“Angels near the earth with golden harps” and other old but strange songs

But even the not-so-evangelical Unitarians, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics wrote Christmas carols that are Biblically-sound. An infamous character, Nahum Tate, a 17th century English Poet Laureate, wrote the beautiful ”While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night.” One hopes that he wrote this carol while sober, because he was a free-spending drunkard who lived the last years of his life in a debtors’ refuge in London. ”O Come, All Ye Faithful” may have originally been a 13th century Latin hymn, but the popular English translation we know today is an 1841 translation by an Anglican minister, Frederick Oakeley, who later became a Roman Catholic. “Silent Night” was composed by a Roman Catholic priest from Austria in 1818, while “We Three Kings of Orient Are” was originally written by Episcopalian priest John Hopkins in 1857 for a Christmas pageant he wanted to present to his beloved nephews and nieces.

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