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Top 10 Christmas Carols of All Time

- Lambert/Getty Images
Lambert/Getty Images

I love all things Christmas—especially the music. A local Birmingham radio station begins playing Christmas music 24/7 at the end of October and I look forward to it every year (to my husband’s chagrin). Some of my favorite memories stem from singing Christmas songs in Sunday school or playing simple carols on the piano. Most of these beloved carols were written in the 1700 – 1800s primarily by religious leaders of that time. From Bing Crosby and David Bowies’ version of “The Little Drummer Boy” to Charlie Brown’s “Christmas Time is Here” to “Merry Christmas Darling” by the Carpenters, all of it puts me in the holiday spirit. But the first songs we learn as little kids hold that special place in our hearts. In honor of the Christmas Classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” (English, 1780) here are some of our favorite carols.

Silent Night

Granz Xaver Gruber (German); 1818

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Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

English; 1760

God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born upon this day,
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray:
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

O Come All Ye Faithful

John Francis Wade, 1744; most common version by Fr. Frederick Oakeley (England); 1841

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Holy Night

Adolphe Adam (French); 1847

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices
Oh, night divine
Oh, night when Christ was born

What Child is This?

William Chatterton Dix (England); 1865

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

We Three Kings

John Henry Hopkins (American); 1857

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

The First Noel

Carols Ancient and Modern, English; 1823

The first Noel, the angels say
To Bethlehem's shepherds as they lay.
At midnight watch, when keeping sheep,
The winter wild, the light snow deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel.

Away in a Manger

Original words by Martin Luther (German) in a poem to his children in the early 1500s; Variations are by William J. Kirkpatrick (1895) and James Ramsey Murray (1887).

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Rev. Phillips Brooks and Lewis Redner (American); 1868

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

Joy to the World

Isaac Watts (English); 1719; According to Hymnary.org, it is the most published Christmas hymn in North America.

Joy to the World; The Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King:
Let every Heart prepare him Room,
And Heaven and Nature sing.
Joy to the Earth, The Savior reigns;
Let Men their Songs employ;
While Fields & Floods, Rocks, Hills & Plains
Repeat the sounding Joy.
Repeat the sounding Joy.
Repeat; repeat the sounding Joy.

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