Answer: Angels Hymn
It has been written that the Bishop of Rome declared that “in the Holy Night of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour, all shall solemnly sing the Angels Hymn” in 129 AD and thus became the first Christmas hymn of the Christian church.
In the fourth century, slow and solemn hymns were written – including Jesus Refulsit Omnium which many cite as the first “real” Christmas carol – with strong religious connotations and were sung in Latin, with people gradually losing interest in singing them around times of celebrating the winter solstice and the birth of Jesus.
But the people wanted to sing and dance at Christmas, which is how the word ‘carol’ got added, as its meaning was a song to dance to in a circle.
The French came up with some songs about the animals around the Nativity in the 12th century and the trend spread to other European countries.
But most of the carols we know and love and sing in English were written in a prolific period in the late 19th century, although a pair of Austrian composers wrote Silent Night in 1818.
Ding Dong Merrily on High was published as late as 1924 but, like many carols, was based on tunes and lyrics from songs written centuries earlier.