There is something that warms our heart whenever we hear Christmas music. But what really makes a simple tune a Christmas song? What exactly cause that we know from the first few notes that we listen to the Christmas music? I think that the magic is hidden in the details.
I know that it is a Christmas song, when I hear a sublime melody of the symphonic orchestra playing a beautiful nostalgic melody. It must definitely have a warm flute, violins and a bass drum, it is perfect when it comes with a bassoon and chimes as well.
I also recognise a Christmas song, when I hear a sound of majestic bells which brings to mind a view of a little church tower covered in snow. It can be a heart-shaking “ding-ding” sound of cute little bells reminding of those hanging on the Christmas tree. Or other sounds of chimes, rattles, or a crackling fire with logs burning. I love them all!
I do love the most of the Christmas classics. Some of them are jolly and make me sing and dance, but some make me cry. I like popular Christmas songs but also religious Christmas carols, which nowadays are unfortunately less and less popular.
My favourite Christmas Music
List of Top 20 Christmas Songs and Carols
It is extremely difficult to choose a list of my favourite Christmas songs – there are so many! In general, I love Christmas music because it is Christmassy.
Don’t judge me please because of my choices. I am not saying that the list is the best or the most popular Christmas songs. People love some tunes without any reason or because they have good memories related to a specific song.
Why I created a list of my favourite Christmas music? I thought that I love quite a few songs and carols, which are not well (or at all!) known in the UK. Maybe it would be good to share them with you to let you discover some songs with a festive vibe.
I am British, but I am also Polish and, yes, we really love Christmas in Poland, so you will find a lot of Polish Christmas music here, mixed with English-speaking hits (and one Latin as well). Enjoy!
Here is my list:
20. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – King’s College Cambridge
Isn’t it just simply beautiful?
19. “Mędrcy Świata” – Zespół Pieśni i Tańca “Śląsk”
Zespół Pieśni i Tańca “Śląsk” (Polish National Song and Dance Ensemble “Śląsk” in memory of Stanisław Hadyna) is a Polish group founded in 1953. I always admired their beautiful traditional costumes.
Their main aim is presenting Silesia’s age-old folklore but they also perform traditional Christmas carols. One of them is “Mędrcy świata” – a majestic Polish Christmas carol from 17th century (music was created in 19th century).
18. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” – Neptune’s Daughter (musical)
What can I say? It is a classic. I love probably the lesser known old version of the song the most. Song was written by Frank Loesser in 1944. In 1949 it was performed in the Neptune’s Daughter musical.
17. “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” – John Lennon
This Christmas song should not surprise anyone (maybe you will just wonder, why it is so low on my list). Song was released in 1972 but it is not old at all! Lyrics are very beautiful.
16. “Kolęda Maryi” – TGD
Next Polish Christmas carol from 1980 but here performed by TGM. It is about Mary – showing her in a very human aspect. She is shown as an ordinary mother being scared of giving birth, tired and in pain, without a roof over her head and not being materially prepared for the birth of her baby. Music is gorgeous.
15. “Dzień Jeden w Roku” – Czerwone Gitary
Lovely Polish song from 1976 about a reconciliation between people and even in the natural world due to Christmas day. Very positive song for Christmas.
14. “Święta, Święta… Czas Kolędowania” – Fasolki
I adore this Christmas song for it is artlessness. The voice of the singing girl is so sincere that I would not change a single note.
It is so unique to hear it now, when every song must be perfectly performed and many people are ashamed to sing in a public, if they do not sing like Ariana Grande, Rihanna or Ed Sheeran. So, please do not criticise this lovely little girl, she sings so natural here. Then it comes this lovely chorus.
Beautiful melody and sentimental lyrics which mention some of the Polish Christmas traditions. When I watched it for the first time in the public television, I was at the age of some of the girls from this clip. I was decorating a Christmas tree surrounded by hundreds of Christmas decorations and still remember this full of magic moment of my life.
In the lyrics there is a line: “When the Christmas tree lights will glisten, we will refresh our memories” – and it is true, because whenever I hear the song, I remember that first moment when I heard it, and when I decorate a Christmas tree, I hum the melody of the song.
13. “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” – Nat King Cole
It is Christmassy and classy. I simply love it. I want to sit with a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fireplace, have a few aromatic ginger biscuits and like marshmallows – just melt in this perfect moment.
12. “Adeste Fideles” – Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby and his beautiful performance of “Adeste Fideles” (better known in English version “O Come, All Ye Faithful”) is definitely on my list of the best Christmas songs. Music is just amazing.
11. “Holidays are Coming” – Coca-Cola (advert)
It is a marketing masterpiece. Creating an advert which is pleasant for eyes and ears that you don’t mind watching over and over again. I would like to say that I hate all adverts but… it is not true in this case. It made me drink Coca-Cola during many Christmas seasons. Let’s not forget who is responsible for Santa Claus outfit…
10. “Let it Snow!” – Dean Martin
My top 10 list closes Dean Martin with “Let it snow!”. It is a classic which had to be here.
9. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Frank Sinatra
I don’t think there’s anybody that loves Christmas and doesn’t love Frank Sinatra. This man has such a lovely voice that Christmas songs performed by him are legendary. This song just almost smells like a yummy mulled wine and tastes like a piece of Christmas pudding.
8. “Joy to the World” – Nat King Cole
Very uplifting Christmas song which I really enjoy to listen and sing. This particular version by Nat King Cole is simply the best and can’t be beaten. What a wonderful piece of music!
7. “Wśród Nocnej Ciszy” – Mazowsze
Mazowsze is a Polish folk group established in 1948. It protects Polish tradition and in my opinion in general has the most beautiful performance of Polish Christmas songs. Additionally, “Wśród nocnej ciszy” is my favourite Christmas carol.
I listened it as a little girl on the cassette tape and even had a vinyl copy of their Christmas carols. It was always a music played in the background of our traditional Christmas Eve’s supper.
For me it is the essence of Christmas. Just look at these beautiful people in the traditional Polish costumes! And listen to this fantastic music.
Enjoy a little bit of a famous traditional Polish Christmas.
6. “Carol Of The Bells” – St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, Andrew Carwood (Official Music Video)
It is very beautiful Christmas song and I love this performance. Absolutely perfect! When I hear it, it feels like it is a sunny but very snowy and frosty day with the crystal air filled with the sound of angelic bells. Beautiful!
5. “Na Całej Połaci Śnieg” – Anna Maria Jopek
Just watch this video! It is absolutely beautiful. I can’t believe it was released in 1999. The divine voice of a Polish jazz singer Anna Maria Jopek and a romantic voice of Jeremi Przybora make this version of the winter song very special. You don’t have to understand lyrics to fall in love with this one.
4. “O Holy Night” – Nat King Cole
I totally love it. It makes me almost sad to place it at fourth position. I think that a way how the Christmas song builds up is perfect. My heart is rising whenever I listen to it.
3. “Walking in The Air” – Flying With The Snowman
The book “The Snowman” was written in 1978 and an animated movie was created in 1982, but I have seen it for the first time in 2016 (that’s crazy, right?)! It immediately became one of my favourite movie themes and one of the top Christmas songs.
It is just perfect piece of music by Howard Blake. The voice of St Paul’s Cathedral choirboy Peter Auty and Sinfonia of London orchestra performed the most magical Christmas song.
2. “Kolęda Dla Nieobecnych” – Zbigniew Preisner, Beata Rybotycka
Probably it will be difficult to understand my choice, if you don’t speak Polish.
This is the song which makes me extremely emotional. My husband hates when I listen to it, because he knows that I will immediately cry. Probably most of the on-line comments to this song are about it making people cry. “What?! Why would people cry?” – you may ask.
The music is a pure beauty, but a real magic of the song is in the lyrics. (Oh, dear. I cry even listening to it right now.)
I think it is the saddest and the most beautiful song about people who have passed away.
In Poland there is a beautiful tradition to leave a seat at the table for people which are not with us (they passed away or could not come), ready to be taken by ghosts or a sudden visitor (lonely neighbour, homeless person, anybody who could suddenly come during Christmas Eve and join us during a traditional meal).
The song just reminds us that the lack of our closest people during Christmas time is the most noticeable and painful. Especially because of the empty seats, which were used by people which are not with us anymore. The delicate female voice, soft piano and sound of bells make the composition even more dramatic.
It is just too sad to be my number one…
1. “The First Noel” – Nat King Cole
And again my favourite Nat King Cole. His voice is magical and makes him my favourite Christmas singer.
I love “The first Noel” Christmas carol for it is black-and-white movie atmosphere. First comes a beautiful choir, which sounds like a sharp wind on the snowy night and then it is followed by this divine, very warm (and not showing off, just perfect) male voice – a perfect combination. Not an obvious melody, just a little bit of melancholy.
The carol is not known in the country of my origin, but I discovered it when I was in my early teens, when I received my first very own portable CD player. Since then I listened it all year round for many, many years. I never have enough.