Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Little Drummer Boy

(a.k.a. Carol of the Drum)

Carol of the Drum by The Trapp Family Singers on Grooveshark
Carol of the Drum, sung by the Trapp Family Singers

The Little Drummer Boy has always been one of my favorite Christmas carols. It is the semi-fictional story of a poor boy who has nothing but a drum, who is invited to accompany the Wise Men to see the baby Jesus in the stable. The rich men are bringing the finest of their treasuries to present to the newborn King, and this poor boy has nothing to give. He seems disappointed at first that he has nothing fit for a King to give, until he realizes that he could give the gift of music. So with Mary's permission, he jams out on the drum, with the animals keeping time. What a rocking gift! It makes Jesus smile.

I call it semi-fictional because most of the characters in the story were real, but if there was a "little drummer boy", the Bible doesn't mention him. Also, by the time the Wise Men visited Him, Jesus was no longer in the stable.

However, if it had happened (which I suppose is possible to some extent...maybe one of the shepherds had a drum), I'm sure Jesus would have loved it. Also, Jesus was very clear that we need to care for the poor and not overlook them. We are to be generous, even if we don't have much to give. Based on what Jesus said about an old lady giving all she had, sometimes gifts from people who don't have anything material to give are more valuable than those given out of a fraction of someone's possessions, due to the sacrifice involved. Also, even if we don't have anything material to give, we can always give our talents. While the story of The Little Drummer Boy may not be entirely biblical, the lesson is.

Where does this song come from? I always thought it was an old Czech carol, but after a little research, I found out to my surprise that it was written by American composer Katherine Davis in 1941! She originally called it "Carol of the Drum", and the first recording of it was by the Trapp Family Singers (above). According to Wikipedia, Davis claimed to have based it on a Czech carol, but if it existed, that carol has not been found. It does have a similar style to the Czech "Rocking Carol."

Now for a different version, I leave you with the Kenyan Boys Choir and Neema Ntalel...


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