Music is such a huge part of the Christmas season. Songs bring back so many wonderful memories of Christmas’ past and can elicit emotions and thoughts of friends and family.
Here are 10 of the greatest songs of the Christmas season along with direct links to versions found on YouTube. Enjoy.
And Merry Christmas (Eve) to you.
1. 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 of humanity’s redemption.
2. Silent Night
Originally written in German, ‘Stille Nacht’ was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber with lyrics by Joseph Mohr, and was translated to English in 1859. During the Christmas truce of 1914 during World War I, the carol was sung simultaneously by English and German troops.
3. Joy to the World
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.
4. Away in a Manger
This late 19th-century carol is hugely popular with children. The melody was originally composed in 1837 by Jonathan E. Spilman, but was later adapted in 1895 by William J Kirkpatrick.
5. 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.
7. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Sung at both Advent and Christmas, this hymn originates from Latin but was translated to English in 1861. The music for the hymn was composed in such a way that both the English and Latin words can be used interchangeably.
8. O Little Town of Bethlehem
Following a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Rector Phillips Brooks wrote the text to this hymn after he was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine. Three years later in 1871, his church organist Lewis Redner wrote the melody for the local Sunday school children’s choir.
9. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
The lyrics for this carol were written by Massachusetts pastor Edmund Sears and refer to ideas of war and peace. The most common musical setting was adapted from an English melody in 1874 by Arthur Sullivan.
10. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
One of the oldest Christmas carols on the list, this dates back to at least the 16th century, possibly earlier. Although most people assume the first line is suggesting merry gentlemen should rest, in early English it actually means something closer to ‘remain bountiful, gentlemen’.