Christmas carols are among the oldest of holiday traditions, stretching back centuries with songs about celebrations, Christ's birth, and cold snowy nights. Dover Thrift's "Christmas Carols: Complete Verses" is a solid resource for anyone who can't remember that second verse of "Angels We Have Heard On High."
Shane Weller collects many traditional Christmas carols, both secular ("Jingle Bells") and religious ("Joy To the World"). He includes old favorites like "The Twelve Days of Christmas," which is almost impossible to remember every verse of, the bouncy "We Wish You A Merry Christmas," and the solemn balladic "Silent Night."
However, Weller doesn't just stick to well-known favorites. He also dips into a large store of lesser-known carols such as "Good King Wenceslas" -- sure, people know the first first four or five lines, but what comes after that? Anyway, the lesser-known, richly traditional carols include the lullaby-like "Coventry Carol," the enchanting part-Latin "The Snow Lay on the Ground," and the enchanting "Wassail Song."
The real gems of this collection are, in fact, the much older traditional carols -- they can be just as catchy as the more recent ones ("Here we come a-wassailing/Among the leaves so green,/Here we come a wand'ring,/So fair to be seen"). And not all of the most recent ones as well known, such as Christina Rossetti's "In the Bleak Midwinter," a carol/poem she wrote for a newspaper.
While the book is of the cheap quality -- rather slimy paper and cover -- needed to keep the price affordable, a few flourishes are given to it, like cute little holly decorations over the songs. The songs are arranged alphabetically, which is either good or bad -- good for finding them quickly, bad for singing all in order.
"Christmas Carols: Complete Verses" is a surprisingly good selection of carols, old and new, well-known and obscure. What they all have in common is a rich holiday atmosphere. Definitely worth getting.