This week, I’m going to close out my Christmas song picks by sharing my top five favorite Christmas carols. It was quite difficult narrowing my choices down to just five (okay, six if you count the honorable mention), which is a testament to how many great carols there are.
(Just a side note: I included links to complete versions of these songs, so the links were good as of the time and day I originally posted this. Should they expire some time in the future, I apologize in advance and ask that you do not blame me. I did not break the Internet.)
Sci-fi Fantasy Lit Chick’s Top Five Favorite Christmas Carols:
Honorable Mention: “Gaudete.”
This isn’t probably the most recognized carol but I sense it’s the oldest on my list as it’s credited to being composed in the 16th century. It’s entirely in Latin and is basically a song of praise regarding Christ’s birth. The only version I’ve heard is by Medieval Baebes and their melodies blend rather nicely. Even if you don’t read or know Latin, it’s still a treat for the ears.
5. “Silent Night.”
This soft, quiet carol is best appreciated by me when I can hear it in another language. I’m not sure why but I think it’s because I’ve heard so many variations of this song in English that it’s interesting to hear it in another language. My favorite versions to date are one that I found on YouTube sung entirely in Hindi, and, of course, the Gaelic rendition sung by Enya. Again, even if you can’t speak the language, it’s still powerful to listen to and gives Christmas a truly universal meaning.
“Silent Night” (in Gaelic): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7ThedzFKdM
“Silent Night” (in Hindi): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HV3uAxLkTQ
4. “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”
I can’t hear this song and not have this pop into my head…
(Face it – I know you probably do, too!) This is one of those carols that it’s okay to belt out because it packs a punch. Some modernized versions try to switch up the archaic language for contemporary terms but that’s just wrong, if you ask me. The original is best and there’s nothing wrong with it.
3. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
It’s kind of a shame most people don’t know any more of the lyrics beyond the first verse (there are four that, in time, have been adopted into the song) but, once more, this carol is very moving. Unlike most Christmas carols or songs, it’s in a minor key but that just adds a layer of solemn recognition that benefits the words. Definitely one of my all-time favorites!
2. “In the Bleak Midwinter.”
This might not be the best known or recognized carol but it is utterly gorgeous. I think the lyrics most people readily recognize would be in the fifth stanza, which starts with What can I give Him/Poor as I am?. And if that sounds familiar to you, that’s probably because “In the Bleak Midwinter” was originally a poem written by Christina Rossetti and was later adopted into a song. Its poetic roots definitely shine through. Moya Brennan probably has the best version of this beautiful carol (in English), so give it a listen if you can. And I also love its Norwegian version, sung here
Moya Brennan Version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9FBDf3XAdQChristel Alsos Version (Norwegian): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy4mA_KBcSM
1. “Joy to the World.”
This carol is truly epic – it’s like the “We Are the Champions” of carols. Okay, not really, but it possesses an inner strength and momentum that drives its lyrics. “Joy to the World” is another one of these belt-it-out songs that captures the story of Christmas. Just talking about it really doesn’t do it justice, so go give it a listen. Personally, I’m very, very picky about this song and the best versions I’ve heard are any traditional choral/orchestral take and a more recent acoustic rendering by Steven Curtis Chapman.
Choral/Orchestral Version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4CSJvzGai4
Steven Curtis Chapman version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5UxJuf3vZU