O’ Come All Ye Faithful: The Story Behind The Famous Christmas Carol

One of the most time-honored traditions of the holidays is certainly that of Christmas carols. Trees, lights, and gifts under the tree are important for many as well, but like it or not, the Christmas carol is something that's instantly recognizable and that can be experienced everywhere. In fact, it's the carols that really bond us all during the season - you hear them in stores, restaurants, commercials, and even on street corners. Of all the various carols, one of the most popular is "O' Come All Ye Faithful". It's a song that has stood the test of time, and that millions of people know at least some of the lyrics too. But do you know the story behind it?

A Rich History

The song has deeper roots than many realize, and can be traced back to its initial Latin publication in 1760. Originally named "Adeste Fiedeles", this version was written by John Francis Wade, a refugee from the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. Published in 1760, authorities believe that the original date of the song's creation was in 1743. Wade himself was born in either England or France and grew up as a Roman Catholic. The Jacobite Rising occurred in 1745 and was a failed attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain control of Scotland. The battles of this rebellion found their way to England, and the rebellion was eventually shut down. It's been suggested over the years that the song's original Latin version was actually a coded rallying cry for the Stewart cause, though this remains in debate. Frederick Oakley and William Brooke finally translated the song to English after many years. The two finalized the translation in 1841, adding stanzas and translating existing ones. This new, English version of the tune first appeared in FH Murray's "Hymnal for Use in the English Church." The melody and tune of the song are now also credited to John Francis Wade, with subsequent modifications credited to Oakley.

Evolution of the Carol

Over subsequent years, the song has evolved, with certain stanzas falling away as new ones are added - in particular, the fourth and fifth stanzas have changed significantly. This is largely due to changes in language and the overall tone and themes of the song. "O Come All Ye Faithful" was actually originally called the "Portuguese Hymn" since it was sung regularly in the Chapel of the Portuguese Embassy in London. However, it has transcended borders and continues to be one of the most popular hymns and Christmas carols in the entire country. Few songs have such a profound history and a meaningful impact on the Christian world as this one. And now that you have an understanding of just what was involved in the song's history and its adoption, you can fully appreciate just what it means and what kind of influence it has had on the world. Many aspects of the holidays go beyond just candy canes and stockings, and this song is a perfect example of that.