Sailsbury Cathedral

The Best Christmas Carols

Every Christmas millions of us hum and sing those famous Christmas carols we hear throughout the seasonal period. All those happy, uplifting tunes about Christ and Christmas, but which ones are your favourites? We’ve put together a list of the best Christmas carols (in our opinion), with a little background about them so you know a little fun fact about the carol and you can wow your friends and family with it. 

Sailsbury Cathedral

Silent Night

The song’s message of peace remains ever-popular the gentle, calming carol is sung every year by millions across the globe. This Christmas Carol has been around since 1818 and was composed by priest Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber. It has since been widely sung and covered by many artists throughout the decades.

O Holy Night

The carol, composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847, reflects on the birth of Jesus as humanity’s redemption. The song was translated to English 1855. The song has been recorded by numerous well-known popular-music, classical-music, and religious-music singers; one of which includes Mariah Carey.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

The original hymn text was written as a “Hymn for Christmas-day” by Charles Wesley, included in the 1739 John Wesley collection Hymns and Sacred Poems.

Wesley envisioned the song being sung to the same tune as his Easter song “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”. Throughout the centuries the song has remained similar to the original and sung in Church every Christmas. 

O Come, All Ye Faithful

The one hymn that a Christmas Church service sings without fail. The song was sometimes referred to as the “Portuguese Hymn” after the Duke of Leeds heard a version of it sung at the Portuguese embassy in London. There’s a little fun fact for you there!

Sussex Carol

Both the text and the tune to which it is now sung were discovered and written down by Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The two heard it being sung by Harriet Verrall of Monk’s Gate, near Horsham, Sussex – hence the carols name of ‘Sussex Carol’.

The song itself was actually originally first published by Luke Wadding, a 17th-century Irish bishop.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen!

It is one of the oldest Christmas carols, dated to the 16th century or earlier. The Carol makes a feature in Charles Dickens’ 1843 A Christmas Carol; when a singer outside begins the carol and Scrooge grabs a ruler with such power that the singer fled out of fear. A humorous moment as the song is an uplifting, sweet melody while Scrooge’s actions were not! 

Away In A Manger

It is one of the most well-known and popular songs in Britain. Despite the claims that the song originates from the works of the famous German religious reformer Martin Luther, the carol is now thought to be wholly American in origin.

Even though the origin of the song is a little blurry, the song itself never fails to make its debut in a school nativity, church service or sung at home. 

Ding Dong Merrily On High

A Carol that everyone sings to their heart’s content. This is one of our most latest published carols on the list, dating at 1924! It is said that the sound of the Church bells ringing aided George Ratcliffe Woodward (our carol composer) into writing the song. 

Good King Wenceslas

A story of a Bohemian King (King Wenceslas) going on a journey through the harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen – December 26th (Boxing Day or Second Christmas).

Neale’s lyric (our composer) was set to the melody of 13th-century spring carol “Tempus adest floridum” (“The time is near for flowering”). From being first published in the 1582 Finnish song collection Piae Cantiones. Giving it that spring feeling to the carol – full of life and bounce. 

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