Origins of Christmas Carols We Love

From shopping at the mall to stations on the radio to carolers around the neighborhood, during the holiday season, Christmas carols can be heard everywhere. When you hear Silent Night, Deck The Halls or even All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, we know Christmas is around the corner.

But where did the song originate? Many of our favorite Christmas songs have been around for quite some time and have fascinating and sometimes funny origins.

“Silent Night” is nearly two hundred years old and was written by a Catholic priest in Austria and was translated into English. Bing Crosby made it popular for more recent generations. In fact, his version is the third best-selling single of all time.

A newer song “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” was performed in 1934 by James Gillespie on a radio show. It became a hit within 24 hours of its debut. Since then it’s been performed beautifully by artists like Perry Como, Gene Autry, The Four Seasons, The Jackson Five, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was originally a poem penned in 1739 by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The original opening line, as it appeared in his collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, was "Hark how all the welkin rings," using a rarely invoked term for heaven. The version that we know today is a blend of Wesley’s song, along with adaptions by Felix Mendelssohn (the German composer) in the 1840’s.

Deck the Halls” dates back to sixteenth century Wales, where its melody and much of the lyrics were pinched from the New Year's Eve song "Nos Galan." Lines like "Oh! how soft my fair one's bosom/ Fa la la la la la la la la," were transformed into Yuletide wishes like "Deck the halls with boughs of holly/ Fa la la la la la la la la.”

Another more recent song was “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth.” The origin came from a second-grade teacher, from Smithtown, Long Island, who was taking song requests for Christmas songs from his students and their requests when spoken were in lisps because of a lot of them missing teeth. He wrote the song in 30 minutes and has become a favorite of every grade school student missing their front teeth.

"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" lyrics were written by Hugh Martin for a scene in the 1944 movie musical Meet Me In St. Louis and was sung by Judy Garland. In the original draft, Judy Garland thought the lyrics were a bit too depressing and asked for them to be changed to something a bit merrier (they reluctantly did). In a way, we have Judy to thank for the beloved song.

Lastly, “Jingle Bells,” one of the most famous songs ever. There is a slight debate as to where the song originated. One account indicates it was actually intended as a Thanksgiving song in 1850’s Georgia. It was originally called “One Horse Open Sleigh” and, supposedly, people thought it was too racy to be sung by children in the choir. Some say Jingle Bells was a drinking song too. There’s a plaque in Medford, Massachusetts that claims it was written there. Regardless of where it was written, it has become a song universally loved by all.

Do you have a favorite Christmas carol? Tell us below.

Sharon Maier - Dec 21, 2017
"Holly Jolly Christmas" sung only by Burl Ives, the greatest version.
Marianne Milner - Dec 21, 2017
The CHRISTMAS SONG (Chestnuts roasting) by Nat King Cole and The First Noel.
Marianne Milner - Dec 21, 2017
The CHRISTMAS SONG (Chestnuts roasting) by Nat King Cole and The First Noel.
Catherine Suess - Dec 19, 2017
My most favorite and beloved Christmas Carol is O HOLY NIGHT. It is such a beautiful song and speaks of the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of my/our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus. Whenever I sing it or hear it, it warms my heart and brings joyous tears to my eyes. I wish you all a most blessed and wonderful Christmas, full of peace, joy and love, that carries you through the New Year!
alice alani - Dec 19, 2017
All time favorite is " White Christmas" - song and show ... Bing is just the best ...
Charles Martin - Dec 19, 2017
Last sunday, I performed O Holy Night at my church in sign language. The vocal was performed by a soloist, from the US Navy band. People wept with joy, when they heard and saw the beautiful lyrics performed. What a night!
Charles Martin - Dec 19, 2017
The story of O Holy Night, is fascinating. Look it up on the net. A French wine inspector wrote a poem "Cantique de Noel". The poem was published. A Jewish man set it to music. On a ship from France to the USA, a Unitarian man hear the song, and translated the lyrics into English. It was big hit in the USA and Europe. Later, a ham radio operator, played the tune on his violin, and broadcast the music over the radio. O Holy Night, is the first song ever broadcast.
Mitch Wile - Dec 19, 2017
Stevie Nick's - Silent Night
Teresa Braud - Dec 19, 2017
I have three: Nat King Cole "The Christmas Song", Vanessa Williams' version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?", Pentatonix version of "Mary, Did You Know?" . . .
Terri Hawes - Dec 19, 2017
Ave Maria is another beautiful Christmas hymn, other than Daddy please don't get drunk this Christmas, I can't think
Of any bad ones, just very different for different moods!
Terri Hawes - Dec 19, 2017
Love them all! I waited for "all the bells on earth to ring" when I was little, as I waited for Santa and the reindeer. Adulthood I love o Holy Night and It Came upon A midnight Clear, plus all the ones recorded by Irish Tenors and a Canadian recording of ones like The Holly and the Ivy!
Sheila Wolfe - Dec 19, 2017
"Christmas Times a Comin'" by Emmylou Harris
Mike Wortz - Dec 18, 2017
My favorite is Happy Xmas by John Lennon...
Cheryl Derrick - Dec 18, 2017
My favorite is Oh Holy Night.
Rose Pullen - Dec 18, 2017
My favorite is an old one "Silver Bells" by Bing Crosby