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Christmas Carols

Nobody knows for certain where the word “carol” comes from.  It may come from the Latin, “chorus,” by way of the Greek “khoros,” and both words have to do with dancing in a circle, probably while singing.

Carol may also be related to the word “corolla,” which in Latin originally referred to a circle of stones, or an enclosed circular space. In any case, by the 12th century, caroler was the common old French word for “to dance,” and in England by the 16th century, “caroll” – with two L’s – had somehow come to refer to songs, and usually to Christmas songs in particular. These days the Christmas carolers who knock on your door tend to be polite and nicely groomed, but you may want to reflect on the thought that back in the Dark Ages and before, the original carolers were most likely out there in animal skins, dancing around in circles under the stars and singing songs that to our ears might sound quite peculiar.

A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.