For many people, Christmas is a time of heart-connecting and gift sharing, and a time traditionally celebrated with song.

Christmas ‘carols’ are the songs of the season, with origins spanning centuries. Also called a Noël, from the French word for ‘Christmas’, carols comprise a wide variety of styles of music from both traditional folk melodies to grand choral anthems.

The first known Christmas hymns may be traced to 4th century Rome.

In the 13th century, in France, Germany, and particularly, Italy, under the influence of Francis of Assisi a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in regional native languages developed.

Christmas carols in English first appear in 1426, probably sung by groups of 'wassailers', who went from house to house. The songs we know specifically as carols were originally communal songs sung during celebrations like harvest as well as Christmas.

For many, these songs evoke the fondest memories of this holiday, whether religious or secular.

It is interesting that those who believe they cannot sing will often bring their voice forward at this time of year, joining into a singing group even if the group comprises only a handful of voices at the piano.

At any other time of year such public exposure of one’s voice may be far too bold- but singing Christmas carols is one way in which many allow themselves the joy of singing, a popular opportunity following closely behind the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ and chanting with thousands at major stadium sporting events.

This season, if you find yourself in a gathering or celebration where carols are being sung, consider it a perfect challenge to join in with your voice (even if you normally would not take part in a group singing activity).

If you are extremely self-conscious and worried about singing out-of-tune or off-key, you can express your voice more quietly at first. Use this opportunity to practice listening to your voice in relationship with other voices.

This is the key point. Simultaneously listen to yourself and others.

At first, it may be challenging, but time is on your side. Once carolling begins, it usually goes on for some time, cycling through many of the most popular carols. This gives you plenty of opportunities with the different songs to practice joining in while listening to yourself and others.

You may discover, particularly on sections of the song which are strongest and the words most easily remembered in your mind, to bring your voice out even more- and begin to enjoy the wonderful sensation of your voice vibrating with others in resonance and harmony. To sing with others offers a sublime feeling, one which - at least temporarily - abolishes any sense of loneliness or separation, and gives to you a gift which no one outside yourself can ever provide.