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The 25 greatest Christmas carols of all time

| November 22, 2021

<img src=”https://images.immediate.co.uk/production/volatile/sites/24/2016/11/GettyImages-502170792-9979252.jpg?quality=45&resize=620,413″ srcset=”https://images.immediate.co.uk/production/volatile/sites/24/2016/11/GettyImages-502170792-9979252.jpg?quality=45&amp;resize=2400,1598 2400w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/production/volatile/sites/24/2016/11/GettyImages-502170792-9979252.jpg?quality=45&amp;resize=1920,1278 1920w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/production/volatile/sites/24/2016/11/GettyImages-502170792-9979252.jpg?quality=45&amp;resize=1440,959 1440w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/production/volatile/sites/24/2016/11/GettyImages-502170792-9979252.jpg?quality=45&amp;resize=1200,799 1200w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/production/volatile/sites/24/2016/11/GettyImages-502170792-9979252.jpg?quality=90&amp;resize=960,639 960w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/production/volatile/sites/24/2016/11/GettyImages-502170792-9979252.jpg?quality=90&amp;resize=720,479 720w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/production/volatile/sites/24/2016/11/GettyImages-502170792-9979252.jpg?quality=90&amp;resize=576,383 576w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/production/volatile/sites/24/2016/11/GettyImages-502170792-9979252.jpg?quality=90&amp;resize=360,239 360w, https://images.immediate.co.uk/production/volatile/sites/24/2016/11/GettyImages-502170792-9979252.jpg?quality=90&amp;resize=180,119 180w, ” sizes=”(max-width: 620px) 100vw, 620px” width=”620″ height=”413″ class=”wp-image-127175 alignnone size-landscape_thumbnail” alt=”greatest Christmas carols of all time” title=”greatest Christmas carols of all time” /> <p><strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/what-carol/”>Christmas carols</a>. Without them, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas. From angel-singing, bell-ringing ebullience to deep, spiritual contemplation, nothing can match the Christmas carol in terms of creating an atmosphere – whether echoing through a vast cathedral, or sung by children in a nativity play, their power to move can be simply overwhelming.</strong></p> <section class=”highlight “> <div class=”highlight__content editor-content”> <ul> <li><strong><a class=”standard-card-new__article-title” href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/whats-the-difference-between-a-christmas-carol-and-a-hymn/”>What’s the difference between a Christmas carol and a hymn?</a></strong></li> <li><a class=”standard-card-new__article-title qa-card-link” href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/christmas-concerts-with-live-audiences-where-can-you-attend-classical-concerts-this-christmas/”>T<strong>he UK’s best Christmas concerts this year</strong></a></li> <li><strong><a class=”standard-card-new__article-title qa-card-link” href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/best-christmas-musicals/”>10 of the best Christmas musicals</a></strong></li> <li><strong><a class=”standard-card-new__article-title” href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/the-best-cathedral-and-abbey-choirs-across-the-uk/”>The best cathedral and abbey choirs across the UK</a></strong></li> <li><strong><a class=”standard-card-new__article-title” href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/best-christmas-ballets/”>The best Christmas ballets of all time</a></strong></li> </ul> <p> </div> </section> </p><p><strong>But what are the truly great Christmas carols of all time? We reveal the top Christmas carol songs, as voted for by 50 top choral experts from around the world. Do you agree with their choices or have we missed your favourite Christmas carol?</strong></p> <h2>The best Christmas carols ever</h2> <p> </p> <h3><strong>25. <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/silent-night-lyrics/”>Silent Night</a> </strong></h3> <p>‘On Christmas Eve 1818 priest Joseph Mohr turned up on the doorstep of his friend Franz Xaver Gruber and asked him to write a Christmas carol’ <strong>(<a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/when-was-silent-night-written/”>read more about how the carol Silent Night was composed here…</a>)</strong></p> <iframe title=”Silent Night” width=”200″ height=”150″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/zjGtlshgX4s?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <h3><strong>24.</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/lamb/”><strong> The Lamb</strong></a></h3> <p>‘Few composers writing in recent years have had as big an impact on the British choral scene as <a href=”http://www.classical-music.com/topic/john-tavener”><strong>Sir John Tavener</strong></a> (1944-2013)’<strong> (<a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/lamb/”>read more…</a>)</strong></p> <iframe title=”Carols from King's 2016 | #4 &quot;The Lamb&quot; John Tavener – The Choir of King's College, Cambridge” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/auMZu3u7bXA?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <h3><strong>23.</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/three-kings/”><strong> Three Kings</strong></a></h3> <p>‘When Worcester Cathedral’s organist Ivor Atkins came across Cornelius’s 19th-century song ‘Die Könige’ he knew he had struck gold’ <strong>(<a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/three-kings/”>read more…</a>)</strong></p> <iframe title=”King's College Cambridge 2014 #16 The Three Kings Peter Cornelius” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/thu3vgz5y28?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <ul><li><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/best-pieces-festive-classical-music/”><strong>The best pieces of festive classical music</strong></a></li> </ul><p> </p> <h3><strong>22.</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/god-rest-ye-merry-gentlemen/”><strong> God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen!</strong></a></h3> <p>‘Ebeneezer Scrooge took exception to this traditional English carol in Dickens’s <em>A Christmas Carol</em>, reacting so furiously to it that the carol singer on the other side of the door ran away ‘in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost’’ <strong>(<a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/god-rest-ye-merry-gentlemen/”>read more…</a>)</strong></p> <iframe title=”King's College Cambridge 2010 #10 God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/CDcSyaW-tTI?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <h3><strong>21.</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/sans-day-carol/”><strong> The Sans Day Carol</strong></a></h3> <p>‘This beautiful Cornish carol first came to light during the 19th century. A Mr WD Watson, so the story goes, heard it sung in St Day – Sen Day in Cornish – a village named after a Breton saint’ <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/sans-day-carol/”><strong>(read more…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”Sans Day Carol [King's – 2011, № 5]” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/HCcy-uyK6ls?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <h3><strong>20.</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/hodie-christus-natus-est-sweelinck/”><strong> Hodie Christus Natus est by composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck</strong></a></h3> <p>‘Best known for his finely wrought keyboard works, early 17th-century Dutch composer Sweelinck also wrote some heavy-weight choral music, of which this joyful carol is one of his best examples’ <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/hodie-christus-natus-est-sweelinck/”><strong>(read more…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck – Hodie Christus natus est (multitrack collab)” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/R20cUpItMd8?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <ul><li><a href=”http://www.classical-music.com/article/six-best-20th-century-british-choral-works”><strong>Six of the best 20th-century British choral works</strong></a></li> </ul><p> </p> <h3><strong>19. </strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/no-small-wonder/”><strong>No Small Wonder</strong></a></h3> <p>‘After a soft organ introduction and an opening line sung in unison, the choral texture blossoms into four parts as the favourite Christmas carol’s narrator marvels at the miracle of Christmas.’ <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/no-small-wonder/”><strong>(read more…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”No Small Wonder” width=”200″ height=”150″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/1J0jvdVE0j8?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <h3><strong>18. </strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/little-road-bethlehem/”><strong>The Little Road to Bethlehem</strong></a></h3> <p>‘British composer Michael Head, who gave piano recitals in factories during the Blitz, hit the right note with this charming miniature for four-part choir, written around 1946.’ <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/little-road-bethlehem/”><strong>(read more…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”LOUISA STIRLAND THE LITTLE ROAD TO BETHLEHEM” width=”200″ height=”150″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/DkJ6leSY_CI?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <h2></h2> <h3><strong>17.</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/hodie-christus-natus-est-poulenc/”><strong> Hodie Christus Natus est by composer Poulenc</strong></a></h3> <p>‘<a href=”http://www.classical-music.com/topic/francis-poulenc”><strong>Poulenc</strong></a>’s joyous <em>Hodie Christus Natus Est</em> brings the Frenchman’s set of Four Christmas Motets to an ebulliently rowdy conclusion.’ <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/hodie-christus-natus-est-poulenc/”><strong>(read more…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”Hodie Christus Natus Est – Francis Poulenc (SFSU Chamber Singers)” width=”200″ height=”150″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/KftF7I8iE6k?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <ul><li><a href=”http://www.classical-music.com/article/six-bestkings-singers-recordings”><strong>Six of the best King’s Singers recordings</strong></a></li> </ul><p> </p> <h3><strong>16.</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/there-flower/”><strong> There is a flower</strong></a></h3> <p>‘Named ‘the world’s greatest living composer and conductor of choral music’ by US television station NBC, there’s no denying <strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/artists/john-rutter/”>Rutter</a></strong>’s skill at seducing both choirs and audiences alike’ <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/there-flower/”><strong>(read more…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”There is a flower” width=”200″ height=”150″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/M3KvVMPl3e0?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <h3><strong>15.</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/o-magnum-mysterium-victoria/”><strong> O Magnum Mysterium</strong></a></h3> <p>‘Did 16th-century Spaniard Tomás Luis de Victoria study under the great Palestrina? While we can’t be sure, the fluid counterpoint of his 1572 motet <em>O Magnum Mysterium</em> is worthy of the Italian master himself.’ <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/o-magnum-mysterium-victoria/”><strong>(read more…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”Victoria – O magnum mysterium” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/5dn7HgiT2QY?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <ul><li><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/five-best-ancient-christmas-carols/”><strong>Five of the best ancient Christmas carols</strong></a></li> </ul><p> </p> <h3><strong>14.</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/hark-herald-angels-sing-words/”><strong> Hark the Herald Angels Sing</strong></a></h3> <p>‘In 1739 Charles Wesley wrote a Christmas hymn that began ‘Hark! how all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of Kings’, the first incarnation of what is now <em>Hark! The Herald Angels Sing</em>.’<a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/hark-herald-angels-sing-words/”> <strong>(read more about the carol and lyrics here…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”Hark! the Herald-Angels Sing {Hymn} [King's – 2012, № 18]” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/cSotvFWKvhc?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p style=”text-align: center;”><em><strong>Listen to our playlist of the</strong> <a href=”https://itunes.apple.com/gb/playlist/greatest-christmas-carols/pl.77ca039fc6404fc9b87f92a3d9a07ff3″><strong>Greatest Christmas carols of all time here</strong></a></em></p> <p> </p> <h3><strong>13. </strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/o-magnum-mysterium-poulenc/”><strong>O Magnum Mysterium</strong></a></h3> <p>‘Of <a href=”http://www.classical-music.com/topic/francis-poulenc”><strong>Poulenc</strong></a>’s four Christmas motets, the first is the most solemn, the most haunting and has consistently proved the most popular since they were published in 1952.’ <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/o-magnum-mysterium-poulenc/”><strong>(read more…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”Francis Poulenc: O magnum mysterium” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/F-BpxHT_FX0?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <ul><li><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/recordings/best-recordings-schuberts-winterreise/”><strong>The best recordings of Schubert’s <em>Winterreise</em></strong></a></li> </ul><p> </p> <h3><strong>12. <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/sussex-carol-lyrics/”>Sussex Carol</a></strong></h3> <p>‘From the cheery opening ‘On Christmas Night’ to the final triumphant ‘Amen!’, this carol is one of celebration.’ <strong>(<a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/sussex-carol-lyrics/”>read more about the ‘Sussex Carol’ and find its lyrics here …</a>)</strong></p> <iframe title=”King's College Cambridge 2011 #2 Sussex Carol arr. David Willcocks” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/3mYXto0x4K0?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <h3><strong>11.</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/royal-davids-city-words/”><strong> Once in Royal David’s City</strong></a></h3> <p>‘Every year, one King’s College, Cambridge chorister is chosen to open the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols with the exposed solo verse of <em>Once in Royal</em> in front of a packed chapel… and several million radio listeners.’ <strong>(</strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/royal-davids-city-words/”><strong>read more about the Christmas carol and the lyrics here…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”King's College Cambridge 2010 #1 Once in Royal David's City” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/NMGMV-fujUY?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <h3><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/what-sweeter-music-rutter/”><strong>10. What Sweeter Music</strong></a></h3> <p>‘American readers might have first heard this exquisite miniature masterpiece in a Volvo advertisement, yet it was originally written for the choir of King’s College, Cambridge for their 1987 service of Nine Lessons and Carols.’ <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/what-sweeter-music-rutter/”><strong>(read more…)</strong></a></p> <iframe title=”VocalEssence – What Sweeter Music by John Rutter” width=”200″ height=”113″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/fLkxe6q6UyE?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <ul><li><a href=”http://www.classical-music.com/article/five-best-modern-christmas-carols”><strong>Five of the best modern Christmas carols</strong></a></li> </ul><p> </p> <h3><strong>9. <a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/of-the-fathers-heart-begotten/”>Of the Father’s Heart Begotten</a></strong></h3> <p>‘Few carols have words that can be traced back as early as this. ‘<strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/when-was-the-first-christmas-carol/”>Corde natus ex parentis’ was written by Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius Clemens</a></strong>, who lived in northern Spain from, roughly, 350 to 400 AD.’ <strong>(<a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/of-the-fathers-heart-begotten/”>read more…</a>)</strong></p> <iframe title=”Of the Father's Heart Begotten” width=”200″ height=”150″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/-NL2YAz-Y_Q?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <h3><strong>8. </strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/o-come-all-ye-faithful/”><strong>O Come all ye Faithful</strong></a></h3> <p>‘The one Christmas carol without which a Christmas service wouldn’t seem complete. What is it that makes it such a perennial favourite?’ <strong><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/o-come-all-ye-faithful/”>(read more…)</a></strong></p> <iframe title=”#17 O Come, all ye faithful arr. David Willcocks King's College Cambridge 2009″ width=”200″ height=”150″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/T5rMQ6P12WY?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> </p> <ul><li><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/six-best-pieces-classical-music-easter/”><strong>Six of the best pieces of classical music for Easter</strong></a></li> </ul><p> </p> <h3><a href=”https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/there-no-rose/”><strong>7. There is no Rose</strong></a></h3> <p>‘Of the countless settings of this medieval text, in which a rose represents the Virgin Mary, it’s those by..[#item_full_content]

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