My family has always enjoyed singing, whether it was in the church choir, the school chorus, the
college glee club, and even at home. While driving in the car, at picnics or family dinners, my
father was ready and able to lead everyone in a song, no accompaniment necessary. The same is
especially true at Christmas. Our traditional Christmas dinner at the home of my brother is
never complete without a sing-a-long. We all know the tunes and harmony, but sometimes the
words fail us, especially to those additional verses we rarely hear. I am reminded of a skit on
the old Saturday Night Live show, where John Belushi's character tries to lead his
Knights of Columbus in a Christmas carol. No matter which song he picks, everyone sings the
first line, but they quickly fade on the second.
So I made it my project to print out lyrics
for our Christmas dinner. Over a period of years I added more and more songs, as I was able
to acquire them. The first ones came from our church hymnal. Others I meticulously transcribed
by listening to recordings over and over. If I couldn't understand what they were singing, I
would just right down what it sounded like and then try to figure it out in context. I can't
tell you how many times I listened to It's Beginning To Look before I figured out that
a bissel a shoes is actually a pistol that shoots! Even today I pride myself in
being able to recite all five verses of Good King Wenceslas and all four verses of
Jingle Bells. Today of course, you can make your own compilation much more easily
by searching the Web. Nevertheless, here is my collection of lyrics to traditional Christmas
carols and seasonal songs in simple text format, without any blinking lights or dancing reindeer.
Feel free to download them for your own Christmas party, caroling group, or just to sing along
to the stereo. But remember...
My definition of traditional songs are those which you might hear at a children's,
school, church, or community concert, or those which have been recorded by numerous artists.
In fact, most of these songs I have heard live when either I or someone from my family was
participating in the performance. So if you're looking for the words to a new song by your
favorite pop or country star, you won't find it here. Titles appearing in
italics are duplicates, included for your convenience. The links will open as a plain
text file. From there you can print or save the file as you wish. Use your browser's
Back button to return. As with any traditional song, especially those which
are translated from other languages, exact wording may vary. If you have a particular
phrase in mind, but don't know which song it comes from, you can use this text box to search
through all of the carols. Just type one or two keywords (skip words like the or of)
and click Search. You can also use this feature to find out how many songs contain
a certain word like joy, or snow, or mistletoe!
Click on the Title to open the Lyrics.
Comments are welcomed on my Blog.
All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth • music and lyrics by Donald Yetter Gardner.
A novelty song composed in 1944 by a public school music teacher. When Gardner asked his primary school pupils what they wanted for Christmas, he couldn't help but notice all of the missing teeth in the class. In 1948 the song was recorded by Spike Jones which moved it to the top of the charts and made it a holiday staple.
All Through the Night • traditional music and lyrics.
Welsh lullaby, "Ar hyd y nos", of unknown origin. The references to Christmas in the latter English verses were probably not part of the original lullaby. The song is featured in the 1945 Bette Davis film, The Corn is Green, in which Welsh schoolchildren are being taught to read, write, and speak English.
Angels From the Realms of Glory • music by Henry Smart, lyrics by James Montgomery.
An English hymn written in 1816. The lyrics can also be sung to the same melody as "Angels We Have Heard on High".
Angels We Have Heard on High • traditional music and lyrics.
An English hymn adapted by James Chadwick in 1862 from "Les Anges dans nos Campagnes". The tune is commonly described as the "Gloria".
As Lately We Watched • traditional music and lyrics.
English translation of the Austrian hymn, "Die Hirten Auf Dem Felde".
Auld Lang Syne • traditional music, lyrics by Robert Burns.
An 18th century Scottish folk song and dance. Burns published it as an old song, but most scholars agree that he wrote the lyrics himself. It became the traditional song used to commemorate the New Year in Scotland and throughout Britain. In the US, its popularity is due in large part to Guy Lombardo, whose band played it at the stroke of midnight each year beginning in 1929. It is one of those songs that everyone loves to sing, but few actually know the words.
Ave Maria (La) • music by Johann Sebastian Bach/Charles Gounod, traditional lyrics.
The traditional Catholic Latin prayer was set to music by Gounod in 1859, using the harmonies of Bach's Prelude No.1 in C Major. It is almost always performed as a solo or an instrumental.
Ave Maria (Ge) • music by Franz Schubert, lyrics by Sir Walter Scott.
A song composed by Schubert for his 1825 "Liederzyklus vom Fräulein vom See", using Adam Storck's German translation of Sir Walter Scott's poem, "Lady of the Lake". The verses were written as the Lady's prayer to Mary. The song has also been translated into Latin, which often causes confusion with the traditional "Ave Maria" prayer (see above).
Away in a Manger • music by various musicians, traditional lyrics.
The two-verse poem was first published in an 1885 Lutheran Sunday School book. James R. Murray set it to music and published it as Luther's Cradle Hymn, which created the confusion over the author. To this day it is sometimes mistakenly attributed to Martin Luther. William J. Kirkpatrick composed a second melody for the lyrics, and the two versions remain in common usage. The third stanza was added by John McFarland in 1904. "Away in a Manger" is typically the first Christmas carol that children learn in Sunday School.
Blue Christmas • music by Jay W. Johnson, lyrics by Billy Hayes.
A country song recorded by Ernest Tubb in 1948 and by Elvis Presley in 1957. The song has been recorded by dozens of artists, but the Presley rendition is still the most recognized.
Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light • music by Johann Schop/J.S. Bach, lyrics by Johann Rist.
Composed by Schop and Rist in 1641, harmonized by Bach in 1734, English translation by John Troutbeck around 1885.
Bring A Torch • traditional music and lyrics.
A 16th century French folk song and dance, Un Flambeau, first published in 1553 in Cantiques de Premiere Advenement de Jesus-Christ and later translated into English. The story recounts how milkmaids went to the barn, stumbled upon the birth of Christ, and then rushed to spread the word. The song was originally just a court dance before it became a Christmas tradition.
Carol of the Bells • music by Mykola Dmytrovich Leontovych, lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky.
Music composed in 1916 to portray a row of birds in springtime. Wilhousky changed the words and transformed the tune into a Christmas carol in 1936. The short phrases make it an easy mark for alternative lyrics as well.
Caroling, Caroling • music by Alfred Burt, lyrics by Wilha Hutson.
Composed and recorded in 1954. Burt had spent many years composing Christmas songs with his father and later with organist Hutson, but it wasn't until after his death in 1954 that his compositions were recorded and gained popular interest. Nat King Cole's 1960 recording of "Caroling, Caroling" is probably most responsible for Burt's continued appeal.
Chipmunk Song, The • music and lyrics by Ross Bagdasarian.
Created and recorded by Bagdasarian under the stage name of David Seville in 1958. Bagdasarian was a performer and audio engineer, who had gained some level of fame with his novelty song, "Witch Doctor", earlier that year. He created "The Chipmunk Song" using his own voice for all four characters: Seville and the three Chipmunks. The recording earned Bagdasarian two Grammy awards in 1959. The popularity of the song, which has never waned since its release, led to the Chipmunks cartoons and movies, a tradition later carried on by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.
Children Go Where I Send Thee • music and lyrics by Noel "Paul" Stookey
A Christmas spiritual written with Peter Yarrow, Mary Travers, and Robert DeCormier and performed and recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary.
C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S • music by Eddy Arnold, lyrics by Jenny Lou Carson.
Composed in 1949 and recorded by Perry Como in 1953. It is a favorite for children's Christmas pageants.
Christmas Dinner • music and lyrics by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Composed and recorded around 1951. It has been released on various compilation albums, such as "Christmas on the Range". A recent version was performed by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for their 1997 "The Christmas Album".
Christmas Song, The • music and lyrics by Mel Torme and Bob Wells.
Written during a summer heat wave in 1944 when Torme was just 19 years old. The song was first recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946. Cole re-recorded the song with different arrangements several times, and the 1961 rendition with full orchestra is now considered the standard.
Coventry Carol, The • traditional music and lyrics.
A 16th century song originating from a play, performed in Coventry, England, about Herod's massacre of male children.
Deck the Halls • traditional music and lyrics.
An ancient tune that evolved into an 18th century Welch New Year song and dance. The fa-la-las were probably intended to imitate the sounds of a harp. The English Christmas lyrics we know today originated in 19th century America.
Ding! Dong! Merrily on High • traditional 16th century music, lyrics by George Ratcliffe Woodward.
Published in Woodward's 1924 edition of The Cambridge Carol-Book. The song is featured in the movie adaptations of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, both the 1949 MGM release and the 1994 Columbia Pictures remake.
Do You Hear What I Hear • music by Gloria Shayne, lyrics by Noel Regney.
Lyrics written by a World War II survivor in 1962 at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Regney wrote the song as a prayer for peace. It was originally recorded by the Harry Simeone Chorale, but Bing Crosby's release a few weeks later made it a hit. The song has been recorded by many artists with different styles.
Dominick the Donkey (It) • music and lyrics by Ray Allen, Wandra Merrell, and Sam Saltzberg.
A children's song composed with an Italian theme, originally recorded by Lou Monte in 1960. The song was never really a hit, but it seems to have gained popularity in recent years as more and more radio stations play oldies holiday music.
Donde Esta Santa Claus (Sp) • music and lyrics by Alvin Griener, Gordon Parker, and George Scheck.
A children's song composed with a Latino theme, originally recorded by Augie Rios in 1958. Other notable recordings include Charo in 1978 and the alternative rock band, Guster, in 2004.
Feliz Navidad (Sp) • music and lyrics by José Feliciano.
Composed and recorded in 1971 by the Puerto Rican native as a mix of Spanish and English. It has been recorded by various artists, including re-recordings by Feliciano, whose rendition remains the standard.
First Noël, The • traditional music and lyrics.
An English folk song of unknown origin, earliest known publication in Some Ancient Christmas Carols in 1823, although it probably dates back to the 16th century.
Friendly Beasts, The • traditional music and lyrics.
A 12th century French folk song translated into English. It is a favorite for children's Christmas pageants, in which soloists take the part of the various animals.
Frosty the Snowman • music and lyrics by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson.
A novelty song created in the wake of the success of "Rudolph", recorded by Gene Autry in 1950. However, this song includes no mention of Christmas. Like "Rudolph", it was later adapted into an animated television special.
Gentle Mary Laid her Child • traditional 13th century music, lyrics by Joseph S. Cook.
Composed in 1919 by Cook, using the same tune as "Good King Wenceslas".
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen • traditional music and lyrics.
An English carol originally published in the 1833 Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern. It is the carol that appears in the Dickens A Christmas Carol. In the syntax of the day, merry refers to rest, not to gentlemen.
Good Christian Men Rejoice • traditional music, lyrics by Heinrich Suso.
Composed from a 14th century German melody and translated into English by John Mason Neale in 1853.
Good King Wenceslas • traditional 13th century music, lyrics by John Mason Neale.
Published in 1853 to celebrate the life of Wenceslaus, Duke of Bohemia, a 10th century Czech monarch. The story is set in winter during the Feast of St. Stephen, and the deeds of Wencelaus represent the charity of Christ, so the song naturally became associated with Christmas.
Go Tell It on the Mountain • traditional music and lyrics.
An African-American spiritual from the 19th century, first published by John Wesley Work, Jr., in 1907. Work was a graduate of Fisk University and devoted much of his life to preserving the spirituals of the black slaves. "Go Tell It" has numerous verses, some of which have a Christmas theme.
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer • music and lyrics by Randy Brooks.
A novelty song composed in 1978 and performed the following year by Elmo and Patsy Shropshire. The husband and wife duo originally produced and sold their recording of the song at their concerts, before it gained the attention of disc jockies and became a national phenomenon. Elmo & Patsy re-recorded the song and had it released on several record labels. It has become a holiday staple on oldies radio stations.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing • music by Felix Mendelssoh, lyrics by Charles Wesley.
Lyrics published in Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1739. Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley, wrote and published thousands of hymns, many of which are among the most well-known hymns of today. The contemporary version of "Hark the Herald" was set to music from Mendelssohn's 1840 Festgesang cantata in 1855 by William Hayman Cummings, who also added the familiar harmonies.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas • music by Ralph Blane, lyrics by Hugh Martin.
Composed for the 1944 movie musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. The song was originally written to reflect the sad, almost morose, mood of the Judy Garland character, as she contemplates an unwanted disruption in her life when her father accepts a career promotion which will uproot the family from their life-long home in St. Louis. The original lyrics expressed the character's feelings of hopelessness ("Faithful friends... will be near to us no more"). At the insistence of the producer and cast, Martin changed some of the lyrics to give the song a more optimistic tone. In 1957, Frank Sinatra wanted to release a new recording, and he asked Martin to rewrite some of the lyrics again. The result is the version that most people know today, which is reproduced here. However, in recent years, some performers have opted for the more melancholy Judy Garland version (see below).
Here Comes Santa Claus • music and lyrics by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman.
Written and recorded by Autry in 1947. He was inspired to write the song by his experience in the Hollywood Christmas parade, where he could hear all the children's excitement when they saw Santa Claus, who was in the float behind him.
Here We Come a-Wassailing • traditional music and lyrics.
An English folk song of unknown origin. It celebrates the practice of wassailing, which is a toast to ones health using a hot cider beverage of the same name. The practice of wassailing predates the celebration of Christmas and has its origins in pagan traditions of giving bread (a toast with toast, so to speak) to the orchard in hopes of an abundant harvest the following year. Consequently, the wassail-ing words are sometimes replaced with caroling.
Holly and the Ivy, The • traditional music and lyrics.
An English folk song adapted from the pre-Christian era of Yuletide traditions. Holly and ivy, which may be metaphors for men and women, were incorporated into Christmas decorations by the 15th century. One notable recording is Natalie Cole's 1994 rendition for her album of the same name.
Holly Jolly Christmas • music and lyrics by Johnny Marks.
Recorded by Burl Ives in 1964 and made popular by his Sam the Snowman character, the narrator in the "Rudolph" television special that year.
Home for the Holidays • music by Robert Allen, lyrics by Al Stillman.
Published in 1954 and recorded by Perry Como that same year. Como re-recorded it in 1959, which is the rendition most often included on compilation albums. Another notable recording was released by The Carpenters on their 1984 Old-Fashioned Christmas album.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day • music by Jean Baptiste Caulkin, lyrics by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Poem written by Longfellow on Christmas Day, 1864, expressing his despondence over the Civil War. After the war ended, the poem was modified to represent hope, and was published with Caulkin's music in 1872. The verses which refer specifically to the war are usually omitted from hymnals. Since then, the lyrics have also been sung to various melodies.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus • music and lyrics by Tommie P. Connor.
A novelty song composed in England in 1952 and recorded by Jimmy Boyd in the US. The 12-year-old Boyd was already a child star in California, having performed on numerous radio and television programs, but even the executives at Columbia Records were stunned when the funny little tune immediately sold over 2 million copies. The song has been recorded by numerous artists, and most, like the original Boyd recording, omit the opening stanza. The 1980s rendition by John Mellancamp is probably more widely played today. However, Boyd's original recording still sells and has topped 60 million copies worldwide.
I Saw Three Ships • traditional music and lyrics.
An English folk song of unknown origin. The song we know today was originally published in the 1833 Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern. The song has been published with many versions and various verses. Its repetitive nature makes it less appealing as a recording, although a "new age" version was released by Sting in 1994.
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas • music and lyrics by John Rox.
A novelty song composed in 1950 and recorded in 1953. It was sung by 11-year-old Gayla Peevey and sold as a fund-raiser for the Oklahoma City Zoo's efforts to purchase a hippopotamus. It was subsequently released nationally by Columbia Records, which assured that the zoo would get its hippo.
I Wonder as I Wander • traditional music and lyrics.
An American folk song, performed and recorded by John Jacob Niles. There is some controversy over its origin. After it became popular, Niles claimed to have written the song years before, based on an Appalachian spiritual. The song is often performed with soloist and choir.
Il est Né, le Divin Enfant (Fr) • traditional music and lyrics.
A French folk song first published in the 19th century, but believed to be much older. The melody may be derived from a Normandy hunting song. There are many English translations, "He is born, the divine Christ child", but the song is usually performed in French, especially in school Christmas concerts.
I'll Be Home for Christmas • music by Walter Kent, lyrics by Kim Gannon.
Released in 1942 during the height of World War II, the song obviously drew on the sentiments of parents and spouses with loved ones overseas. The lyrics are comprised of only eight short lines, but Bing Crosby's recording made it an instant hit.
I'm Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas • music and lyrics by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett.
A novelty song composed in 1955 and recorded later that year by two different bands. The Art Mooney Orchestra featured Barry Gordon, and the song was also released by Ricky Zahnd and the Blue Jeaners. The song continues to get play on oldies radio stations.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear • music by Richard Storrs Willis, lyrics by Edmund Sears.
The poem was published in the Christian Register in Boston in 1849. The music was added the following year. An alternative melody, adapted by Arthur Sullivan from an English folk song is sometimes used for the same lyrics.
It's Beginning to Look • music and lyrics by Meredith Willson.
Composed in 1951 by the man best known for his stage musical, The Music Man, and released by Perry Como, whose recording remains the standard. It is one of the few songs in the Christmas genre to highlight urban imagery.
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year • music and lyrics by Eddie Pola and George Wyle.
Composed in 1963 and recorded that year by Andy Williams. The song has been recorded by various artists, most notably Johnny Mathis.
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (/Ge) • music by Johann Sebastian Bach, lyrics by Martin Jahn.
A chorale from Bach's 1723 cantata, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, transcribed for piano by Myra Hess in 1926. The English translation we know today was done by the poet, Robert Bridges. Bach wrote "Jesu" with a full intrumental accompaniment, but today most people know it as an organ solo, performed as a solemn melody for Christmas, weddings, and funerals.
Jingle Bell Rock • music and lyrics by Joseph Beal, James Boothe, et al.
Recorded by Bobby Helms in 1957. Despite its title, the song's tune, and especially Helms's rendition, is more country than rock. It was originally released just days before Christmas, but it continued to gain popularity in the years to follow. Helms re-recorded the song several times, and it has been recorded by numerous other artists as well.
Jingle Bells • music and lyrics by James Pierpont.
Composed in 1857 as a tribute to the annual Boston area sleigh races. It's connection to Christmas is purely circumstantial with regard to snow and sleigh and their natural association with Santa Claus. However, the rarely-heard additional verses unmistakeably reveal the song's original theme.
Joy to the World • music by Lowell Mason, lyrics by Isaac Watts.
Composed from Watts's 1719 adaptation of Psalm 98, set to music by Mason in 1836. Mason was an accomplished musician, and his range of composition went from European classical to "Mary Had a Little Lamb". Mason's influence on American music has remained controversial — whether he enabled or stifled its development. However, "Joy to the World" has become one of the most well-known, well-loved, oft-performed Christmas carols of all time.
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! • music by Jule Stine, lyrics by Sammy Cahn.
Composed in 1945 and recorded by Vaughn Monroe the following year, when it reached number one on the Billboard chart. The song has been recorded by numerous artists in a variety of music styles. One notable recording that still gets a lot of radio play is Dean Martin's rendition from his 1959 A Winter Romance album. "Let It Snow" is another example of a snow song that makes no mention of Christmas but is indelibly linked to the holiday.
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming • traditional music and lyrics.
A 15th century German folk song, Es ist ein Ros' Entsprungen, first published in the Speyer Hymnal of 1599. The contemporary harmonies were added by Michael Praetorius in 1609. The melody has been used by Johannes Brahms and others. The English translation evolved during the late 19th century. The song was featured in the 1971 movie, Love Story.
Little Drummer Boy, The • music and lyrics by Katherine K. Davis.
Composed in 1941 as "The Carol of the Drum". The song didn't achieve much popularity until it was recorded by the Trapp Family singers in 1955. Harry Simeone later produced an arrangement for his self-named Chorale, the rendition of which is considered the standard. In 1968 the story was expanded for an animated television special.
Mamacita (Sp) • see notes for Donde Esta Santa Claus.
Mary's Boy Child • music and lyrics by Jester Hairston.
A Caribbean style Christmas carol recorded separately by Harry Belafonte and Mahalia Jackson in 1956. Belafonte had risen to the top of the music world with his Calypso album released earlier that year. He re-recorded "Mary's Boy Child" in 1962, which has become the standard.
Merry Christmas Darling • music by Richard Carpenter, lyrics by Frank Pooler.
Composed for and recorded by The Carpenters in 1970. The record was re-released in 1974 and 1977. They re-recorded the song the following year for their Christmas Portraits album, which is the rendition that usually gets played on radio.
My Favorite Things • music by Richard Rogers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
Composed for the 1959 stage musical, The Sound of Music, and made popular by Julie Andrews in the 1965 film version. The song has no connection to Christmas, other than brief references to winter. In the film, the song is actually sung during a summer thunderstorm. The song has been recorded by various artists, notably Eddie Fisher and Tony Bennett.
Night Before Christmas, The • music by Johnny Marks, lyrics adapted from Clement Moore.
Johnny Marks abridged Moore's poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (see below), into this song in 1952. The song is known primarily from Rosemary Clooney's recording and from school choral concerts.
O Come All Ye Faithful • music and lyrics by John Francis Wade.
A Latin hymn probably composed by Wade around 1750 as Adeste Fideles. The music is sometimes attributed to an order of monks, but there is no good evidence to disprove that Wade composed the hymn himself when he wrote the first four stanzas. The hymn was subsequently translated by Frederick Oakeley and others into what we know as "O Come All Ye Faithful".
O Come, O Come, Emanuel • traditional music and lyrics.
A 12th century Latin carol translated into English by John Mason Neale in 1853. The song is notable because it draws upon a variety of scriptural references.
O Christmas Tree • traditional music, lyrics by Ernst Anschütz.
The contemporary version was composed in 1824 from a German folk tune as O Tannenbaum. There are numerous English translations which use poetic license to match the meter and rhyme.
O Holy Night • music by Adolphe-Charles Adam, lyrics by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure.
Composed in 1847 by Adam from Cappeau's poem, Cantique de Noël, and translated into English in 1855 by John Sullivan Dwight. The melody is considerably difficult to sing, so it is usually performed as a solo. For many years Mahalia Jackson's rendition from her 1968 Christmas with Mahalia album was a radio favorite. "O Holy Night" has the distinction of being the first music ever broadcast on a radio program, when Reginald Fessenden played it on the violin on Christmas Eve, 1906.
O Little Town of Bethlehem • music by Lewis H. Redner, lyrics by Phillips Brooks.
Poem written by a Philadelphia minister in response to his trip to Bethlehem in 1857. His church organist set it to music the following year.
Over the River and Through the Wood • traditional music, lyrics by Lydia Marie Child.
Published as a poem in the 1844 book of poetry, Flowers for Children, Vol II. Child is notable as one of the first women in America to earn a living as a professional writer. The title of the original poem was "A Boy's Thanksgiving Day". However, as with many songs that mention snow, it has become associated with Christmas, especially since "Thanksgiving Day" in the lyric is easily transcribed to "Christmas Day".
Patapan • music and lyrics by Bernard de la Monnoye.
A 17th century French carol with various English translations. The nonsense words are intended to imitate the sounds of a pipe and drum. A dynamic instrumental rendition was released by Mannheim Steamroller on their 1995 Christmas in the Aire album.
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree • music and lyrics by Johnny Marks.
Composed by the same man who gave music to "Rudolph", this Marks tune was recorded by Brenda Lee in 1958. Lee's popularity as a pop singer rose over the next few years, and this song's popularity rose with her.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer • music by Johnny Marks, lyrics by Robert L. May.
Story written in 1939 for a Montgomery Ward department store promotion as a free coloring book. Marks and May later developed the Rudolph story into a song, which was recorded by Gene Autry in 1947, making it a timeless classic.
Santa Baby • music and lyrics by Joan Javits, Philip Springer, and Tony Springer.
A novelty song composed in 1953 and first recorded by Eartha Kitt. The song is a woman's unabashed plea for Christmas treasure. It has been recorded by numerous female artists, but contrary to public perception, it was never recorded by Marilyn Monroe.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town • music by John Frederick Coots, lyrics by Haven Gillespie.
Composed in 1934 and broadcast on the Eddie Cantor radio show in November of that year. It was recorded by the Tommy Dorsey orchestra for the following Christmas and has been recorded by numerous artists ever since. In 1970 it was turned into an animated television special with Fred Astaire as the narrator. A popular rendition played on radio today is Bruce Springsteen's 1985 live performance.
Silent Night • music by Franz Gruber, lyrics by Joseph Mohr.
Composed on Christmas Eve, 1818, and performed that night as Stille Nacht with guitar accompaniment at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria. From that modest beginning, the song underwent minor musical changes, so that by 1832, the song was known throughout Europe with the melody that we know today. "Silent Night" traverses all denominations of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant alike, and is considered to be the quintessential Christmas carol. It has been translated into virtually every known written language.
Silver Bells • music by Jay Livingston, lyrics by Ray Evans.
Composed for the 1951 Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell movie, The Lemon Drop Kid, and recorded by Bing Crosby later that year. The song was probably inspired by the Salvation Army volunteers who rang bells for donations. It is one of the few songs in the Christmas genre to highlight urban imagery, but it remains one of the most frequently recorded modern Christmas songs.
Sleigh Ride! • music by Leroy Anderson, lyrics by Mitchell Parish.
An orchestral composition from 1946, recorded by the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1949. The lyrics were written later and first recorded in 1958 by Johnny Mathis with the Percy Faith orchestra. The music has been recorded, with and without lyrics, by numerous artists. Notable recordings include diverse groups such as the Andre Kostelanetz orchestra, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the Ronnettes. "Sleigh Ride" is another example of a snow song that makes no mention of Christmas — in fact, it's about a birthday party — but is indelibly linked to the holiday.
Snoopy's Christmas • music and lyrics by Hugo Luigi and George David Weiss.
A novelty song composed and recorded in 1967 as a follow-up to the Royal Guardsmen's hit single of the previous year, "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron". The song held the top spot on Billboard's 1967 Christmas chart for five weeks and has become a holiday staple on oldies radio stations.
Snow Lay on the Ground, The • music by Edvard Grieg, traditional lyrics.
An Irish folk song set to music by Grieg, published in Carols Old and Carols New in Boston in 1916.
Twelve Days of Christmas, The • traditional music and lyrics.
An English folk song of unknown origin, earliest known publication in Mirth without Mischief around 1780. The song was intended to be a parlor game, where players were challenged to remember the verses or be out. The song celebrates the twelve days of Christmas, which last from December 25 to January 6. However, the gifts have no real connection with the doctrine of Christianity, although some authors have tried to attribute each gift and its numeric designation with a corresponding article of Christian tradition. One of the earliest popular recordings in the US was by the Mitch Miller chorale in 1961.
Up on the Housetop • music and lyrics by Benjamin Hanby.
Composed by a minister in 1864, based on Clement Moore's poem, as a children's sing-along for his congregation. The song was published the following year by a Chicago music company who also hired Hanby. It has been recorded by numerous artists, including Gene Autry and the King Sisters.
We Need a Little Christmas • music and lyrics by Jerry Herman.
Composed for the 1966 stage musical, Mame, which was later produced as a movie musical in 1974. The song is led by the title character, who has lost her fortune in the 1929 Wall Street crash, as she encourages her household with Christmas approaching. The original cast recording features Angela Lansbury.
We Three Kings • music and lyrics by John Henry Hopkins, Jr.
Composed in 1857 by a clergyman for his family Christmas celebration. Hopkins was well-connected to the ministries in New York, and his song quickly gained popularity. He published it in 1863 in his own Carols, Hymns, and Songs. The song has been faulted for the prevailing conception, contrary to any Biblical doctrine, that the wisemen were kings. The lyrics can also be sung to the tune of "Scarborough Fair".
We Wish You a Merry Christmas • traditional 16th century English carol.
This song is probably most responsible for the continued association of figgy pudding with Christmas. Figgy pudding, like other English puddings, is prepared by mixing the ingredients and then steaming or baking them into a spicy porridge, and sometimes served en flambé. The dish was featured in the 1938 MGM release of A Christmas Carol.
What Child is This • traditional music, lyrics by William Chatterton Dix.
Composed in 1865 from a 16th century English folk song, "Greensleeves". The song has the unique characteristic in that each chorus has different lyrics, although some performers merely repeat the first chorus after each verse.
While By My Sheep • traditional music, lyrics by Nach Friedrich von Spee.
Composed from a German folk song in 1625. It was probably performed as an echo chorus from very early in its history.
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks • various music, lyrics by Nahum Tate.
Composed from a poem first published in 1700. The lyrics have been sung to a variety of tunes, sometimes repeating the last line of each verse.
White Christmas • music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.
Composed for Bing Crosby in the 1942 movie musical, Holiday Inn. The song's popularity prompted Paramount Pictures to create a whole new film to showcase the song, White Christmas, released in 1954. Like Crosby's version, the introductory verse is often omitted by performers. Crosby's rendition is still recognized as the highest selling recording of all time.
Winter Wonderland • music by Felix Bernard, lyrics by Richard B. Smith.
Composed in 1934 and recorded that year by the Richard Himber orchestra in New York. The song has been recorded by many artists with different styles. It is another example of a snow song that makes no mention of Christmas but is indelibly linked to the holiday.
A few years ago I loaded the CD player with a rack of Christmas CDs and set it to Random Play.
One of the CDs was Händel's Messiah. Imagine my amusement when the stereo played,
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and
saying: Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus..."
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