My 50 Favorite Christmas Songs: 2014 Edition

My 50 Favorite Christmas Songs: 2014 Edition

Two years ago I finally put together and posted the list of my 50 favorite Christmas (/Advent) songs. The list returned for 2013 — with some changes and a couple additions.

It’s back again, with two more newcomers and some Top 10 adjustments. Last year’s ranking is in parentheses, with additional explanation provided in only a few cases. For the first time, each and every entry is linked to a free online version that best captures the respective song’s quality (or just was available and sounded interesting).

Why this exercise — beyond the all-too-human appeal of listmaking? The background explanation from the original 2012 post:

…Coming up with the top 50 songs wasn’t terribly difficult. I’ve identified roughly 375 different contenders, though I’m only familiar with a little more than 200 of them. A good number of the Christmas songs I know were easily disqualified because of the unpleasant visceral reaction they cause.

Ranking the top 50 on the other hand — beyond a few that consistently rise to the top — was a difficult task. Still, there’s a kind of double-edged fun to assembling a list like this one: 1) Comparing and debating the rankings with friends; and 2) The fluid nature of the list, in part because of new songs discovered that upset the balance. If I do this again, the 2013 edition might look somewhat different.

With closer to 400 songs now in the log, the 2014 version of my top 50 Christmas songs looks even a little different yet:

1. O Holy Night / Cantique de Noel (1)
2. Hark the Herald Angels Sing (3)
3. O Little Town of Bethlehem (4)
4. Hallelujah Chorus, from Messiah (2)
5. Silent Night, Holy Night / Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht (6)
6. Gesu Bambino (5)
7. In the Bleak Midwinter (8)
8. Carol of the Bells (7)
9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (9)
10. Coventry Carol (10)
11. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (12)
12. Glory to God, from Messiah (11)
13. Mary’s Little Boy Child (14)
14. O Come, O Come Emmanuel (13)
15. O Come, All Ye Faithful / Adeste Fideles (16)
16. I Wonder as I Wander (16)
17. And the Glory of the Lord, from Messiah (17)
18. Joy Has Dawned Upon the World (19)
19. Sleigh Ride (18)
20. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (20) Read Krista Kafer’s excellent 2013 Denver Post column for the stirring tale behind this overlooked but highly reliable text.
21. Sweet Little Jesus Boy (21)
22. Still, Still, Still (22)
23. Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor (NR)
24. Wexford Carol (24)
25. Do You Hear What I Hear? (23)
26. Good Christian Men, Rejoice (25)
27. O Magnum Mysterium (Lauridsen) (36)
28. Joy to the World (26)
29. The Sussex Carol (On Christmas Night) (38)
30. Celtic Advent Carol (28)
31. Christmas Time is Here, from A Charlie Brown Christmas (29)
32. Mary Had a Baby (27)
33. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (32)
34. O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion, from Messiah (35)
35. Hear the Lamb a Cryin’ (30)
36. Away in a Manger (Kirkpatrick) (31)
37. White Christmas (34)
38. Linus and Lucy, from A Charlie Brown Christmas (37)
39. Angels We Have Heard on High (33)
40. The Birthday of a King (39)
41. What Sweeter Music (42)
42. Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song) (43)
43. I’ll Be Home for Christmas (41)
44. For Unto Us a Child is Born, from Messiah (48)
45. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (44)
46. Of the Father’s Love Begotten (47)
47. Ding, Dong, Merrily on High (45)
48. Jingle Bells (50)
49. On This Still and Silent Night (NR)
50. Go, Tell it on the Mountain (40)

Off the List from Last Year: The People That Walked in Darkness, from Messiah (46); Bring the Torch, Jeanette Isabella / Un flambeau, Jeannette Isabella (49)

Other Honorable Mentions: Sweetest Music, Softly Stealing; Angels, From the Realms of Glory; What Is This Lovely Fragrance?; What Child is This?; How Great Our Joy; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas; Love Came Down at Christmas; Once in Royal David’s City; Home for the Holidays; Masters in this Hall (Nowell, Sing We Clear); The First Noel; Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus: Somewhere in My Memory (from Home Alone).

What am I missing? Where did I go wrong (again)? Hopefully this list helps to expand your Yuletide musical horizons a bit, and we’ll see what 2015 brings. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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