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Christmas Carol Origins: What Child Is This?

The classic Christmas Carol, “What Child Is This,” came from a tune written centuries before the words were added. In 1580, a melody called, “Greensleeves,” was written that had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. The subject matter of Greensleeves had to do with a painful romantic conundrum.

Almost 300 years later, in 1865 an Insurance company manger by the name of William Chatterton Dix fell ill with a sickness that almost took his life. While recovering in bed, he became depressed, but through it all, he had a major spiritual awakening. He wrote a poem while he was recovering. The name of the poem was, “The Manger Throne.”

Six years later in 1871, Sir John Stainer, who composed the lyrics for "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” took the poem that William had written and set it to the tune of Greensleeves and named it, “What Child Is This?”

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