Christmas carols are the musical backbone of every Christmas celebration. There are very few festivals that need a great playlist to make the celebrations more fun, Christmas is definitely one of them. From traditional favorites like “Jingle Bells” to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, this famous Christmas carols list is sure to put you in the festive spirit. Here’s a list of the most popular carols that will turn out to be an inspiration for you this Christmas.

History Of Christmas Carols

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Happy men and women in Santa hats having fun in karaoke singing together and celebrating the Christmas holiday

Before pulling out the list of best Christmas carol songs, let us understand what are Christmas carols. The word ‘carol’ actually means dance or a song of praise and joy. Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but singing them only at Christmas time is still practiced. The singing of carols at Christmas time dates back thousands of years. It is believed that one of the first Christmas songs ever to be recorded was in 129 AD. Initially, they were pagan songs celebrating Winter Solstice which eventually turned into carols with the passage of time. Today, the joyous sound of carols is one that is synonymous with Christmas.

8 Well-known Traditional Christmas Carols To Cheer Up

Christmas songs are always fun and joyous. With Christmas just around the corner, it’s the most appropriate time to add these Christmas carols to your playlist.

christmas carol songs
Close-up shot of an old piano with a decorated background

Jingle Bells

The Jingle bell is undoubtedly the most popular of the lot as it is sung at Christmas in most parts of the world. James Lord Pierpont, an American songwriter, and composer wrote this song in the year 1857. It was originally a Thanksgiving song written in the name of “The One Horse Open Sleigh” for the children in his father’s Sunday school class. It was republished in 1859 by Oliver Ditson and Company with the new title “Jingle Bells”. The song became so popular that it was recorded in all sorts of styles, by artists from around the world. This holiday classic was a slightly racy romance song in the beginning but over the years Christmas lyrics were added to it to make “Jingle Bells” one of the best Christmas carols. 

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Its origin was recorded from the early 18th century, however, the origin and history of the carol itself are unclear. This carol has certainly passed the test of time and is undeniably the most popular Christmas Carol ever. We wish you a Merry Christmas is an old song, but Arthur Warrell, a Bristol-based composer, conductor, and organist is responsible for the popularity of the carol. Warrell was a lecturer at the University of Bristol who arranged the tune for his own University which was performed in a concert in December 1935. This carol is probably the most sung carol of all time. Many traditional versions of the song have been recorded, but these are almost certainly derived from Arthur Warrell’s arrangement.

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Mexican Posada, Latin people at a party Singing carols for Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas

The song was first published in England in the late eighteenth century. This classic English carol is about the gifts given on each of the 12 days of Christmas. It is a cumulative song, which means that each verse is built on top of the previous verses. There are twelve verses for each of the twelve days of Christmas. Many different versions of the song were made, but the best known is derived from a 1909 arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin. The exact origins of this most preferred carol are unknown, but it is highly probable that it originated from a children’s memory and forfeit of the game. The English baritone and composer Frederic Austin is known to have popularized the now-standard melody of the carol.

Silent Night

Silent night was originally written in German (Stille Nacht) by a young Austrian priest, Father Joseph Mohr, and the same was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber in 1818. It was first played in their local church in Oberndorf, Austria, on the eve of Christmas. Silent Night was translated to English only in 1859. In 1935 the popular singer Bing Crosby recorded his version and it went on to be the third biggest-selling single of all time with over 30 million copies. The soulful and dream-like song is the staple of any Christmas repertoire. This holiday song became so popular that it was recorded at least 733 times over the past 36 years.

Also Read: 15 Unusual Christmas Traditions Around The World

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Beautiful Christmas decorations

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Can you believe that this popular Christmas carol is over 280 years old? When you go back in time, it reveals that ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ has a complicated history and the efforts of many creative people to bring it to what it is today. It was first written by Charles Wesley and was published as Hymns & Sacred Poems in 1739. Then in 1840, it was composed by the great German composer Felix Mendelssohn. In 1855, British singer William Hayman Cummings put the work of two greats together to create one of the most recognizable and popular carols on the list. Today, this popular version we all know is performed with passion all around the world.

Joy To The World

“Joy to the World” is an English Christmas carol written by the English minister and hymn writer Isaac Watts. It was first published in 1719 with his collection of hymns and spiritual songs. The lyrics which are based on the second half of Psalm 98 in the Bible glorify Jesus Christ’s triumphant return at the end of the age. The happy and high-spirited song is perfectly in sync with the spirit of the season. Choir groups sing this song with all their merry and high spirits, it almost feels like the merriness pouring out of it. In the late ’90s, this upbeat song was declared the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.

famous christmas carols
Happy couple playing on guitar and singing Christmas songs at a house party, copy space

The First Nowell

“The First Nowell” also known as “The First Noel” originated from the Cornwall region in England. Not much is known about who wrote it, but it’s believed to have been written somewhere between the 1400 and 1500s. The First Nowell was written as a way to express the excitement and joy of Christmas. It was first published in Carols Ancient and Modern (1823) and Gilbert and Sandys Carols (1833). However, the classic version arrangement by English composer John Stainer and performed with aplomb by Vienna Boys’ was a great hit. The inspiration for this song comes through Bible dramatizations based on the Gospel accounts in Luke 2 and Mathew 2. This traditional classical English carol has one musical phrase which is repeated twice.

Good King Wenceslas

This hearty carol is based on the life of King Wenceslas who was the Duke of Bohemia from 921 to 935. It tells the story of how the Good King braved harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant and was later killed by his wicked brother. He is now the patron Saint of the Czech Republic and his body lies in St Vitus’s Cathedral, in Prague. The carol was written in 1853 by John Mason Neale for the Feast of St Stephen. Good King Wenceslas carol celebrates the long tradition of charitable giving on the Second Day of Christmas. So the next time you sing Good King Wenceslas, there is a good reason to remember the Duke. It went on to become one of the best-loved carols ever written and was even performed by The Beatles.

Suggested Reads: Here’s What 11 Christmas Dinners Look Like Around The World

best christmas carols
The three-generation family is doing door-to-door carol singing. There is a senior woman at the door, appreciating their singing.

Final Thoughts

Winter is a season to rejoice with Christmas, and no Christmas is complete without singing the popular carols. Singing Christmas carols help connect with people and it promotes happiness by sharing experiences and feelings. These beautiful carols add to the festive spirit and make Christmas time even more special. Go spread the spirit and joy of Christmas by singing these carols. Merry Christmas to All!

What is the most popular Christmas carol?

The Jingle bell is undoubtedly the most popular song and is sung at Christmas masses and celebrations in most parts of the world.

What is the most popular Christmas carol in England?

O Holy Night was named Britain’s favorite Christmas carol by beating Silent Night to the top spot.

What is America’s favorite Christmas song?

White Christmas by Bing Crosby is America’s favorite Christmas song. It is the best-selling single of all time which crossed 50 million copies worldwide.

What is the easiest Christmas carol to sing?

The rhyming nature of the lyrics makes Jingle Bells the easiest Christmas carol to sing.

What is the most viewed Christmas song?

All I want for Christmas is you by Mariah Carey is the most-viewed Christmas song.


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