Most Christmas carols, we’ve heard over and over again from when we were little, to when we were adults. But the weird thing is, regardless of how many times we play and sing along to these songs, they always catch on. I guess we could say like wine, they get sweeter with time.
In the spirit of Christmas, here is a list of our top ten Christmas carols of all time, evergreen, ever cheery, every joyful. You’re sure to stir the Yuletide spirit with these songs.
10. “Silent Night”
Composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. “Stille Nacht” was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria. A young Catholic priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, he had written the poem “Stille Nacht” in 1816 at Mariapfarr, the hometown of his father in the Salzburg Lungau region, where Joseph had worked as an assistant priest.
9. “O Holy Night”
Placide Cappeau, a wine seller from southern France, was asked by the local parish priest to write a festive poem in 1847 to celebrate the church organ’s renovation. Cappeau felt it should be accompanied by music, so approached his friend Adolphe Charles Adams. Adams’ text reflects on the birth of Jesus and humanity’s redemption.
8. “O Christmas Tree” (“O Tannenbaum”)
“O Tannenbaum” is a German Christmas song based on a traditional folk song which was unrelated to Christmas, it became associated with the traditional Christmas tree by the middle of the 19th century and was sung as a Christmas carol. Those first few notes – “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree” – are so uplifting, so simple, and so celebratory.
7. “Hark The Herald Angels Sing”
With lyrics written by Charles Wesley, and set to a tune by Mendelssohn, this carol was always going to be one of the most recognisable and popular ones on the list. It’s also got a cracking descant.
6. “O Come All Ye Faithful”
It is unclear who first wrote the music or lyrics to this hymn. Possible candidates include King John IV of Portugal and John Francis Wade, while composers Handel and Gluck have been suggested as the brains behind the melody. The hymn also features in the 1992 film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, when it is played by a symphony orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
5. “12 Days of Christmas”
‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ is a rootin’-tootin’, singalong Christmas carol that runs through the twelve days that make up the Christmas season – beginning on Christmas Day and ending on 6 January, the day before Epiphany.
Each day represents a new gift, starting with ‘a partridge in a pear tree’ and ending with ‘twelve drummers drumming’.
It’s a traditional English tune dating back to the 1700s, which some historians actually believe to have French origins.
4. “Joy to the World”
Of course, I had to include this traditional classic; with a rousing melody that echoes the music of Georg Friedrich Handel. However, rather than celebrating the birth of Christ, the text of this hymn represents Christ’s triumphant return. The words, dreamed up by English writer Isaac Watts, are based on the second half of Psalm 98 in the Bible. In the late ’90s, it was named the most-published Christmas hymn in North America. You can just feel the merriness pouring out of it.
3. “Jingle Bells”
Did you know that “Jingle Bells” was originally written as a song for Thanksgiving? Somewhere down the way, it became a Christmas carol, and we’re all the better for it: “Jingle Bells” is upbeat, fun, and instantly recognizable. It’s one of the most popular songs ever, and it was even the first song broadcast from space. And if it’s good enough for space, it’s good enough for me.
2. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”
There’s something about “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” that perfectly captures the dizzy excitement and abundant goodwill of the holidays, and I think it has the most triumphant and energetic melody of any carol on this list.
1. “Deck the Halls”
There can only be one: “Deck the Halls,” a Christmas staple made iconic by that singular refrain: “Fa la la la la, la la la la.” What’s more Yuletide than that? Gracious and exuberant in its celebration of Christmas, “Deck the Halls” takes the top spot on this list because it describes the best part of the holidays: decorating, dressing up, singing, and getting a bunch of stuff you don’t need. The melody for ‘Deck The Hall’s’ originated in Wales in the 16th century and belonged to the Welsh New Year’s Eve carol ‘Nos Galan.’ In 1862 Thomas Oliphant translated and adapted the carol for Christmas and ‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly’ was born. ‘Deck the halls’ is lively, festive, and full of light!