Christmas carols are such a big part of the season, but the festive music we enjoy during the holiday is a fairly recent addition to the celebration. Christmas hymns for centuries had only been sung in church, and then only in Latin. Because Latin was not widely spoken, the songs never really made it outside the religious world.

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Only in recent decades have Christmas hymns been sung in native languages around the world. In fact, although the earliest Christmas songs date from the fourth century, it wasn't until the Protestant era that the change began to take place. And when the festive carols began to be incorporated into the local celebrations, they were initially frowned upon by some members of the church.

Perhaps the most famous of all Christmas carols, "Silent Night,'' was written in Austria in the early 19th century. In the times since, Christmas carols largely have become more popular, joyous tunes, incorporating both the religious and secular themes of Christmas.