after the familiar final verse was added by an unknown American, "Amazing Grace" was one of the best-known Christian songs in the world. It was also so associated with the United States and the early missionary movement from this country that most believed it to be the product of an American author.

Popular black gospel singers such as W. M. Nic and Roberta Martin made the English song a spiritual anchor in African-American music circles in the early 1900s. The song was popular with troops in both World War I and World War II and was often used at navy funerals at sea and at army and marine battlefront memorials. Later, popular musicians such as Hank Williams and Elvis Presley sang "Amazing Grace" at many of their concerts. It was also a standard in almost every Christian songbook. Yet it wasn't until 1971 that the song climbed out of the nation's hymnbooks and into the mainstream.

Folk-rock songstress Judy Collins probably recorded "Amazing Grace" as much as an act of protest as she did as a symbol of faith. With the divisions caused by the Vietnam War, American cultural clashes, government scandals, and fights for racial equality, Collins's version of "Amazing Grace" became a mirror that reflected the wrongs that seemed to be taking over the nation. Yet as the public voted the old hymn to the top position on the rock charts, the message was transformed and "Amazing Grace" came to mean something else altogether. Americans might have deserted God, but he had not deserted any of those who had seemingly fallen so far from him. In the midst of all the chaos, "Amazing Grace" became a part of a revival movement in which millions again found faith in God and rediscovered faith in their own country at the same time. In the early seventies, whenever the old hymn was played on the radio or sung in public it seemed to reflect the fact that no matter how bad things were, no matter how far individuals and the nation had sunk, even in these stormy historic times there was still the opportunity to ask God for a second chance.

In the past three decades "Amazing Grace" has become almost as much an American icon as the flag, and in some ways these two national symbols represent many of the same concepts and ideals. America is a place where faith seems to surface even in the worst of times, where past mistakes are admitted and wrongs are slowly righted, and where the lost are usually found. John Newton did not have America or Americans in mind when he wrote his testimony into a song, yet at the age of eighty-two he said something that all Christians in this country and around the world can cling to in times of both triumph and trial: "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior."

John Newton's "Amazing Grace" is a road map showing how to seek forgiveness and then explaining what that forgiveness can mean to the past, present, and future of all who accept Jesus as Lord. Perhaps that is why this hymn has come to mean so much to Americans and why, as long as it does mean so much, the United States still has a chance to find its moral voice and lead the world with grace, compassion, and charity.

Chapter Two

America, the Beautiful

When Samuel Ward was a boy in Newark, New Jersey, in the 1850s, there was no indication the gifted child would have much impact on the world. Though Ward's ancestors were founders of Newark and heroes of the Revolutionary War, the city and the nation had grown a great deal since then. Ward could not perceive how he would escape a humdrum life and rise to prominence even in his own neighborhood, much less in the nation. So rather than fortune or fame, his one real wish in life was to somehow make a living through what he loved the most-music. Ward did not know that this choice would not only bring him great joy but ultimately would make a greater impact on the United States than anything ever accomplished by those from his illustrious family tree.

At the age of six, when Ward began to play the accordion, it was just a small indication of what was to come. By the time he was a teenager he was teaching piano lessons to help support his family. He moved to New York and became a professional church organist at sixteen. Ward was at the right place at the right time doing the right thing when, in the days after the Civil War, band music exploded onto the national scene. Sensing the nation's growing interest in all things musical, the young man opened a store in which he taught piano and sold everything from instruments to sheet music. By the age of thirty, he was married, had a family of four daughters, and was considered a successful businessman. Ward was now so financially secure he even took vacations in Europe.

By 1890 Ward had formed his own male vocal group. Under his leadership the Orpheus Society became one of New York's best-known choirs. Ward didn't just direct the group, he also wrote and arranged much of their music. Though many around him were now calling the clean-cut, distinguished-looking man a genius, the businessman turned choirmaster still seemed content to be known as just a friend, husband, and father. By all accounts, even when things were at their best, Ward simply took one day at a time, finding a way to enjoy each of them as they came. This desire to relish the moment and squeeze the most out of life led him to create the musical foundation for one of America's most loved patriotic hymns.

Coney Island was hardly an awe-inspiring place. The amusement park was like a carnival gone wild. Huge in scope, the playground of New York was a place to have fun and spend money. Part circus and part medieval fair, with its rides, sideshows, food plazas, and beach, Coney Island was American capitalism and consumption in all its glory. Most patrons left the Island tired and broke. Yet the deeply religious Ward seemed to find God's hand everywhere he went. He could see the Lord in a child's smile, a mother's hug, or the crashing of an ocean wave. With this kind of attitude it is hardly surprising that the music store owner left the park with more energy and in better spirits than most around him. It was as if the day had just begun and he had a great deal more to look forward to.


Excerpted from Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins Copyright © 2004 by Ace Collins. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 9 1. Angels, from the Realms of Glory 11 2. Angels We Have Heard on High 18 3. Away in a Manger 24 4. The Christmas Song 30 5. Do You Hear What I Hear? 35 6. The First Noel 41 7. Go Tell It on the Mountain 47 8. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen 53 9. Good Christian Men, Rejoice 58 10. Good King Wenceslas 64 11 .Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 70 12. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 76 13. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day 81 14. I Wonder as I Wander 86 15. I’ll Be Home for Christmas 91 16. It Came upon the Midnight Clear 96 17. Jingle Bells 102 18. Joy to the World! 107 19. Mary, Did You Know? 114 20. O Come, All Ye Faithful 120 21.O Come, O Come, Emmanuel 126 22. O Holy Night 132 23. O Little Town of Bethlehem 139 24. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 146 25. Silent Night 152 26. Silver Bells 159 27. There’s a Song in the Air 164 28. The Twelve Days of Christmas 169 29. We Three Kings of Orient Are 176 30. What Child Is This? 183 31.White Christmas 188
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First Chapter

Angels, from the Realms of Glory'---possibly the best-written, sacred Christmas carol of all time---helped launch a revolution that continues to impact millions of lives today. At its heart is its writer, an Irishman born in November of 1771.
James Montgomery was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland. Montgomery's father, John, was an Irish Moravian missionary. When his parents were called to evangelistic work in the West Indies, the child was sent to a Moravian community in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland. By the time he was seven, James was at Fulneck Seminary, Yorkshire, England. Five years later, the parents James hardly knew died on the mission field.
Perhaps because of the distance from and the tragic loss of his parents, Montgomery never was very interested in his schooling. Flunking out of seminary, he became a baker's assistant for a short time. By the age of twenty, the young man was little more than a vagrant, moving from job to job, often unemployed, and homeless for weeks at a time.
Montgomery's only interest was writing. He spent what little money he had on pencils and paper, taking hours to com-pose poetic odes on everything from loneliness to faith. Though no publisher was interested in his work, the radical editor of the Sheffield Register saw something in the young man's raw talent. For the next two years Montgomery got paid to do what he most loved to do---write stories. He also learned firsthand about the hardships of being an Irishman under English rule. At the age of twenty-three, when the newspaper's owner was run out of town for writing radical editorials concerning Irish freedom, the missionary's son took over the Register.
In an attempt to quell the British government's wrath, Montgomery changed the paper's name to the Sheffield Iris. Yet he didn't change its editorial stance. Just as his parents had strongly rebelled against the strict rules and rituals of England's official church, James was bent on carrying on a written war for Ireland's freedom. At about that time, he also became an active leader in the abolitionist movement. His fiery editorial stance twice landed him in prison. Yet each time he was released, he returned to the Iris and continued his printed war for freedom on all fronts.
When Montgomery was not waging an editorial crusade against English rule and slavery, he was reading his Bible in an attempt to understand the power that motivated his parents' lives and ultimately led to their deaths. In time, his Scripture study and rebellious zeal would blend and send the young man on a new mission. One of the first hints of this change was revealed on Christmas Eve 1816.
Irishmen, who hated all things British, probably carefully studied the newspaper each day, hoping to find some Montgomery- penned passage that would inspire more to join their revolution. It is certain that local government officials who read the Iris often wished to nail the man who was so often a thorn in their side. Yet on December 24, 1816, readers discovered a different stance from the fiery editor. On that day, his editorial did not divide Irish from English, but rather brought everyone who read the Iris closer together.
Written in the same poetic verse that Montgomery had employed during the aimless wanderings of his youth, 'Nativity'--- what would eventually become the carol 'Angels, from the Realms of Glory'---told the story of angels proclaiming the birth of a Savior for all people, English and Irish, rich and poor, Anglican and Moravian. Eloquent, beautiful, and scripturally sound, Montgomery soon touched more lives for Christ with the stroke of his pen than his parents did in all their years of missionary work.
Still, when read between the lines, there was a bit of social commentary in 'Nativity.' A verse long-deleted from the carol speaks of a society that needs to right some wrongs. That lost stanza also reveals the writer's personal journey in finding purpose and meaning in his own life:

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence;
Mercy calls you. Break your chain.

As Montgomery would soon find out, his poem would break chains, but not those he had envisioned. The impact of 'Nativity' would actually foreshadow the writer's future, since he would come to revolutionize music and thinking in the English church.
As often is the case with inspired work, irony stepped in and took an important role in revealing 'Nativity' to a mass audience.

Angels, from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o'er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation's story,
Now proclaim Messiah's birth.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ the newborn King.
Shepherds in the fields abiding,
Watching o'er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light.
Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations,
Ye have seen His natal star.
Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 688 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2002

    Christmas Alone

    My husband and I are separated and this will be my first Christmas alone in thirty years. Understandably I have not been looking forward to the Holidays. But I ran across this little book while shopping. It is a delightful quick read. Apparently some of our most beloved Christmas Songs were inspired during times of trial and suffering. Discovering that pain and suffering produces creative inspiration and rebirth actually helped me to begin planning for Christmas. It is a small step but a beginning... A new beginning.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting but Misleading

    "Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas" by Ace Collins (Website) is a short book, divided into sections, each corresponding to a beloved Christmas song. The book is arranged alphabetically and includes lyrics to most of the songs.

    The book tells about 31 Christmas songs and carols including "Do You Hear what I Hear", "G-d Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "Jingle Bells', "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" and more. The titles are arrange alphabetically and most of the songs also include the lyrics.

    I was looking forward to read "Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas", not only to get into the holiday spirit but also because I love this type of books since my childhood. These short stories filled with charming facts and little unknown tidbits were always fascinating to me.

    Not to mention a great resource in case I'll be on "Jeopardy" one day.

    The premise of this book is quite interesting, that is telling the history of each carol or Christmas song. Mr. Collins is a good writer and makes the stories he writes about engaging and easy to read, but he lacks some serious research. The core fact of what the author is describing are woven with information which cannot be verified (such as putting thoughts in people's heads) or is simply misleading (I did some fact checking and found conflicting information). If the information is not wrong well, the reader is out of luck because there are absolutely no sources at the end.

    I will grant the author that most of the stories he tells are legitimate and verifiable when one checks up on them but to mix fact and fiction only undermines the authors credibility.

    For example, the author's take on "Good King Wenceslas", he mixes facts and legends into a simple narrative which could easily be taken as all pure fact and worst - be quoted from in the future. The piece about "Twelve Days of Christmas" (which accidentally I happen to look up) was taken out of an Internet page without any reasonable research. The author claims that the "Twelve Days of Christmas" was some sort of coded reference but a 2 second search on Google using the term "Twelve Days of Christmas Origin" brought me to a Snopes page claiming it is false.

    For more book reviews please visit ManOfLaBook dot com

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2010

    Not Worth The Time

    Unfortunately, Ace Collins took a great idea and completely ruined it. Collins used many myths and folklore -- unverifiable -- and stated them as fact. The author needs to go back and take a course on sources, identifying CREDIBLE sources, and citing sources. Many of the stories the author paints as fact, are in fact, myths -- fiction in other words. A good example is "The Twelve Days of Christmas." If a person does a little research on the Internet, that individual can learn that the author used a story that has been proven false on the history of this Christmas Carol. I was very disappointed because I was looking forward to reading the history of many of my favorite Christmas hymns. I'm glad I downloaded the book for free.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    The best book of its kind.

    As a musician, I have always enjoyed learning the story behind the song. But this book turns each story into it an inspiation. I started out picking and choosing which songs I to read about. When I realized how much I was motivated by every story, I went back and read about the all the other songs and was moved by them too. Each song story is completely self-contained and are great for reading aloud to friends, family, and children. I bought all the remaining copies at my local B&N to give to friends last Christmas. This is the best "story behind the song" book I have ever read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 3, 2010

    Great source of information, but a little heavy handed on the religious aspect.

    I love music. I am a vocalist in the Symphony Choir which sings regularly with the Symphony Orchestra in the city I live. I am very fond of many pieces, no matter whether it be religious or secular. I found this book to be very educational. Some of the stories I knew such as "Silent Night" while other stories I had never heard about. The author is very clear and even points out certain fallacies and rumors regarding some of the stories. My big complaint is that the author uses this context to show how great God is. True, that God is an inspiration for MANY classical pieces, and certainly especially in Christmas songs, however I feel the author was a bit heavy handed. Here is an example. In the story regarding Silent Night, he describes how the priest in charge of the Christmas mass was flummoxed about what to do when he found the church organ unworkable. The author goes out of his way to basically say that the priest prayed for an answer from God and that God literally reached down and inspired the priest to dig out a 2 year old poem he had written and to go find his friend to quickly write a song to it. I'm not questioning the religious influence. I am questioning why the author would go out of his way to presume that God was the deliverer and the answer to the problem, thus my comment about the author's heavy handedness. It is unquestionable that most of these songs are religiously inspired. I simply wish that the author would have stuck to historical facts since this book is framed as a historical reference and had not added "religious fluff" to the stories. Thus I give it 3 stars.

    2 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Makes a wonderful Christmas gift

    Book was very informative and interesting. Would recommend it highly. Gave out to several people for Christmas gifts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2015


    Now that was the best

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  • Posted December 28, 2014

    Loved it!!!

    If you are a music-lover, a Christmas-lover, or even a history buff - you will likely enjoy this book. Ace Collins gives us the backstories of songs, and shows us how there is a lot more to the seemingly simple carols that many of us have sung for decades. Some were insprited by political beliefs, while others were borne of personal angst. I won't give away but one spoiler, and will share this one just to whet your appetite. I was delighted to discover that "Good King Wenceslas" was based on an actual king, who in fact did have a heart for aiding the poor. I highly recommend this book as a holiday read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2014

    Interesting and informative!

    Through story telling Collins connects verse with composer, lyricist, performer, and audience. The emerging theme: songs of hope born from difficult times.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014

    Very sweet and inspiring book

    I often wondered about where some of the Christmas songs came from. This book answered that question besides giving very interesting details about the backgrounds of the song's authors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2013

    Absolutely wonderful.... As I read the stories I kept hearing th

    Absolutely wonderful.... As I read the stories I kept hearing the tune in my head and singing it in my heart. When I went to church each song sung took on more significance and produced more gratitude. This book portrays the deeper mystery of this wonderful season. There is a quiet working of the gospel message that is bigger than an individual and reaches out to all in ways man could not begin to orchestrate himself. God is behind and within every song and it's history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2013

    Awsome kid book

    My kids LOVE IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Posted May 29, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    OK Book

    OK Book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2012

    I'll be Home for Christmas

    If my children could read this book today, the youngest is 28 oldest 39, they wouldn't I fear, get the same emotional thrill I got when I read this book cover to cover. Being a pre-WWII baby I remember the fears and joys of the time as if they were yesterday. My generation truly never had to bear the full brunt of what it was like for so many of the depression era families. And now WWII is taking many of their family members away to fight a war that was not of their making. My own family members who were in the war used this special music as a method of coping with their situations while also thinking about their families "back home." I cry as I remember the day a cousin's death was made known to the family just before Christmas. To this day I cry when I hear, "I'll be home for Christmas" just thinking about that terrible time in our lives. It is still a beautiful song and I love to hear it at this time of the year even though it brings back painful memories. It means the world to me knowing that as I prepare to some day leave this earthly home my children will know that "I'll always be home for Christmas'" if only in their dreams each time they hear this song played.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2012

    Super Interesting

    Just a great read & fun to hear the stories behing these great songs.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2011

    Great free book

    Very enjoyable histories of favorite Christmas songs.

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  • Posted August 9, 2011

    We wish you a merry christmas...

    PERFECT book!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2011

    Very interesting book.

    The explanations of the Christmas songs are very interesting and unexpected. Would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys singing or listening Christmas carols.

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  • Posted March 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    When You need trivia answers

    Very informative! A must read for the trivia buff because you discover the origins of the most popular Christmas songs!

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  • Posted February 1, 2011

    Delightful Book

    I really enjoyed reading about the background of all these wonderful Christmas songs I have sung most of my life. A great addition to any library!

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