I would say that the Coventry Carol is in my top three Christmas Carols. It’s melody and lyrics intertwine a near perfect theme of solemn remembrance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get a lot of exposure due to the subject of the song and where it is placed in the Christmas season—some say it’s not a Christmas carol at all. I disagree as the feast falls during the Christmas season and is part of the Christ child’s story. The Coventry Carol is about the Holy Innocents that were killed by the orders of King Herod attempting to also claim the life of the Christ child.
The Carol was written to be placed during a play production called “Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors.” During the production, some interpret the Carol to have been Mary expressing concern for her son in the wake of those Innocents who had lost their lives by King Herod’s orders. There are still conflicting sources about the origins of the carol, although the play mentioned above was known to be performed in the 15th century and the song bears the name of the town where many claim its first performance Coventry, England.
Many Scholars believe the popularity of the song was due to the harshness of the times during the 15th century. The parents during the period could relate to the death of the Innocents and the Carol due to the infant mortality of their time.