The Top Ten Christmas Songs EVER

November 29, 2007 at 12:14 pm (God thoughts, Pop thoughts, Random thoughts)

How about some leftovers? I am re-posting this from last year just in case you became a fan of the Den some time in 2008!

I love Christmas music. I’m sure you do as well. I like to blast it out my car windows when I roll up next to some fender rattling bass thumper at the Poway and Community road intersection. I thoroughly enjoy that special genre of music that transforms our sunny Southern Californian mindsets into nostalgic winter-wonderland-wanter’s.

Christmas music is so peculiar. It makes us long for things we might have never even experienced. Does anyone else ever shiver when they hear “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”? Has anyone ever actually seen chestnuts roasting on an open fire?

For your reading pleasure I give you a nice little den diversion dedicated to the songs that make the season.

I’m sure you’ll all have plenty to disagree with but here is the list of my favorite Christmas songs (for this year at lest).

10. The Christmas Song

Since I already mentioned it I might as well lead off with it. This Nat King Cole classic (written my Mel Torme) has an almost transcendental ability to transport you into a cozy cottage nestled in a snowy little village. It is the epitome of the iconic American-Christmas traditions; cold weather, tiny tots, Santa Claus, toys, reindeer, and that simple phrase that’s been said, many times many ways… “Merry Christmas to you”.

9. The Hallelujah Chorus

George Handel’s 18th century oratorio is possibly the most magnificent musical piece ever written. The only reason it isn’t number one on my list of Christmas music is because it isn’t exactly Christmas music. It was actually written for Easter celebrations. A wealthy Duke by the name of Charles Jennens went through the Bible and pulled out what he felt were the most important scriptural references to the Messiah. He then hired Handel, a depressed and broke former entertainer whose life was seemingly over, to come and write some music for his “lyrics”. Handel penned the whole thing in less than a month. It came in three parts, “Christmas”, “The Redemption story” and “The Resurrection and Future Reign of Christ on Earth”. Ironically it’s that last part that we think of most at Christmas time. Of course the “for unto us a child is born” part is pretty good too.

8. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

This song rocks because it articulately describes the Deity of Christ Jesus. It’s as if the Chalcedonian Creed were put into a song and then sang by little Peanuts characters. There are so many fabulous lines from this song but I think one in particular tells us what it’s all about, “Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” The impossibility and improbability of such a thing ever happening is breathtaking. I know from very personal experiences the difficulty of sinful man and sinful man being reconciled, but God and sinful man? Wow. What a message.

7. Jingle Bells

It’s cheesy, it’s simple, it’s fun, It’s Christmasy. Nuff said.

6. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Earlier I said that “The Christmas Song” epitomized the iconic American-Christmas traditions; well this song is the epitome of the REAL American-Christmas tradition… Selling Stuff! This song came from a 1930’s Montgomery Ward Christmas promotion in which they gave out copies of the Rudolph story to every little boy and girl who came to visit their store Santa Claus. A decade later the story was put into a song that was performed by Gene Autry and in it’s first year it had become the second best-selling Christmas song of all time (behind “White Christmas”, which I am NOT a fan of). The best part about Rudolph is that it’s a story built off of the “night before Christmas” poem from which we get nearly all of our Santa Claus knowledge. In my opinion the popularity of RTRNR comes from our personal ability to relate to the outcast Deer. Who amongst us doesn’t know that feeling of not being allowed to play with the others? Then again what I don’t like about the song is how it villanizes the other reindeer who in all actuality never did anything wrong. What did Comet do to deserve being considered a bully? hmmmm

5. The Twelve Days Of Christmas

This song is bizarre. It makes no sense, It confuses the heck out of me. But I love it for sentimental reasons.

I’ve heard a number of different explanations for when exactly the 12 days of Christmas take place (are they the 12 days BEFORE Christmas? The 12 days AFTER Christmas? 6 days before and 6 days after?) For me they will always be the 12 days before. These days were never celebrated in any special fashion by me or my immediate family in particular, but they were always very special between my Nana and Papaw. I can remember several times being over at their house on Via-Stephen and hearing Papaw come singing boldly from the other room as he searched for my Nana, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…” He would then give her a little gift for that day. I don’t know at what point he began doing this wonderful tradition but I know he did it as long as he could. I know how dear it still is to my Nana that her kids continue this tradition by sending her little gifts and calling her on the phone to sing to her. Christmas is a very difficult time for people who’ve lost loved ones, but Christmas music has a special way of bringing sublime memories back doesn’t it?

4. Carol Of The Bells

This song is just so much fun because of it’s difficulty to sing. I’m a terrible singer who loves to sing. While most would consider this a scary combination it’s on songs like Carol of the Bells where I get my little bit of glory. Here’s why. People who are good singers with beautiful voices typically shine on songs that are a bit slower than most, That’s why they always drag out the national anthem at baseball games throwing in 73 different vibrato effects. Bleh. But they can’t do that when it comes to COTB in fact it takes everything they’ve got to keep up with this song. But for people like me who will sing the song over and over and over we don’t really struggle as much. It’s a choir song and choirs are great because you don’t stand out. All you soloist out there can eat my dust when I start to harmonize when I’m supposed to melodize!

One other thing I love about this song is the rendition of it in claymation Christmas with the goofy bell who keeps hitting the other bells. Classic!

3. O Holy Night

I’m sure that a lot of people have this as the number 1 song on their list and I used to be one of them. Especially after Celine Dion put out her Christmas album, “These are the Special Times”. OHN more than any other song on that album propelled it to record breaking sales and brought us listeners to our knees in awe, pleading because we couldn’t take any more Scrumtrulescence in a four minute time frame.

While this song still hasn’t lost any luster I would say it’s become just a bit too “played out” for me to keep it at numero uno on my list. The problem is that we’ve all fallen into enjoying the singer more than the song. And this list is really more geared the other way around. When it really comes down to it, OHN is a very difficult song to sing. It’s great to listen to but have you ever really sang it well? Probably not. In fact you probably butcher it because you are too busy trying to sing it like Celine. In fact there is internet evidence of that floating around out there and even though we all deny that it’s us, it really could be us because we’re all guilty of it.

Still it’s a great song, worthy of number 3 on my list.

2. The Christmas Shoes

(Totally kidding. That song sucks)

2. O Come, All Ye Faithful

I really like this song because of it’s secret verses that none of us ever sing. A lot of Christmas songs have that, but the ones in this are so theologically packed I have to put it high on my list. I honestly have never heard half the verses of this song actually sung and whenever I try they seem impossible to fit into the music. Example:

God of God, Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God, Begotten not created.

or

There shall we see Him, His Eternal Father’s
Everlasting Brightness now veiled under flesh;
God shall we find there, a Babe in infant clothing

Those obscure but intriguing verses really tickle my fancy, but it’s this line that has always inspired me most, “Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing.” That reminds me of Romans 8:3-4…

“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

1. Joy To The World!

This song is such a natural byproduct of the previous song’s message. Once you recognize the splendid truth that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, you can’t help but be filled with the most sincerest form of joy. This song, like Handel’s Messiah, wasn’t written for Christmas at all; in fact it was written to be sung throughout the year in Churches on any given Sunday. Maybe it’s a case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” but something about this song just launches me into a euphoric sense of appreciation for my savior. Like Peter said,

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

It’s Joy from knowing his sovereignty over all the nations of the earth. Joy from knowing his awesome power over the farthest reachings of His creation. Joy from hearing his praises being proclaimed in the sounds of nature. Joy from the depths of hearts filled with his glory. Joy that can only be found in the freedom that comes from being a child of God.

So there you go. For Christmas time 2007, these are the songs that I’m enjoying the most, I hope you enjoy them as well.

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34 Comments

  1. itsasecret2u said,

    I am so anxious for Pastor Doug’s first, “Let’s all sing Joy to the World!” of the season. I look forward to it every year. 🙂

    O Holy Night is my favorite, personally, but not necessarily Celine’s version. I just love the song. And I can’t believe White Christmas isn’t on your list! If you don’t like the version from the movie “White Christmas,” check out the original version in its first movie appearance. That would be found in “Holiday Inn.” By the time “White Christmas” came out, the song had been a hit for years, so the Bing/Rosemary version is a little more commercial and played-out. But I find the “Holiday Inn” version to be rather lovely myself (not to mention that my favorite tap-dance scene of all time is in that movie too). Neither movie version contains the first verse of the song, which is just as well because it’s a little odd. But anyway… it’s still a classic.

  2. danielbalc said,

    White Christmas just doesn’t resonate with me because the postcard Christmas isn’t something I have ever really had or wanted.

    Melekalikimaka makes more sense to me.

    Those who claim “O Holy Night” as their favorite even before Celines version (1999) can possibly fall to Mariah Cahrey’s version (1994). Either way it’s a soloist song and as such it has fallen out of my top spot.

  3. Pablo Honey said,

    When I read “The Christmas Shoes” I almost pooped my pants. I hate that song. Overall I approve of the list, though I would have Oh Holy Night higher. I don’t think a song should be dropped down just because it is popular, it’s definitely a top 2 song. One song I think needs to be added to your list is “How Great Our Joy” Not much to the song lyrically, but it is fantastic fun to sing and it annoys the crap out of my wife, double bonus!

  4. Albino Hayford said,

    I also love Christmas music.

    I enjoy the ones you listed, but would ad “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, “The Grinch”, “Sleigh Ride”, and Mariah Carey’s “Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child”.
    Jesus, What a Wonderful Child

    The best Christmas albums? Anything by Manneheim Steamroller, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Josh Groban, Bing Crosby and the aforementioned Mariah Carey album.

    Now, for the most hideous Christmas renditions ever:

    1
    Little Drummer Boy is the carol from hell. GIVE HIM YOUR DRUM, DUDE! WHAT DO YOU MEAN “I HAVE NO GIFT TO BRING.” WHAT ABOUT YOUR DRUM?

    2
    This famous massacre of “Oh Holy Night” is so hilarious because the singer seems so sincere…and just when you think he can’t get worse, he does. If you would rather hear it in youtube, go <a href= here.

    3
    Take a moment and hear Father Sarducci’s attempt at the worst Christmas carol ever here.

    4
    And finally, Porky Pig’s annoying rendition of “Blue Christmas”.

    ————————————————-
    National Public Radio profiles some of the worst here.

  5. Defending FFL Champ said,

    And your mom will be sure to sing it again this year Pablo. It’s definitely not in my top ten. But O Holy Night is. I solo it all the time…when no one else is around.

  6. danielbalc said,

    Pablo.
    I didn’t drop OHN because it’s popular but because it’s impossible to sing. As I look over my list I think maybe I should have swapped #2 “Oh come all ya faithful” with #8 “Hark, the herald angel”, but I put them how they are for two reasons. First of all on my list #8 is actually higher than 8 because I like the number 8 more than every other number (except 44). It’s strange I know but it made sense to me to put something more special at 8 than at 3 or something. So when i got to 8 I pretty much put my favorite in. Secondly those secret verses in “Oh come all ye faithful” are so cool. I really like those a lot.

    Oh Holy Night has some secret verses too but they aren’t as theologically sound (because it’s a poem it takes a lot of “creative liberties”).

    But really the ONLY complaint I have of OHN is that I can’t sing it. I sound just like the dude on albino’s link above.

  7. 5najeras said,

    As I stated before, Jingle Bells is actually a Thanksgiving song, but that’s neither here nor there….

  8. danielbalc said,

    That would make three songs on my list that weren’t actually written FOR Christmas. But we are going with common association alright?

  9. itsasecret2u said,

    Albino, I have to thank you so much for the link to OHN. I almost peed my pants when he hit the crescendo. I definitely got my giggles for the week out of that one.

    OHN has been my favorite since Christmas of ’97 when I heard a kid sing it at my old church (by kid, I mean sixteen-year-old). It wasn’t a power-ballad type of rendition, except at a couple of key parts. But it was so beautiful.

    My husband can’t STAND Elvis’ version of Blue Christmas. Like, it really angers him whenever it comes on the radio. I’m not an Elvis fan, but for some reason I can’t help but like that song. 🙂

  10. RubeRad said,

    I’m late to the party, but with many observations about Christmas songs.

    Two rarely sung, but with incredibly beautiful music: IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, and LO, HOW A ROSE E’ER BLOOMING (I apologize for the cheesiness of the MIDI at the previous links!)

    I was really surprised once, listening to the hired Christmas quartet at the Wild Animal Park, at how many completely secular Christmas songs there are. There was no need for the choir to risk offending anybody’s religious sensibilities, they just went on and on with songs that, by themselves, gave no idea of what the “Christ” in Christmas means. But if you think about it, there are NO secular songs for Easter! Can you think of any? I can’t think of a single Easter song other than standard Resurrection-based hymns. Weird.

    As for Twelve Days of Christmas, I have heard before that it is somehow historically a Christian song, with each of the numbers meaning something, but Snopes disagrees. Who knows…

  11. RubeRad said,

    Oh yeah; you know what’s depressing? Going to a Christmas carol-sing in England — they use almost all different tunes, so you end up not being able to sing along! And the warm cozy Christmassy familiarity is lost.

    I remember in particular O Little Town of Bethlehem, another one of my favorites, was totally ruined!

  12. Albino Hayford said,

    Um, Reuben, hate to burst your Easter bubble but:

    Here comes Peter Cottontail
    Hopping down the bunny trail
    Hippity hoppity Easter’s on its way!

  13. Stephanie O said,

    What about “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”? …Talk about terrifying small children… “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good…” Wow! Sounds like a stalker to me!!

    Even worse, in one of the Spanish versions I play for my students, it says, “Don’t even try to hide from him… He’ll always see you”!

    Hey, I’m kinda scared myself! 🙂

  14. amyleesspace said,

    I LOVE Santa Claus is coming to town 🙂 I was just singing that to my kiddos!

    I also love Away in a Manger

  15. Defending FFL Champ said,

    Silent Night is another of my favorites. Can’t believe it didn’t make your list.

  16. Stephanie O said,

    A first-grader drew a fat man, Mary and baby Jesus when asked to make a Christmas picture. “What’s that?”, asked the teacher. “Oh,” the boy replied, “that’s round John Virgin, mother and child.”

  17. danielbalc said,

    Wow. A lot of you have thrown out some very worthy candidates for the top ten. Bu here’s what I’d like to see from those who disagree with my list. If you’re going to add a song please include the song from my list that you would like taken off.

    I’m guessing that the first song on my list to go would probably be #4 The Carol of the bells. But I want to hear from you…
    FFL could beat me out for a playoff spot- if you want Silent Night on the list what are you taking off?
    Stephanie O and Amylee- if you want Santa coming to town, who’s leaving town?
    Rube- if you want the two most obscure songs of all time on the top ten list which two popular songs are you cutting out?
    Albino you came in with 4. Wow! That’s a big list shuffle, maybe you should give me your top ten so I can see how different we really are.

  18. danielbalc said,

    Hey I just realized I sounded a lot like Hacksaw with that last comment…

    “MCCALLEN TEXAS! I want to hear from YOU. What is your opinion on the 12 DAYS? What does Poway think about Rudolph? And can Ramona really hold to their “O Holy Night” defense??? Up and down the blogosphere from Baja to the Canadian rockies, I am looking for a comment on the nostalgic feelings of Christmas.

  19. Defending FFL Champ said,

    I too like Carol of the Bells. But you can lose the Twelve Days of Christmas. That song makes no sense to me. Defending Champ’s reign is almost over.

  20. Albino Hayford said,

    I stumbled upon this treasure trove of nauseating Christmas music from a great website called Musical Fruitcake and here are some of my personal favorites:

    How could we get through the holidays without this winner: Mom and Daddy Please Don’t Steal For Me This Christmas?

    Reuben, don’t mean to burst your Easter bubble further, but here is a nice combination carol from a weirdo named Alex Houston,

    Here Comes Peter Cotton Claus
    .

    Here is the delightful María del Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza de Rasten, better known in the Latin and Hollywood show business world as Charo singing the inspired Christmas treat: Mamacita, Donde está Santa Claus?.

  21. RubeRad said,

    Um, Reuben, hate to burst your Easter bubble but: Here comes Peter Cottontail

    I thought of that, but I didn’t realize it was actually an easter song. I thought it was just about Peter Rabbit, the children’s story hero. So I will call that the “exception that proves the rule” until anybody can come up with anything else.

    If you hired a quartet to wander around Wild Animal Park at Easter time, and told them “Sing seasonal stuff, just keep it non-religious…”, they’d have a pretty hard time of it!

  22. RubeRad said,

    Evidence for the prosecution, Exhibit A: The number one google hit for “easter songs” include nothing anybody has ever heard of! Almost every “song” there has to presented as “Sung to the tune of” some song people actually know. (One is even “jingle bells”!)

  23. RubeRad said,

    Rube- if you want the two most obscure songs of all time on the top ten list which two popular songs are you cutting out?

    Well, if I was making a list, I wouldn’t be making it based on general popularity, but on what I like, and I assume that’s what you did. My personal Christmas list would chuck all the secular songs (The Christmas Song, Jingle Bells, Rudolph, Twelve Days, Carol of the Bells).

    So there — I’m piouser than thou!

  24. Lance said,

    1 song….

    4 words…

    “Mary Did You Know?”

  25. Echo_ohcE said,

    Daniel,

    Your hidden lyrics to O Come:

    God of God, Light of Light,
    Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
    Very God, Begotten not created.

    Now see the Nicene Creed:

    We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God of God, Light of Light,
    very God of very God,
    begotten, not made,
    being of one substance with the Father.
    Through whom all things were made,
    Who for us and for our salvation
    came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
    and became incarnate of the Virgin Mary…

    (For those of you who might notice that this is somewhat different than the way you say it at your church, remember this is an English translation of a Greek text, and therefore, translations will vary.)

  26. danielbalc said,

    Thanks Echo,

    Indeed Christmas carols are excellent derivatives of the creeds. Was that brought up in your song debate last Saturday?

  27. The Top Ten Christmas Movies EVER « Daniel’s Den said,

    […] 4, 2007 at 3:55 pm (Pop thoughts) I got a lot less controversy than expected with my Top Ten Christmas Songs EVER post. It seems as though most of my loyal readers are becoming more and more like me in taste. As […]

  28. RubeRad said,

    Actually, Echo didn’t make it out. I have yet to meet him in the flesh. I’m not totally convinced he even exists. I bet he’s really just Albino, trolling for blog-controversy.

  29. Laura said,

    I don’t like the secular songs so much, except for Carol fo the Bells. My favorite Christmas hymn is really an Advent hymn ( a nod to my Lutheran upbringing…) – O Come, O Come Emmanuel, primarily for the minor key and how pretty it is when played with a flute. I also like What Child Is This? ( Secularly known as Greensleeves), again, because the melody is so hauntingly beautiful. I also enjoy Christmas music Celtic -style…but that is probably too esoteric for most people!

  30. Laura said,

    By the way, Rube, your two favorite songs, In the Bleak Midwinter, and Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming are gorgeous songs! I was listening to one of my Celtic Christmas CDs and those two songs were on it…very nice!

    Daniel, it’s funny to me that two of the things I like about Christmas traditions – the song – Carol of the Bells, and the decorations – ornaments – are least favorite for you. We obviously see it in very different ways!

  31. danielbalc said,

    I love Carol of the Bells. You misunderstood.

    I also like Ornaments plenty. I just can’t believe how expensive some are.

  32. Laura said,

    I did misunderstand! No worries! 🙂

    By the way, what kind of ornaments do you have on your tree?

  33. danielbalc said,

    And so I answer a question nearly one year later.

    A couple of days ago we got out our wonderful fiber-optic tree for Christmas number 3. putting the TV onto channel 901 (cable music’s sounds of the season) we got ourselves into the Christmas mood by putting ornaments on the tree. This was great fun as I could recall very little about the ornaments but Athena knew exactly who had given us each one.

    The strange skiing snowman? that one was from Nana
    The handcrafted wooden star? from Kathy
    The teardrop glass bulb? from Paula
    The “Balcombe’s first Christmas”? From the Cleggs
    We had about a dozen penguins engaging in snow activities and evidently we got those ones at Target our first Christmas but as I took out each one I was surprised by ow cool they were and felt like I was seeing them for the first time.

    We decided not to go with the stock glass balls this year so they went back to storage.

    It was a great experience but made that much greater because of the terrific Christmas tunes coming from our TV set.

    Which makes me wonder. If there were a Christmas music video channel would I watch that?

  34. Albino Hayford said,

    Just came across this selection of best and worst Christmas songs:
    http://www.theroot.com/id/49162

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