The carol, with its origins in folk dances and pagan festivities is a far more earthy and exuberant creation than the hymn. It is associated with sociable occasions, story telling and the pleasures of festive eating and drinking. Oliver Cromwell tried to outlaw carol-singing in seventeenth-century England, and in Scotland during the sixteenth century carols were associated with witchcraft. The living tradition of carols, ever changing and constantly being expanded is celebrated in Ian Bradley's enjoyable and varied collection of over 100 songs. It reflects the richness of the genre both chronologically and geographically, placing each carol in its historical context. From the fifteenth-century 'boar's head' carol to more modern expressions of faith which refer to space travel, from African-American spirituals and a Caribbean calypso carol to old favourites like "O Come All ye Faithful" and "Away in a Manger", here are new and well known songs to read and sing along to, long-lost verses to add to your repertoire, fascinating anecdotes, stories to enjoy and tidings of comfort and joy for all.
Ian Bradley was born on Whit Sunday 1950. Now Lecturer in Practical Theology at The University of St Andrews, he has been a journalist on the Times, head of Religious Broadcasting BBC Scotland. He is a Church of Scotland Minister.