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Some of My Favorite Christmas Songs and the History Behind Them

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Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay-at-home mom to four and was a teacher.

My son 'playing' Christmas music

My son 'playing' Christmas music

Bing Crosby's Christmas Music

When I think of Christmas music, one name comes to mind: Bing Crosby. Every year since I was a baby, on the way home from my paternal grandparent’s house on Thanksgiving night, my parents would play the Bing Crosby Christmas tape in the car. I loved to listen to Bing croon some of the greatest carols and songs of all time: "O Holy Night," "Silent Night," "What Child is This," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Frosty the Snowman," "Do You Hear What I Hear," "Pat-a-Pan" and a few others. My family would perk up when the quirky "Christmas Dinner Country Style" would come on, singing along as we travelled home. It is such a happy memory I will always treasure.

This music would be played from Thanksgiving until Christmas, playing in the background as we decorated our house, set up our manger scene, went light-sightseeing, wrapped our presents, and ate our Christmas breakfast after opening presents. It warmed our hearts and cleared our minds of the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season.

In This Article

  • History of "O Holy Night"
  • History of "The Christmas Song"
  • History of "Jingle Bells"
  • History of "Good King Wenceslas"
  • History of "Have Yourselves a Merry a Little Christmas"
  • Christmas Carols List
  • Videos for Favorite Contemporary Christmas Songs

When I married and began my own traditions with my husband, these songs followed me and were integrated into my holiday song list. Now every year, when we travel around after Thanksgiving with our children, I plug in my iPod, and the songs and memories fill my mind and heart. I play the music as we decorate the house, wrap the presents, bake cookies, and eat breakfast after opening our presents.

Bing's Christmas carols have become part of my own holiday traditions with my family.

Bing's Christmas carols have become part of my own holiday traditions with my family.

History of Christmas Carols

History of "O Holy Night"

"O Holy Night," or Cantique de Noel, was written and composed by two unlikely people in France to write a Christmas carol: a socialist poet and a Jewish man. While the song was encouraged and shared by a Catholic priest, it was later banned by the French church due to the backgrounds of these two men. The people of France loved the song, however, and still sang it, sharing it with everyone. The song was eventually brought to America by an abolitionist and became the first song ever to be sent across radio airwaves.

History of "The Christmas Song"

"The Christmas Song," best known for its opening line "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . " was written after the writer wrote down random things that reminded him of the Christmas holiday season in New England. It later became the first song to become popular with everyone even though an African American sang it: the legendary Nat King Cole.

History of "Jingle Bells"

"Jingle Bells," a song that will always remind us of the wintery Christmas season, was originally written for a Thanksgiving church service!

History of "Good King Wenceslas"

"Good King Wenceslas" was based on a true story, even if the title of the song wasn't completely correct. Wenceslas was a young rich man from Bohemia, which was predominantly heathen. He, however, was raised by his grandmother, who was Christian. When he became Duke of Bohemia, he tried to change the ideas of his people and showed them kindnesses, like sharing meals with the poor and making sure they had enough firewood. He was later assassinated by his heathen brother, who converted when Wenceslas forgave him upon his dying breath.

History of "Have Yourselves a Merry Little Christmas"

Have Yourselves a Merry Little Christmas" wasn't always a pleasant song. When written for a movie for Judy Garland to sing, it was meant to be a sad song. Judy refused to sing it as a sad song, worried that it wouldn't be appropriate with all the sadness inflicted by the war. She demanded that it be rewritten, and it was—as a hopeful song which was embraced by everyone, including the troops overseas.

Christmas Carols List

Of course, over the years, I have added a few more (or many more, as my iTunes list indicates) favorites and various artists to sing those favorites. While Bing Crosby will always remain a favorite Christmas singer of mine, I now listen to and sing along with so many other talented artists. One of my new favorites is "Christmas Song" by Dave Matthews, which is a beautiful song. Another new favorite is "Walking in the Air" as sung by Chloe Agnew, which was inspired by the short silent film and book The Snowman. "Where Are You Christmas" from the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas is another great song by Faith Hill that I have added to my list. (See videos below for these great songs!)

Here are some of the songs on my list, along with some interesting history I found in a book I inherited from a great-great aunt of mine: Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins. Enjoy!

1. "O Holy Night"

2. "Silent Night"

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3. "What Child Is This"

4. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

5. "Frosty the Snowman"

6. "Pat-a-Pan"

7. "Christmas Dinner Country Style"

8. "The Christmas Song"

9. "Away in the Manager"

10. "The First Noel"

11.I’ll Be Home for Christmas

12.Jingle Bells

13.Joy to the World

14.Mary, Did You Know

15.O Come, O Come Emmanuel

16. The Littlest Angel

17.Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

18.I Wish You a Merry Christmas

19.Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

20.O Come All Ye Faithful/ Adeste Fideles

21.Do You Hear What I Hear?

22.It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

23. Good King Wenceslas

24.God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman

25.Go Tell It On the Mountain

26.Angels We Have Heard on High

27.O Little Town of Bethlehem

28.Silver Bells

29.White Christmas

30.Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer

31. Walking in the Air

32. Carol of the Bells

33. Deck the Halls

34. Where Are You Christmas

35. Winter Wonderland

36. Christmas Song

Videos for Favorite Contemporary Christmas Songs

Below are some of the videos of some of my new favorite Christmas songs, including music from Dave Matthews, Faith Hill, Celtic Woman and more. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays from my family to yours.

Happy Holidays from my family to yours.


Marissa (author) from United States on December 12, 2011:

cbpoet, I'm glad you liked it. Thank you for reading and commenting! :)

cbpoet from Las Vegas, Nevada on December 11, 2011:

lovely. thanks for sharing

Marissa (author) from United States on December 10, 2011:

rLcasaLme, don't you love sharing your memories and traditions with your kids? :)

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Rael Casalme from Dubai, United Arab Emirates on December 09, 2011:

Oh! I suddenly became nostalgic. When I was a kid, my parents would always play "The Christmas Song" by the Jackson 5. Oh! How I missed those days; now I have my own family, I'd sure share those songs and memories to my kids.

Voted up for Beautiful immediately after.

Marissa (author) from United States on December 09, 2011:

tillsontitan, I'm very traditional and it drives my husband crazy! ;) Christmas tradtitions I can't let go, though. I'm glad your family loved Bing Crosby as well! Mary Did You Know is really a great song, isn't it?

Thanks so much for reading, commenting and voting up! :)

Mary Craig from New York on December 09, 2011:

Funny how some traditions cross generations. We used to sing around the piano and my brother has raised Bing Crosby's status to a demi-god. Your list is a really good one, Mary Did You Know is really one of my new favorites. A truly nostalgic hub with great photos and videos! Of course voted up!

Marissa (author) from United States on December 09, 2011:

Rain Defence, oh, it's so much fun when people gather around the piano to sing! It happens often at my husband's aunt's house. She and her fiancé are singers. Everybody has a great time!

I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for reading and commenting!:)

Marissa (author) from United States on December 09, 2011:

SUSIE DUZY, I can't believe I missed The Little Drummer Boy! I'll have to add that to the list. Bing Crosby sings that on his album as well. Thanks for reading! :)

Rain Defence from UK on December 08, 2011:

I've never actually been to a house where everybody gets round the piano and sings. I like the idea of doing it though, I can imagine the drink flowing and everybody laughing. Nice thought to start off my day, thanks!

SUSIE DUZY from Delray Beach, Florida on December 08, 2011:

Great list. I would add little drummer boy

Marissa (author) from United States on December 06, 2011:

Kathleen Cochran, thanks so much for reading it and calling it 'marvelous'! What a nice early Christmas present. ;) Merry Christmas to you as well, my friend!

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on December 06, 2011:

Thank you for this marvelous Christmas hub! And so much work went into it - Merry Christmas friend!

Marissa (author) from United States on December 06, 2011:

wilderness, if I was one of the poor souls who had to listen to Christmas music 24/7 while being bombarded by the hostilities of shoppers, I wouldn't like it so much either. Luckily, like you, I have it quietly playing in the background in my home. Bing will also always be part of my Christmas playlist! ;)

Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on December 05, 2011:

I love the sound of Christmas music all around us. Of course, I don't work in a store with it going all the time, but we often play some at the house and thoroughly enjoy it. It adds to Christmas, at least for me.

And you're right - I shall always remember Bing singing some of those songs. He was great.

Marissa (author) from United States on November 20, 2011:

WillStarr, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub! I'll definitely have to take a look at your Christmas hubs. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on November 19, 2011:

Like you, I love Christmas! If you have time, check out my Christmas Story trilogy.

This is a great Hub. I'm going to recommend it!

Marissa (author) from United States on November 14, 2011:

justateacher, I've been thinking about playing some holiday music, at least instrumentals, but I haven't just yet. ;) Thanks for stopping by again!

LaDena Campbell from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on November 13, 2011:

Heck...I started playing them two weeks ago!

Marissa (author) from United States on November 13, 2011:

Jo_Goldsmith11, I'm glad my hub was able to evoke some happy memories for you. I hope you too have a blessed holiday season!

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Marissa (author) from United States on November 13, 2011:

justateacher, your grandsons are at a great age! Kids are so much fun around 2 years old. And congratulations on the newest addition! How exciting!

I'm glad you liked my list of Christmas songs. I can't wait; a few more weeks and I am going to be playing them! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Jo_Goldsmith11 on November 13, 2011:

This is a very beautifully written and detailed hub with some sweet memories that I find myself thinking back on. Thank you for doing such a beautiful and awesome job!:)

Wishing you and yours a very blessed holiday season! :)

Voted up!

LaDena Campbell from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on November 12, 2011:

You have a great list of Christmas songs! Many are my favorites as well. I am truly looking forward to this Christmas..My young grandsons will be 27 months old and 21 months old..perfect ages for Christmas! And I just found out I have another grandchild on the way! Thanks for sharing!

Marissa (author) from United States on October 30, 2011:

RedElf, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and the photos! The photos are my favorites from all of my son's Christmas photos so far. Thank you for reading and commenting! :)

RedElf from Canada on October 29, 2011:

You have definitely chosen some of my absolute favorites! Lovely photos, too.

Marissa (author) from United States on October 22, 2011:

ugochi, I bet it is beautiful when your choir sings on Christmas Eve! Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

ugochi from Nigeria on October 22, 2011:

This is interesting I love Christmas Carol and we do that in our Church Anglican here in Nigeria every 24, December I am also one of the Choir Member. I think I have learn another method of celebrating Christmas, and also another Christmas songs. i love that. keep it up.

Marissa (author) from United States on October 22, 2011:

Lady_E, thank you for reading and for your kind comment! :)

Elena from London, UK on October 22, 2011:

This is lovely and has put me in a festive mood. I love the photo of your little Angel playing the Piano.

Marissa (author) from United States on October 21, 2011:

shea duane, I too love hearing Christmas carols in church. It gives them that extra special feeling. We have our children practice Christmas carols and verses and they perform them for us. I loved being part of it when I was a child, and now I love seeing my son take part in it.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)

shea duane from new jersey on October 21, 2011:

I love listening to Christmas Carols, especially the religious carols. My parish has an incredible liturgical music director, and we are so blessed every Sunday, but especially during the Christmas season.

Marissa (author) from United States on October 21, 2011:

prasetio30, how nice of you to stop by! Christmas music can still be enjoyable, even if you don't celebrate the holiday, as you have found. I really appreciate that you read the hub and commented!

Have a great weekend! :)

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on October 21, 2011:

I love Christmas song. But unfortunately, I don't celebrate Christmas. Thanks for writing and share with us. I really enjoy the video above. Have a nice weekend.


Marissa (author) from United States on October 21, 2011:

prairieprincess, I didn't know many of the backgrounds of these songs either until I read the book. There were so many more interesting histories, inlcuding that of 'Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer', which a father wrote for his daughter for Christmas when her mother was dying, just to cheer her up. How sweet!

I too can't wait until I hear some Christmas music, although not until after Thanksgiving. The stores and shopping center play the music too soon... ;)

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Marissa (author) from United States on October 21, 2011:

randomcreative, Christmas for me wouldn't be complete without the music. It adds to the joy and happiness the season brings. :)

My son loves to 'play' the piano. I'm hoping to take some pictures this year of my daughter 'playing'. She certainly does like to listen to it!

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Marissa (author) from United States on October 21, 2011:

homesteadbound, I'm glad you too enjoy listening to Bing Crosby during Christmas. :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on October 20, 2011:

Interesting hub! I did not know about the background to these songs and it was good to learn. I can't wait for the Christmas songs to start playing!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 20, 2011:

Great topic for a hub! Christmas music is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. Your son "playing" the piano is too cute.

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on October 20, 2011:

Christmas isn't Christmas without watching White Christmas at least once. I love to listen to him sing those songs.

Marissa (author) from United States on October 20, 2011:

Movie Master, isn't Bing Crosby great for Christmastime? I'm glad you share my feelings. The photos were from a Christmas card I made with my son about two years ago--how time flies! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Movie Master from United Kingdom on October 20, 2011:

what a lovely hub it's made me feel all 'Christmassy'

Bing Crosby will always be my favourite!

The photos are just fabulous!

Voting up, best wishes MM

Marissa (author) from United States on October 20, 2011:

Pinkchic18, thank you very much for your kind comments! I'm looking forward to Christmas too, especially this year with my kids. :)

Sarah Carlsley from Minnesota on October 20, 2011:

This is an awesome hub!! It made me look forward to Christmas :) Soon enough! Super cute photos as well. You've got a great talent :)

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