How to use this site    About Us    Submissions    Feedback    Donate    Links - School Assemblies for every season for everyone

Decorative image - Secondary

Email Twitter Facebook


Singing the Story

Singing at Christmas

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage us to explore a wider range of Christmas music.

Preparation and materials


  1. Let’s start with getting into pairs.

    With your partner, decide on your favourite Christmas song of all time.

    Allow two minutes for discussion, and then ask for nominations. Produce a list of the top three songs and research them on the list at:

  2. None (or very few) of you mentioned what I would call a Christmas carol, the kind of song that is sung most often in church at Christmas. I wonder why.

    One reason could be that nowadays, fewer people attend Christmas carol services. Another could be that traditional carols sound a little old-fashioned compared with contemporary songs.

    Today’s assembly aims to encourage you to explore Christmas carols a little more.

  3. Explain that you are going to read out four statements about carols. If the students think that a statement is true, they should stand up. If they believe the statement to be false, they should remain seated.

    - A: The word ‘carol’ comes from the French ‘caroller’, which means to dance in a circle.
    Pause to allow time for students to stand up.
    - B: Carols are not just Christmas songs. There are also Easter carols and Harvest carols.
    Pause to allow time for students to stand up.
    - C: Oliver Cromwell tried to ban carols because he thought that they were too jolly.
    Pause to allow time for students to stand up.
    - D: David Bowie had a chart hit with a modern carol.
    Pause to allow time for students to stand up.

  4. Explain that each of the statements was actually true!

    - A: Carols were originally folk songs sung to accompany a circle dance.
    - B: Carols were composed for all the main Christian festivals, which were often the only holiday times for hardworking peasants and farm labourers.
    - C: Oliver Cromwell was a Puritan. After the deposition of Charles I during the English Civil War, Puritans were the main group within the ruling Parliamentarian Party. Puritans were ultra-strict and banned anything that could be deemed entertainment. Carols came within this category, even though they were part of church life.
    - D: David Bowie performed a duet with 73-year-old Bing Crosby on the modern carol ‘The little drummer boy’. It reached number three in the charts in 1982.

Time for reflection

That statement about Oliver Cromwell is particularly interesting. Church is often considered to be dull and boring, and the Puritans bear some responsibility for that state of affairs.

Yet the Christian story is full of good news, and the best news of all is contained in the Christmas story. It’s a story about God taking the form of a baby and entering a world that is full of darkness, depression, injustice and loneliness. It’s the beginning of the story of God’s intervention in the world through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who is that baby. It’s the start of a story that is full of light, optimism, justice and community. It’s a story that is essentially the happiest, most joyful story ever told.

That’s what Christian Christmas carols are all about. Oliver Cromwell was wrong to try to suppress the smiles, laughter, dancing and feasting that Christmas should be full of.

How about trying a few of these challenges to familiarize yourself with some carols?

- Download a few carols and have a listen; you might find that you actually enjoy them!
- Listen to ten carols and select your top three.
- Track down a local carol service or listen to one online.

Give it a go! In the meantime, let’s finish by listening to one of the happiest carols of all: ‘Joy to the world’.


‘Joy to the world’, available at: (2.34 minutes long)

Publication date: December 2020   (Vol.22 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
Print this page