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Lessons and Carols: Introduction

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a 90-year-old tradition at King’s College, Cambridge. According to the King’s College website,

Our Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who at the age of thirty-four had just been appointed Dean of King’s, after experience as an army chaplain which had convinced him that the Church of England needed more imaginative worship. A revision of the Order of Service was made in 1919, involving rearrangement of the lessons, and from that date the service has always begun with the hymn ‘Once in royal David’s city’.

The BBC has broadcast the King’s College service every year since 1928 with but one exception. The lessons have remained constant over the years, drawing on earlier work by E. W. Benson, the Archbishop of Truro. Benson’s son later recalled,

My father arranged from ancient sources a little service for Christmas Eve – nine carols and nine tiny lessons, which were read by various officers of the Church, beginning with a chorister, and ending, through the different grades, with the Bishop

Almost immediately, churches began adapting the service for their own use. My own church has a longstanding tradition of a service of Lessons and Carols on a Sunday morning during Advent.

For the next nine days, I’ll share the traditional lessons along with a Christmas or Advent carol. May the lessons and carols guide you toward the light of Christ.



  1. Darrell,

    Our seminary just celebrated the festival of Lessons and Carols. Our church will celebrate it on Christmas Eve.

    Thank you for your presentation and for the hymns.

    Claude Mariottini


  2. D. P. says:

    My pleasure, Claude.


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