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Favourite Traditional Christmas Songs


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Music is a strange thing. Like a familiar scent, it can take us back to a time in our lives that we thought we had forgotten, and no genre of music does this quite as effectively as the traditional Christmas carol. We have picked out four of our all time favourites to help you reach deep into the annals of your memory to when Christmas was a magical time filled with milk and cookies left out for Santa, family bonding and promises of contented dreams. 

Silent night

We challenge anyone to listen to this song and not be transported back to enjoying Christmas as a child. Whether you had to sing it in your school choir for the nativity show or it was on the record of Christmas songs that your parents would bring out every year, this one is a classic. The music was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber in Austria in 1818 and set to the original German lyrics, which were written by Joseph Mohr. The original title of the song is “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht“, but has since been translated into over 140 languages, the English version being the most popular. 

Away in a Manger

This carol is particularly fun to sing. There’s just something in the cadence of it – especially the part the goes “The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head”. You can really emphasis the “tt” in “little”. There is a bit of controversy around who wrote this song and when. Research finds that it is too of German origin and the lyrics were published, or the first two versus at least, in 1884 in The Myrtle, a periodical of the Universalist Publishing House in Boston, Massachusetts. The music composition is widely attributed to a man named Martin Luther and the song is called “Luther's Cradle Song”. But that’s all semantics. Let’s just focus on the “tt” in “little Lord Jesus”. 

The First Noël

Most Christmas carols are pretty, but we think that this is one of the prettiest. Despite the French word in the title, Noël, which means Christmas, the song is actually of English origins, or more specifically, Cornish origins. It was first published in Carols Ancient and Modern in 1823, and subsequently in Gilbert and Sandys Carols in 1833. Both versions were edited by William Sandys with extra lyrics written by Davies Gilbert. It has been performed numerous times in popular culture, by household names from Elvis Priestly and Bing Crosby to The Supremes and Tori Amos. 

Good King Wenceslas

Who doesn’t love that scene in Love, Actually when Hugh Grant is going from house to house searching for his Natalie and he gets coerced by a six-year-old into singing Christmas carols? No one, that’s who. It’s a totally adorable scene and reminds us all why we fell in love with Hugh Grant in the first place. Well, this is the song that he sings, and that’s why it’s on the list. Pure Christmas-themed rom-com joy. Written by John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore in 1853, it tells the tale of the legendary King Wenceslas who braved the cold to give alms to a peasant at Christmas.



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