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Bach: Christmas Oratorio

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: Tidings of great joy.

Johann Sebastian Bach planned his magnificent Christmas Oratorio around the very peculiar circumstances of the church year 1734-1735. Because THERE WAS NO SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS that year, only a Sunday after New Year=s Day, Bach planned the six sections in a strict order for the celebration of the Nativity leading up to Epiphany. The first three celebrated three days of Christmas, the fourth one New Year’s Day itself, also known as the Feast of the Circumcision, the Flight into Egypt on the Sunday after the New Year and Epiphany itself, commemorating the arrival of the Magi. Because of the strict order of the sections, Bach was only able to revive his Christmas Oratorio in its entirety in church years when THERE WAS NO SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, but over time it has come to be a beloved part of the Christmas season no matter what the circumstances.

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