Who doesn't love to play Christmas sheet music on the piano, organ, or other instrument? For many people, sitting down at the keyboard to play the first carols of the season—or other traditional Christmas music—really mean the holidays have begun. Fortunately, we have abundant sources of Christmas sheet music available, for all instruments and difficulty ranges; even the smallest of us can learn to play simple versions of Christmas songs and enjoy them.
But imagine what Christmas would be now without any of that Christmas sheet music—without carols such as Silent Night or fun songs like Frosty the Snowman. It could have happened, had the early settlers to America, the Puritans, persisted in a well-intentioned but mistaken effort to "cleanse" Christmas by banning celebrations of it completely.
The Puritan effort to "purify" religious holidays was largely taken to this extreme by Oliver Cromwell in England, who in effect "outlawed Christmas" between roughly 1644 and 1660. (Not even Mass attendance was allowed!) Lawbreakers could be subject to punishment for things as simple as preparing special food intended for Christmas feasting. When Puritans immigrated to the New World, for a time, they brought this attitude with them and kept up the ban. As it was repealed in England, however, soon afterward the celebration of Christmas once again became legal in the American colonies…and so we proceed today.
Now, Christmas sheet music of all kinds can be one helpful reminder to us of the real meaning of the season. When you sing Adeste Fideles, you can be reminded to "come and adore Him," a welcome respite from the "busy-ness" of the season that can be overwhelming. And when you listen to others perform from Christmas sheet music, or perform some of that music yourself, it, too, can be almost therapeutic in its ability to help you refocus.
From piano reductions of the Nutcracker Suite to four-part carol books that we use in church or take with us to sing to people in the neighborhood, there are plenty of sources of good music available for us to use to enrich our season. As you enjoy Christmas sheet music, think about this: out of all of our attempts to "purify" our simplify this season, something that was banned for a time—celebrating Christmas through music—has turned out to be one of the most effective of all.