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Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  512 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
Behind the Christmas songs we love to sing lie fascinating stories that will enrich your holiday celebration. Taking you inside the nativity of over thirty favorite songs and carols, Ace Collins introduces you to people you’ve never met, stories you’ve never heard, and meanings you’d never have imagined. The next time you and your family sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published September 27th 2001 by Zondervan (first published September 25th 2001)
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Mar 28, 2011 Penandra rated it did not like it
I had high hopes for this selection. I love Christmas carols and thought that having the stories behind them would be fun. However, of the first three "chapters" that I read (I'll be Home for Christmas, White Christmas, and the Twelve Days of Christmas), the research is sloppy, incorrect, and incomplete.

A simple search on the Urban Legend dubunking site of will show problems with the Twelve Days of Christmas writeup. And then there's my favorite, I'll be Home for Christmas. While the
Jun 15, 2009 Rich rated it it was ok
Shelves: christmas, culture, music
I'm a Christmas music FREAK. I'm one of those annoying people who listen to it all year long (although, in private. I never subject others to my addiction).I was excited when I bought this book. I initially enjoyed reading the stories behind the Christmas songs. However, however I became suspicious when I read three stories that I knew to be false, or poorly researched.

The first is where he says Irving Berlin had little faith in his song "White Christmas." Having just finished Jody Rosen's book
Dec 20, 2014 Mwrogers rated it liked it
I'm sure my co-workers loved my running commentary today regarding all I learned about Christmas carols after finishing this book last night.... :-) I would have liked this book more, but there was too much information in it. Needs some editing. Like take out about 1/3 of it! More is not always better!
Zohar -
“Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” by Ace Collins (Website) is a short book, divided into sections, each corresponding to a beloved Christmas song. The book is arranged alphabetically and includes lyrics to most of the songs.

The book tells about 31 Christmas songs and carols including “Do You Hear what I Hear”, “G-d Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Jingle Bells’, “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” and more. The titles are arrange alphabetically and most of the songs also include the lyric
Jan 03, 2011 Sara rated it it was ok
This is a fairly short novel detailing the history of some of the most well known Christmas songs, covering both hymns, such as Joy to the World and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and sentimental favorites like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Silver Bells. It was a quick read and a nice way to pass the time, but certainly nothing ground-breaking. I was, however, really surprised by the stories surrounding some of these songs. It ran the gamut from tragedy to deception, the sentimental to the b ...more
Jaime O'Connell
Nov 14, 2014 Jaime O'Connell rated it really liked it
This book is a great read for:
1. The holidays
2. Those who a need a short book with quick chapters
3. Those who are interested in where the things we take for granted came from.
Although some sections are a little dry (not every Christmas song has a glamorous history) the book as a whole still kept my interest. The author does wax poetic a bit more often than is necessary but he makes up for it by including the full lyrics to every song in the book (many of these songs had stanzas I'd never even he
Nov 26, 2010 Sandie rated it liked it
Do you love to play Trivial Pursuit? Is Jeopardy your favorite television show? Do obscure facts and feel good stories tickle your fancy? Does knowing the story behind the story (or in this case, behind the song) make your day? If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, then Ace Collin's book Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas should appeal to you. Filled with informative little tid-bits, Greatest Hits is a book just brimming with sometimes funny, sometimes moving stories ...more
Jan 16, 2017 FangirlNation rated it it was amazing
As Christmas approaches, we tend to immerse ourselves in Christmas carols, and Stories behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins makes these songs much more meaningful in teaching us about the heritage of some of our most beloved carols. Here is a sample of some of the songs addressed in this book:

Read the rest of this review, more reviews, and other wonderful, geeky articles on FangirlNation
Dec 09, 2011 Christie rated it it was ok
This was a good book, but I have learned that some of the stories aren't as true as the author would have the reader believe and that knocked down my review a bit. I'm sorry when something is listed as nonfiction, it should be nonfiction. That is all I have to say about it.
Justin Tapp
Dec 25, 2014 Justin Tapp rated it liked it
Since we use so many of these songs in our worship services around Christmas, shouldn't we Christians learn the origins and intended meanings of the songs? There is so much history, including church history, embedded into the hymns we sing at Christmas, and we are often so ignorant of it. Even non-Christians can appreciate the historical contexts of the hymns. I finished this book the day of my church's Christmas Eve service, when many carols are sung. It gave me a greater appreciation and under ...more
Dec 29, 2016 Thomas rated it really liked it
OK, so I did not give this a perfect score -- but has anyone else tried to do this?? Put together the backstories of the most well-known Christmas Carols? If you read nothing else in this book, be sure to read up on "I Wonder as I Wander" and "Silent Night".
If I'm honest, I just read parts of this book so that I could write this article for my church's newsletter in December 2012:

While looking through the Christmas and Advent books in the church, two books by Ace
Collins caught my interest. Stories behind the Great Traditions of Christmas explores the
meaning behind Christmas symbols including evergreen trees, poinsettias, candy canes, lights,
and the colors of Christmas. In Stories behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Collins shares
the stories b
TheReadingKnitter/ Kasey
Behind the Christmas songs we love to sing lie fascinating stories that will enrich your holiday celebration. Taking you inside the nativity of over thirty favorite songs and carols, Ace Collins introduces you to people you've never met, stories you've never heard, and meanings you'd never have imagined.

The next time you and your family sing 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,' you'll have a new understanding of its message and popular roots. You'll discover how 'Angels from the Realms of Glory,' with
Dec 04, 2008 Poiema rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Christmas Music lovers

This year I have deviated from my usual Opal Wheeler book, entitled Sing for Christmas. I've borrowed it every Advent season from the library and we know most of the stories of the Christmas carols by heart.

My new find is Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins. It adds richly to our repertoire of Christmas lore by incorporating the stories of modern Christmas classics into the mix. I have found myself skipping the chapters on the carols and reading the stories of how "Ma
Nov 19, 2012 Amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, holiday
While this is not one of the best books that I have ever read, it was still excellent in its own right. However, it is going to date itself here in the next few years because today's kids (for the most part) do not know who Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and others of this generation are.

Songs in this book are arranged alphabetically in the book. For each song, there is a brief history, sometimes including recording information, etc. At the end of most of these brief essays are lyrics for
Nov 19, 2012 Anela rated it really liked it
I liked this book because of the background and historical information that it gave me on each song. I did find that you can "debunk" many of the stories on various websites, however I choose to believe what is written here. Also, I have gained a new appreciation for the Carols that I will hear, starting the day after Thanksgiving, I used to avoid shopping malls and walk out of stores that (over)played these tunes - but this year, and for many years to come, I shall appreciate the fact that I GE ...more
Dec 03, 2010 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: trivia junkies, people who love Christmas
Shelves: non-fic, 2010
Barnes & Noble offered this book for "Free Fridays" nook download, and I decided to embrace Christmas today as I relaxed on the couch watching the snow fall and getting over an illness. It's a quick and interesting read about a bevvy of Christmas songs. My favorite? Learning about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and how Catholics used the items in the song to represent aspects of their religion when it was illegal to practice in England.
Dec 10, 2010 Laura rated it it was ok
Shelves: ebook, nonfiction
This was OK, but none of the stories were exceptionally interesting. I started out reading about every song, but ended up skimming and skipping around just to the songs I liked. The format in the e-book was strange with sometimes paragraphs being broken up by a box with the song lyrics. It would have worked better if the song lyrics had been at the beginning of the chapter and the story of the song followed.

Note: Picked this up from a B&N Free Book Friday
Dec 14, 2011 Andy rated it it was ok
Shelves: advent-christmas
What I enjoyed most about this book was that it got me interested in researching the background of some of my favorite Christmas songs. What I did not enjoy was that it was so clearly written with..."schmaltz" (for lack of a better word). I'm sure some of what's in this volume is true, but it's easy to pick up on the rose-colored tint the writer is putting on every story. The stories are heart-warming (like Hallmark movies) but not always real.
Dec 14, 2011 Brian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, holiday, religion
This was a very interesting book about the origins of 31 Christmas carols and songs. I thought it had a good selection of songs representing from some standard classical hymns such as "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "O Holy Night" to some moderns classics such as "The Christmas Song" and "White Christmas."

I thought this book was easy to read and the subject matter was fascinating. This was a fun book to read in preparation for the holidays.
Leanna Manuel
Dec 02, 2013 Leanna Manuel rated it really liked it
I loved this book....and I hated this book. I loved learning the history behind many of the songs that I have sung since childhood. Having read this during the Christmas season, my experience of the carols seems somewhat deeper and more intimate. On the flip side, there were a few that were disturbing. To learn that the legends and lore that I had grown up with were WRONG, was quite unpleasant. For lovers of music and lovers of Christmas - I definitely recommend this book.
Dec 21, 2010 Natalie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, 2010, christmas
An interesting book, it's always fun to learn where now common-place things come from.

I can't imagine a Christmas without Rudolph, Silver Bells, and the like. But this book made me realize such staples have been around a very short time.

The only complaint with this book is how religious and preachy it gets. I will admit my eyes started to glaze over in several places due to the heavy-handed religious tone throughout the book.

Still, it's a fun read especially around the holidays.
Jan 02, 2009 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-lit
This was a great book on how popular Christmas songs came into being. I am not a good singer but enjoy singing Christmas songs in church and listening to Christmas music. And I love reading about the history of how things came to be. Songs like "Hark the Herald Angels", "White Christmas", and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" amongst others are included in this book. Some of the songs' lyrics are included as well. It's a short interesting read for anyone who likes Christmas music.
Dec 24, 2010 Tami rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
I really enjoyed reading the stories behind some of the best-loved Christmas carols and how they written with the intent of spreading their faith. I had no idea so many of them were written many years ago and the authors never lived to see how popular their songs became.
This is a good book to read during the Christmas season, as each chapter is about a song and they are fairly short, so easy to fit into a busy schedule.
Amanda Witt
A great little book, giving basic background truths to what have become popular carols/songs, like how the music for 'little town of Bethelem' came to the organist in his sleep/a dream. And how the organ repairer in the days of when Silent night was penned, taught it to many in the surrounding towns.
This was a freebie for my Nook and I skimmed most of the info with particular interest to the story of Judy Garland altering the text of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to brighten it up for soldiers coming home from the war. Nothing impressive, and a little schmaltzy, but hey, it was free and a nice little Christmas read.
Dec 05, 2010 Stacie rated it did not like it
Shelves: currently-own, nook
The overtly evangelical slant, coupled with some pretty big errors and a complete lack of attributed source materials makes the 'stories' included in this book unreliable. Since I wasn't looking for a thinly disguised testimonial to the superiority of Christian faith, this wound up being a complete waste of time.
Dee Renee  Chesnut
Dec 04, 2010 Dee Renee Chesnut rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dee Renee by: Free Friday selection from Barnes and Noble
Shelves: 2010, ebooks
This book was a pleasant reading experience that can be read in small doses to enhance enjoyment of the holiday season.

If this review is similar to the last book by Ace Collins on which I commented,it is because Mr. Collins recycled much of his material in these two books, and he tells his stories in similar styles.

Denise Spicer
Dec 31, 2015 Denise Spicer rated it it was amazing
31 popular Christmas Carols are included with history and brief bios of composer/lyricists. With lots of fun, interesting facts, this book covers centuries from very early carols to modern day hits. Arranged in alphabetical order with lyrics included for most of the songs but no music. A quick Christmas read and would be a great gift.
Greg Van Vorhis
Nov 20, 2012 Greg Van Vorhis rated it really liked it
This is a book of short chapters featuring the stories behind the best loved songs of Christmas (hence the title, right????) Its very nature lends itself to picking and choosing which songs you want to read and learn about. There were a couple of songs in here that I had never heard of, while all of the rest seem to have been sung by Bing Crosby at one point or another.
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