Christmas Song History and Lyrics

As you prepare to enter into another holiday season, you’ll likely be bombarded with Christmas carols everywhere you go. Whether you love them or hate them in a grinchy way, Christmas carols flood the airwaves every November. Brush up on your holiday knowledge with some Christmas song history facts. This year at your holiday gathering, you can impress your family and friends with what you know.

Decorated Tree Christmas Songs Card

Christmas Song History

O Holy Night

The words and lyrics of the old carol ‘O Holy Night’ were written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847. Cappeauwas a wine seller by trade but was asked by the parish priest to write a poem for Christmas. He obliged and wrote the beautiful words of the hymn. He asked his friend Adolphe Charles Adams(1803-1856) to write the music to accompany the poem. He agreed and the music for the poem we now know as the song, O Holy Night. It was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893).

Lyrics

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Chorus

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night divine, O holy night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend.

Chorus

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Chorus

Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells”, also known as “One Horse Open Sleigh”, is one of the best known and commonly sung secular Christmas songs in the world. It was written by James Lord Pierpont (1822 1893) and copyrighted under the title ‘One Horse Open Sleigh’ on September 16, 1857. The song has been translated into many languages.

Lyrics:

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
Through the fields we go
Laughing all the way.
Bells on bob-tail ring
Making spirits bright
What joy it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.

Chorus:

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way,
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh, O
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way,
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.

A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side;
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot,
We ran into a drifted bank
And there we got upsot.

Chorus

A day or two ago
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow
And on my back I fell;
A gent was riding by
In a one-horse open sleigh
He laughed at me as I there sprawling laid
But quickly drove away.

Chorus

Now the ground is white,
Go it while you’re young,
Take the girls along
And sing this sleighing song.
Just bet a bob-tailed bay,
Two-forty as his speed,
Hitch him to an open sleigh
and crack! You’ll take the lead.

Chorus

Deck the Halls

The music to Deck the Halls is believed to Welsh in origin and was reputed to have come from a tune called “Nos Galan” dating back to the sixteenth century. In the eighteenth century Mozart used the tune to Deck the Halls for a violin and piano duet J.P. McCaskey is sometimes credited with the lyrics of Deck the Halls but he only edited the Franklin Square Song Collection in which the lyrics were first published. The first publication date of Deck the Halls is 1881. The author is unknown but the words are said to originate in America.

Lyrics:

Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la la la la la
‘Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la la la la la la
Fill the mead cup, drain the barrel
Fa la la la la la la la la

Troll the ancient Yuletide carol
Fa la la la la la la la la
See the flowing bowl before us
Fa la la la la la la la la
Strike the harp and join the chorus
Fa la la la la la la la la
Follow me in merry measure
Fa la la la la la la la la
While I sing of beauty’s treasure
Fa la la la la la la la la

Fast away the old year passes
Fa la la la la la la la la
Hail the new ye lads and lasses
Fa la la la la la la la la
Laughing, quaffing, all altogether
Fa la la la la la la la la
Heedless of the wind and weather
Fa la la la la la la la la

Silent Night

The origin of the Christmas carol we know as Silent Night was a poem that was written in 1816 by an Austrian priest called Joseph Mohr. On Christmas Eve in 1818 in the small alpine village called Oberndorf it is reputed that the organ at St. Nicholas Church had broken. Joseph Mohr gave the poem of Silent Night (Stille Nacht) to his friend Franz Xavier Gruber and the melody for Silent Night was composed with this in mind. The music to Silent Night was therefore intended for a guitar and the simple score was finished in time for Midnight Mass. Silent Night is the most famous Christmas carol of all time.

Lyrics:

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from Heaven afar
Heav’nly host sing Alleluia
Christ the Saviour, is born
Christ the Saviour, is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth

O Come All Ye Faithful

The text to the Carol O Come All Ye Faithful was originally written in Latin (Adeste Fideles) and was intended to be a hymn, it is attributed to John Wade, an Englishman. The music to O Come All Ye Faithful was composed by fellow Englishman John Reading in the early 1700s. The tune was first published in a collection known as “Cantus Diversi” in 1751. In 1841 Rev. Frederick Oakley is reputed to have worked on the familiar translation of O Come All Ye Faithful which replaced the older Latin lyrics “Adeste Fideles”.

Lyrics:

O come all ye faithful
joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels

O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

Sing choirs of Angels
Sing in exultation
Sing all ye citizens of heav’n above
Sing ye “All glory
To God in the highest”

Yea, Lord we greet Thee
Born this happy morning
Jesu, to Thee be all glory given
Word of the Father
Now in flesh appearing

O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

Happy singing! Now go impress your friends.

History of songs courtesy of carols.org

 

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