Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
and a Word About Caroling
By way of corrections on two recent columns: When I wrote the review of The Mountains of Yesteryear, the book by Ruby Lee Sargent Miles about her grandparents, Jefferson Beauregard Dyer and Rhoda Jane Souther Dyer, edited by her son, Ronald Eugene Miles, I erroneously credited words from the back cover of the book to poet John G. Neihardt. A quatrain from the poet was, indeed, printed as the last of the “Afterword,” but the cover message itself was written by Ronald Eugene Miles himself. I especially liked the portion I quoted because it mentions “Mountain Mists.” The long-time, over-riding title of this column by yours truly, is “Through Mountain Mists.” Therefore, what Ron Miles wrote struck a responsive chord with me.
I quote again, and this time, correctly credit the words to Mr. Miles: “This story will not turn back the hands (digits?) of time, but it does advocate lessons the earth still has to teach us. And when mists lift off the mountains, is there a more fulfilling refreshment than a long draught of pure, cool spring water bubbling from the Giving Earth?” Thanks, Ron Miles, for these thought-provoking words.
And now to the second error: In
in last week’s Union Sentinel,
my tribute to my beloved departed brother Bluford Marion Dyer, I had
correctly graduating with the Class of 1951 from Union County High
I incorrectly wrote that this class was the first to graduate from the
newly-added twelfth grade. Readers would think I would know that it was
when the first twelfth grade class graduated! Thanks, readers, for
straight on this point. Now I can remember Bluford saying, “By one
missed the twelfth grade!” What I didn’t say about Bluford in that
that mathematics was always his love among subjects (as well as
Now with “corrections” made, let us move on to the second subject of this column, Christmas caroling.
I don’t know how widespread the custom of Christmas caroling in shopping malls and outside homes is today in our culture. A war rages against any mention of “Christmas” that might offend the general populace. I, for one, will welcome any carolers that appear at our door with their jubilant songs of Christmas. This is even more important to us now that my husband is a shut-in. I remember many Christmases past when he was a pastor and I personally led our church children and youth in carol sings about our communities to homes of the elderly and shut-ins. The carolers were blessed and so were the people to whom we sang. This act of love was an important part of the Christmas celebration.
Just what is a carol and when did the custom of carol singing originate? Simply defined, a carol is “a song of praise, especially in honor of the Nativity” (Webster). Seeking the carol’s origins is more difficult. The word carol carries the significance of “a round dance” or a “ring dance.” But in historical perspective, more emphasis was placed on the words the dancers sang than on the exuberant, joyful, lilt of the dancers. Did this happen inside sedate cathedrals? Hardly. With a folk-song quality, these songs went on outside the churches, with wandering minstrels and groups of musicians celebrating the Christmas season (and other religious days) with carols, noels, lullabies and hymns.
St. Francis of Assissi who was
the little church at Grecchio in central
This tradition soon spread, and
How we thrill to the words of
“Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella!/Bring a torch to the cradle run!”
lighted candles, people joined the village processions to the manger
singing the lilting words of this carol which had its origin in
St. Francis loved the simple religious songs of the people. Instead of being stilted and formal, he asked his congregation to mix singing with his preaching. He is attributed as saying: “For what are the servants of God if not his minstrels, who ought to stir and incite the hearts of men to spiritual joy?” (William J. Reynolds, Christ and the Carols, Broadman, 1967, p. 17).
Christmas is about the birth of Christ, and spreading spiritual joy through “songs and hymns and spiritual songs.” It is about helping our fellow men, extending the hand of giving to anyone we meet. “In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas.” Let us absorb the spirit, join in the carols, spread as much cheer as we can. We often say, “Christmas comes but once a year!” But actually, every day of the year can bear the spirit of Christmas. What better New Year’s resolution could we make than to produce our own carols and the feeling of good will they bear—all year long? Carols have no evidence of pretense, no pseudo-sophistication, no upper-class snobbery. Neither should we, in our daily walk. A merry Christmas to all!
c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 14, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
[Ethelene Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at e-mail email@example.com; phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA 31061-2411.]
Updated August 9, 2009