As December 25 comes in closer, houses get a huge transformation, with sparkling stars adorning the front, lavishly decorated Christmas trees guarding the doors, beautifully made cribs smiling with anticipation, and glittering lights that look appealing and eye-catchy. And the best part is to wait for the carol group to visit our house and fill the air with their lovely carols. Soon the place lights up even brighter and the joy becomes totally contagious engulfing the neighborhood. That is how sweet and amazing Christmas carols are! Everyone loves Christmas and the joyous festival looks totally incomplete without Christmas carols. So to make your Christmas complete, we have come up with a list of 15 best Christmas carols from around the world that will get you in the mood.
1. Away in a Manger
Away in a Manger is a popular British carol that was once the second most popular Christmas carol alongside 'O, Come all Ye Faithful' and the carol rightly so deserves the place. It is one of the first carols to be taught to the children, considering its easy lyrics and commonly has two musical settings one by William J. Kirkpatrick, which is widely used in the UK and other by James R. Murray, which is used in the US. Although Away in a Manger has been speculated to be written by Martin Luther, there is no substantial evidence.
2. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Written by Charles Wesley, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing first appeared in the collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems in England, 1739. During the time, Charles Wesley wanted a slow and solemn music for the carol and nothing extravagant and the initial line of the carol was 'Hark! how all the welkin rings'. Over the years, the carol underwent several transformations at the hands of George Whitefield, Felix Mendelssohn, and English musician William H. Cummings finally ending up at the version that we listen today which is undoubtedly one of the best Christmas carols of all time.
3. Joy to the World
Joy to the World is a famous English carol that celebrates the glorifying return of the Lord at the end of the age rather than celebrating the first coming of Jesus, yet it perfectly fits for a joyous Christmas carol. Put in words by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, Joy to the World is based on the second half of Psalm 98 from the bible and was first published in 1719. By the late 20th century, Joy to the World was the most published English hymn in North America and is one of the widely recognized songs in all parts of the world.
4. We wish you a merry Christmas
Did you sing along the song? I did that too! Yes, this carol is that catchy and obviously contagious. Sadly the origins of this carol is unknown and is said to have originated from some part of the western country of England. The carol collectively wishes for a happy Christmas and an equally joyous new year and so you know, the figgy pudding mentioned in the lyrics of the carol was a popular Christmas pudding in the British Isles and is worth trying it out in your kitchen.
5. Silent Night
Penned by Joseph Mohr and composed by Franz Xaver Gruber in 1818, Silent Night is a popular Christmas carol from Austria. And when I say it is popular, I mean it! The carol was translated to about 140 different languages and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by the UNESCO in 2011. The story goes like this, Joseph Mohr wrote this song and wanted it to be played on the organ. But as destiny has it, the organ at St. Nicholas Church was broke at that time and Joseph ended up giving the poem to his friend, Franz Xavier Gruber who then composed the song with his guitar and made sure it was ready for the Midnight mass. The rest is well, history!
6. 12 days of Christmas
12 days of Christmas is an English carol that is written in a cumulative sense with each verse building on the previous verse, explaining about the different gifts that would be given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. It was initially written as a catechism song for the young Catholics to sing during the time of 1558 until 1829 when Roman Catholics were not allowed to practice the religion openly in England. But it is all forgiven now because it is after all the festival of joy and forgiveness. Each line in-depth also refers to the creation of the world by the Almighty in addition to listing the grand gifts.
7. O Holy Night
This well-known Christmas carol was written by Placide Cappeau, a wine seller in 1843. As the church organ was renovated at that time in Roquemaure, the parish church father asked Cappeau to write a Christmas poem to be played in the newly renovated organ. Cappeau, a non-follower of the religion obliged to the request of the father and wrote down the beautiful lines of the hymn. Sung by opera singer Emily Laurey, O Holy Night first premiered in Roquemaure in 1847 and the famous Christmas carol that we listen to now is composed by Adolphe Adam.
8. O Little Town of Bethlehem
O Little Town of Bethlehem is a popular English carol written by Rector Phillips Brooks of Philadelphia right from his heart. Born in Boston, Phillips is an Episcopalian preacher who got his Doctorate of Divinity from the University of Oxford. Being a firm believer that he is, Phillips went on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem from Jerusalem riding on a horseback. In Bethlehem, Phillips took part in the Church of the Nativity's five-hour long Christmas celebration that is complete with hymns. Inspired and moved by the celebrations, Phillips then wrote 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' which is now one of the widely played songs in the churches during Christmas.
9. The First Noel
In for a traditional classical Christmas carol? Play The First Noel on your speakers and you are all set to celebrate Christmas in the culturally traditional way. As few of you would confuse Noel being a french word, let me clear the doubt for you, it is not french. Noel is actually an Early modern synonym for Christmas. Initially, of a Cornish origin, The First Noel was first published in England's Carols Ancient and Modern in 1823. The melody is actually in an unusual form as compared to the other English folk melodies for the reason that one musical phrase gets repeated twice followed by a refrain which is actually a variation of the phrase. The carol is typically performed in a four-part hymn arrangement by the musical composer John Stainer.
10. Ding Dong Merrily On High
Loved by all the children for the way the song explains the sound of the Christmas in its lyrics, Ding Dong Merrily On High is a Christmas carol originated from the French region. The lyrics for the song were written by the English composer George Radcliffe Woodward and the carol was first published in 1924 in The Cambridge Carol-Book: Being Fifty-two Songs for Christmas, Easter, and Other Seasons. The inspiration for the song as Woodward has stated is the bell and it certainly has the rhyme to it.
11. I Saw Three Ships
Composed by the wandering minstrels as they traveled through the countries, I Saw Three Ships is a traditional Christmas carol from England. While the printed version of the carol is from the 17th century, I Saw Three Ships was published by William Sandys in 1833. The meaning of the song can be depicted in many ways, some believe the three ships carried the relics of the three wise men to the Cathedral, while some others say it carried Wenceslaus II, King of Bohemia. But the modern version of the song is about Mary and Jesus traveling to Bethlehem.
12. Good King Wenceslas
Good King Wenceslas is popular Christmas song that tells the story of the brave Czech King Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia who went on a historic journey battling it out against a harsh winter weather to provide alms to the poor peasant farmers on the Feast of Stephen (festival on Dec 26, the day after Christmas). King Wenceslaus was martyred following his assassination by his own brother Boleslaw and was declared a saint. The lyrics to the Good King Wenceslas were written by English hymn writer John Mason Neale in collaboration with the composer Thomas Helmore and was featured in Carols for Christmas-Tide, 1853.
13. Deck the Halls
Deck the Halls is a Welsh origin traditional Christmas and New year carol that belongs to the winter carol, 'Nos Galan'. While the Welsh origin dates back to the sixteenth century, the English lyrics date to 1862. Deck the Halls has this celebration mood to it with the repeated 'fa la la las' and it certainly lifts the spirit. The first English rendition of the carol appeared in volume 2 of Welsh Melodies by John Thomas in which the Welsh words were by John Jones & English words by the Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant.
14. O Come, All Ye Faithful
As mentioned earlier in the blog, O Come, All Ye Faithful was one of the top Christmas carols of that time. Originally written in Latin (Adeste Fideles), the author of the carol is unknown and has been attributed to various writers including John Francis Wade, John Reading, and King John IV of Portugal. Beautiful, triumphant, and powerful, O Come, All Ye Faithful is one of the best Christmas carols of all time especially in the UK and the US, and deserves a place in everyone's Christmas playlist.
15. Tu Scendi Delle Stelle
Music has no boundaries, which is exactly why we have got you a song from the land of Italy, Tu Scendi Delle Stelle. Ready to get your tongues rolling for there is some Italian singing to do. Tu Scendi Delle Stelle is a famous Italian Christmas carol written by Alphonsus Maria de' Liguori, a Philosopher and a Priest in the year 1732. The words sound so beautiful and the music just adds up to its elegance.
Fill your Christmas playlist with all these carols and sing aloud till your throats dry out. Merry Christmas!
Note: Pictures are for representative purposes only.