Welcome to The 12 Days of Christmas Songs: an attempt to uncover the forgotten history of some of the most memorable festive tunes. From December 14 through 25, we’ll be tackling one secular song and one holy song each day.
Adore is a curious word. In English, it’s become a cutesy toss-off, best used around baby chicks (“Adoooorable!”) or under-$50 Christmas presents (“Oh, I just adore Yankee Christmas Candles!”). It denotes obsession, but in a sugar-high kind of way—a burst of intense affection that doesn’t necessarily reach the depths of the soul.
But the word comes from a serious root: the Latin, adorare, to speak or pray. It is a worship word, one of prostration that lifts the eyes up rather than turning them to the ground. And it is the central idea of “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Oh, come, let us adore him: a straightforward call to prayer, urging everyone to drop what they’re doing and gather round, for “born the king of angels.”
It’s slightly disorienting to hear this exhortation in present-day, though. With its contemporary connotations, Adore feels more like a descriptor of Jesus’s baby-ness than his divinity-ness. Babies are undeniably awesome, but Jesus is supposed to be awe-some; his general-variety cooing is not quite what Christmas is about.