25th December, 2022

History of Nine Lessons and Carols

History of Nine Lessons and CarolsEvery year, North Americans dive deep into the beauty of the service called Nine Lessons of Carols. One of the very well known services is the service of "Nine Lessons"! This service starts at 3 pm of the UK time during the eve of Christmas and is also broadcasted on Radio on BBC and also around the world.

This service began by Edwards Benson who was the Bishop of Truro at that time, in 1880! And, the service was organized in a wooden building which was then used as a temporary cathedral because the main building of the Truro cathedral was in the process of being built.

This tradition of service travelled far at various places in UK and gradually it became an important part of the celebration of Christmas. And, it became more famous because of the Coir of King's College, which was considered as the best church at that point in time.

It has been established that the service was first performed at the King's College in the year 1918 during the college celebration during the time when First World War was about to end. In 1919, the opening hymn carol was changed to "Once in Royal David's City" but the other structure remained the same including the lessons that are read till today.

Nine Lessons and Carols

There are nine different Bible readings or lessons in the "Service of Nine Lessons and Carols". These tell the story of the Christmas with one carol in between each of the lessons. The opening verse if the service that is "Once in Royal David's City" is sung by a single boy. It was in earlier times sung by whole of the choir.

The service was first broadcasted on radio during the year 1928. And, right from 1930, it went being broadcasted every year. It was during 1930's that the service started being broadcasted overseas also.

In addition to the "Nine Lessons and Carols" there is also another even that takes place during Christmas and it is "Carols from Kings". Though most people mistakenly understand that both of these are the same programs broadcasted on Radio but they are actually not the same. Both of these are broadcasted during different time and both of these have different structure and way of reading. There are also a great many of churches which adapt the way of "A festival of nine lessons and carols".

At the King's College, Cambridge, the Choir was created by King Henry VII, who decided that there would be 16 boys in the chorister but there are around 15-18 choristers in the service. This is done so that, if there is some break of voice of any of the chorister, there has to have some extra boys to carry it forward. The preparations starts only in late November and the boys who are going to perform are given the booklet depicting the carols and the lessons.

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