Christmas music! What’s your take? Do you have a favorite Christmas Carol or a Christmas album? Do you listen to the holiday station on the radio? Do you start playing Christmas songs on Thanksgiving Day and keep the music going till New Year’s Day? And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, what is it like having every almost every shop and restaurant in the country play seasonal music all month long?
As you can guess, I woke up today thinking about Christmas Carols. My very favorite of the Christmas hymns is Oh Come All Ye Faithful. I like that it’s an invitation, and I love the line about “Oh come let us adore Him.” That’s how I feel about new babies in general — my instinct is to visit a new baby just so we can oooh and aaah over her. (Wow! A brand new human! A new life! It’s endlessly miraculous!). I guess the lyrics just resonate with my life experience.
As far as non-hymn holiday songs go, my favorite is probably Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance! by Sufjan Stevens. I like the portrait it paints of an American Family Christmas — that funny familiar mix of Santa and the manger. And it’s lots of fun to sing as a group too.
In addition to thinking about holiday music, I also woke up today in disbelief that Christmas is coming so soon. I found myself making a little mental evaluation of the holiday season so far. Have I done the things that make Christmas meaningful to me and my family?
For the most part the answer is: yes. We’ve attended (and participated in) several holiday shows, concerts and theater productions. We’ve appreciated the light displays. We’ve read Christmas stories. We’ve put “hay” in our manger as we’ve observed good deeds among family members. We’ve decked the halls.
We’ve served in the community. We’ve kept spices simmering on the stove so the house smells good. We’ve gone to lots of Christmas parties. We’ve shopped. We’ve sent gifts. We’ve kept Christmas playlists streaming from the speakers. We’ve hosted friends for a hot cocoa bar. And Grandma & Grandpa Mac are coming for Christmas too, so we’re looking forward to that. Overall, it’s been a good December.
The only things I’m still craving to make this season feel complete, are holiday baking, and singing Christmas Carols. We’ve done a little of both of those, but not enough to fill my craving. So now I’m looking at the calendar and making sure those things are going to happen. : )
32 thoughts on “Do You Have A Favorite Christmas Carol?”
Hymm: Joy to the World
Non-hymm: Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses.
Second is Fairytale of New York by the Pogues.
Yes!!! Once in Royal David’s City; especially sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.
I listen to that one about 100 times around this time of year it is my absolute favorite.
That hymn is included in our Christmas Eve church service program this year (as the processional) and I was elated to see it was included!
Once In Royal David’s City. I love that song. It rarely – if ever – is sung. Sigh.
Hymn — Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Secular (but churchy) — A Cradle in Bethlehem by Nat King Cole
Secular (not churchy) — White Christmas
Merry Christmas (almost)
O Come, O Come Emmanuel performed by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the album Joy to the World. Is that specific enough? :)
I love the entire Bing Crosby White Christmas album. It’s what we listened to growing up. It was old-fashioned even then!
I grew up in a Christian household so hymns were very much a part of my family Christmas traditions. I love them all, but my favorite is O Holy Night. I have been an atheist for over a decade but still love to sing and listen to these hymns every December. My own young daughter enjoys them as well, and listening together has sparked wonderful conversations about religious beliefs and the spirit of Christmas.
For the curious, I explain to my daughter that Jesus was a man who was kind, compassionate and helped many people — the embodiment of Christmas spirit! (But not the son of God and all that jazz).:)
Amy, same here! Atheist who digs Christmas music (and Christmas in general – my pagan tree looks faaab-ulous). O Holy Night is my favorite, too – it gives me chills. I also enjoy Carol of the Bells as far as serious (churchy?) songs go.
I like the tip too, in case I ever spawn. :P
Although not religious, Christmas is an incredibly important time for me and my family – a time to be more focused on our love for each other and our community, a time of tradition and togetherness and as an Australian, a time to enjoy our beautiful summer and long school holidays. Tim Minchin’s “White wine in the sun” puts my thoughts and feelings into words better than I ever could. It makes me cry everytime I listen to it.
I love Christmas carols (hymns) and hate Christmas songs. It’s the reason I am so happy that 12/26 rolls around and you don’t hear the same loop of lame Christmas songs anymore. As a Catholic, Christmas hymns work through at least Epiphany, or the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
My favorite carol is O Holy Night. I especially like the French version which calls us to “Peuple a genoux!” or “fall on your knees!” I also like singing all parts of Handel’s Messiah.
I have a craving for more community service. I’d love to do something hands-on with my whole little family– my husband and two kids, 4 and 8– but alas, I don’t think it’ll happen. My husband was not so quick to point out that he doesn’t want to serve in a soup kitchen and he doesn’t think the kids will have enough patience for it. But I dreamt about it for just long enough that I just can’t shake it off.
The closest we’ll get will be next week; we’ve planned to go during my husband’s work day to a nursing home and read children’s books with the residents after lunch. We’ll bring lotion to massage their hands and maybe we’ll Carol As well. I hope it’ll be a positive experience, and that my kids won’t whine or shrink away.
I have so much nostalgia for Celine Dion’s “These Are The Special Times”….I can’t help but listen to it over and over through December!
Some lyrics that stood out to me this year that I have never noticed before are: “The thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices” in O Holy Night. Seems pretty fitting for the era we are in right now.
O Come All Ye Faithful is my absolute favorite too- Sarah McLachlan’s version brings me to tears. So beautiful!
Christmas music is the best! My favorite carol to sing is Oh Come All Ye Faithful, but my favorites to listen to are Sleeps Judea Fair and Masters in this Hall.
All three are on an excellent new CD from the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys. I’m giving it to everyone on my Christmas list this year! https://www.gracecathedral.org/choircd/
I love Christmas music so much!
My favorites are…
Oh Holy Night
Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Cat Power Version, but Judy Garland is always is glorious)
Christmas Time is Here (Sarah Mclachlan or Peanuts version is fine)
Light of the World (Behold Version) by Lauren Daigle
My favorite Christmas hymn is In the Bleak Midwinter, followed by Lo a Rose e’er Blooming. Not strange choices among my fellow Episcopalians, but I rarely hear other people choosing them.
I also love Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming. Do you have a favorite recording? I default to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir recording but would be interested to hear other versions.
Sorry, I don’t have a favorite! I just love singing it in church and am happy when I hear it.
For some reason, even though no one in my family growing up was a country music fan, we played Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers Christmas album every year. Now I find I start to want to hear it this time of year. There’s also a non-religious song called Winter Song by Sara Bareilles that I love.
As a family, we’ve ticked all the boxes this holiday season, so to speak (cookies, service, fireside stories, etc.), but some years we’ve had friends over for parties or more informal gatherings and I feel like we’ve been somewhat isolated to our nuclear family this year. So I’m craving more gatherings with friends and extended family.
Love all Christmas music though I have not been very tuned in this year.
My favorites are Good King Wenceslas — the miracle and the message.
The Waitresses Christmas (W)rapping, hmmm also the miracle and the message, Hark the Herald is the best to sing.
I also love, honestly love, the 12 days of Christmas when performed on kazoos with my extended family. I missed this for many years when we couldn’t afford to travel to NY from CA for Christmas. Our family of four flies back this weekend so my kids now 16 and 19 get to have their third NY Christmas.
Thank you for the reminder of the treasure of these traditions. I have been mostly overwhelmed with to do lists. This post and the Choir of Kings College Carols I’m now playing are filling me with the Spirit. Joy Noel to all.
Favorite hymn: Joy to the world. It’s so hard to pick a favorite; but that song seems to energize my kids and I love watching them sing it.
The Christmas Waltz by Nancy Wilson is my favorite non hymn holiday song. I could listen to it all year long!
Thank you for the lovely post. I always learn new things reading your blog. Now I have new songs to check out.
My favourite carol to listen to is probably Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, to sing; Ding Dong Merrily on High or God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
I love a lot of Christmas songs but my favourites are probably Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas and All I Want for Christmas is You.
My favourite Christmas Song is Carol of the Bells, it’s so hauntingly magical and musical. May fav non-Christmas Christmas song is Let it Snow (especially Ella Fitzgerald’s version). And my favourite hymn is Joy to the World, mostly because we always finish mass with it, so for me it signifies the end of church and the beginning of Christmas festivities – though my favourite to sing is probably In Excelsis Deo.
John Denver and the Muppets…he whole album. The serious and the absurd.
I sing with millennial chorus and orchestras and it is exhilarating to sing the striking and huge arrangements we get to do. our O Come O Come Immanuel is gorgeous and Far, Far AWay (with bagpipes!) is so, so incredibly fun to sing. I think both singles are being released this week! I can’t wait to re-live them.
I also adore the lyrics to I Heard they Bells on Christmas’s Day because I truly believe that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!”.
On the first weekend in December, I found myself at home alone prepping meals for the week, so I cranked the Christmas tunes on Pandora. I was completely blissed out! However, as the family came back home, one by one they complained about Christmas music playing so early in the season. As I now commute to work via 2 trains and plenty of walking, I turned around my family’s holiday-dampening sentimen: I made a playlist of my favorite Christmas tunes and each day, to and from work, I listen to the best tunes. My all-time favorite is Vince Gill’s version of Breath of Heaven (Mary’s song) but Alan Jackson’s Let it be Christmas and Garth Brooke’s The Gift are also in the top running. And then, for some unknown reason, I thought back to my favorite Christmas song from my childhood. I now have 4 versions of Away in the Manger on my playlist and I think about who I was back then and how I loved that song. Memories! Reverie! So much fun as I walk through the Christmas crowds…..
My family and I are all atheists, so hymns are not a big part our christmas (“Jól”) celebration. But having been in bands and choirs my whole life, I have still gotten a few favourites. My favourite christian hymn for christmas is the Norwegian whose title translates to ‘My Hearth Always Lingers’ – beautiful lyrics and melody.
My favourite christian, but not churchy christmas song is ‘Northern Norwegian Christmas Hymn’, whose first verse goes something like this: “Bless the day over the fjord, bless the light over the land, bless the ethernal words of light and an outstretched hand”.
My favourite christmas poem (is that a thing in the US?) is written by an atheist, and celebrates the caring Joseph, taking care of a family with a child that is not his own. I send it to all bonus fathers I know come christmas. I tries making an English translation, but had to skip the first verse as I never got it to rhyme properly:
There was no room in the inn
But the stable was dry and warm
And she gave birth to her firstborn there
Supported by Joseph’s strong arm
Surrounded by star suns and wise men
Shepherds and an angel choir
What did the dark Joseph think
Silently minding the fire
A holy light surrounded them
The great newborn baby and mother
What did the dark Joseph think
Faitfull, protecting, but other
Maybe he just tucked his cape
Around she who just gave birth
Silent, protecting the great human dream
The good, holy Joseph of Earth
I love your translated Christmas poem, Thea. Thank you for sharing it.
My favorite hymn type song is O Holy Night. Non hymn is the whole NSYNC Christmas album (I was a child of the 90s!)
Hymn-type: O Holy Night sung by Nat King Cole
Non-hymn type: Wham’s Last Christmas sung by my 4-yr-old : )
I also love O Come All Ye Faithful and enjoyed getting to learn the original Latin version, Adeste Fideles, in high school. For similar reasons to your feeling about all new babies, my favourite carol is O Little Town of Bethlehem. ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’ For me that sums up the huge sense of possibility and love in the birth of every new human.
My favourite non-hymn is Frosty the Snowman. The line ‘Frosty the Snowman was alive on Christmas Day’ always makes me cry!
So many invoke different memories for me. The Christmas Song is probably my favorite to sing. O Holy Night reminds me of magical Christmas Eve Church service where they’d turn off all the lights in the church except the Christmas lights and we’d all sing.
In the Bleak Midwinter! It appeals to my pagan sensibilities but is still very much a Christmas song. I’ve been gravitating to many of the more somber hymns and carols this year, for obvious reasons. I like the idea of celebrating an infant of hope in a dark time; the first lengthening of the days after the longest night.