• A Wild Lass

The Messiah, the "Hallelujah Chorus," and Christmas

Music is such a huge part of Christmas for our family. I remember my mom playing eclectic albums like The Blind Boys of Alabama and Cherish the Ladies. But most significantly, Handel’s Messiah was always on at Christmas time. As we grew older, we started attending a sing-along performance of Handel’s Messiah, and I remember how thrilled we were the year we received our own copies of the score so we didn’t have to borrow one anymore.


Please do not get the wrong idea. Am I a good singer? Not particularly. Do I know the music well enough to even sing in the car? Nope. But this music is such a powerful piece, it doesn’t matter. It’s enough just to participate. Here’s a little more about the meaning behind the popular Messiah, the “Hallelujah Chorus” (including why it’s tradition to stand for it), and why it should be part of your Christmas traditions, too.


Photo Credit: A Wild Lass

*Disclaimer: Some of the links you see may be affiliate links. All that means is if you click through and end up making a purchase, I’ll earn a commission.


George Frederic Handel


The German composer was a wonder of the 16 and 1700s, composing more than 40 Baroque operas, along with other pieces like concertos and oratorios (of which the Messiah is one). He was 74 when he died, rare for someone of the time. While Handel’s chief biographer appears to have gotten many of his facts mixed up, it’s clear that he had some kind of keyboard to gain some early experience. When he played an organ in the chapel on a trip to the city with his father, the Duke who overheard insisted on sending him for music lessons, and Handel credits him as his only benefactor. From his first position as organist in a run-down castle and early chamber works to his later, more tasteful compositions, he clearly had a gift for music.


The Messiah


This is an English-language piece composed in 1741 in three parts, the first part of which (with the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Part II) is traditionally sung at Christmas. It includes choral pieces like “And He Shall Purify” and “For Unto Us A Child Is Born,” with music for violins, viola, cello, timpani, trumpets, oboes, harpsichord, and double bass. Handel wrote the Messiah in only 24 days, something many believe was divinely inspired given his inscription at the end, Soli Deo Gloria. Whether he knelt before the presence of God in tears while writing the “Hallelujah Chorus” as legend says isn’t something I can verify. Yet I do know it’s tradition to stand for the piece, something started by the king when Messiah was performed in London for the first time. And I’d like to think it’s because it’s such a moving piece of music.


This year we hurried into church, late and conspicuous, searching for one of the few remaining seats, just in time to hear them announce a Christmas tradition. Every year, they sing the “Hallelujah Chorus” and anyone who wants to is invited to sing with the choir on stage. I turned to The Lad mouth open, and before I could get scared, shrugged off my coat and climbed up with the altos. They smiled at me, handed me a piece of music, and gave me a chance to breathe and try to stop my knees from shaking while they finished announcements.


Photo Credit: A Wild Lass

Then we were off! And it was just as amazing as every other time I’ve sung it. That night, we attended our usual sing-along, and I considered myself lucky to sing this twice in one day.


Photo Credit: A Wild Lass

Put this on next as you finish your wrapping and baking and other Christmas Eve preparations today. I promise you it’s worth it.


Do you have any music you listen to at Christmas time? Does music help make the holiday real for you? Tell us about them on our Instagram or Twitter.


*Disclaimer: Some of the links you see may be affiliate links. All that means is if you click through and end up making a purchase, I’ll earn a commission.