The Christmas season began this past Sunday on the First Sunday of Advent.  As we await the joyful coming of our Savior, some of The Catholic Gene authors reminisce about their favorite Christmas carols.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Lisa Alzo ~ I have chosen my favorite carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. The carol is written by Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley, an early leader of the Methodist church. I know this may seem a bit odd to reference this song on a blog called “The Catholic Gene,” but nevertheless, it is my favorite religious carol. With its numerous scriptural references, the carol speaks of the mystery of the incarnation of Christ.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men.” Luke 2:13-14

The tune that’s almost always used today was composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1840, for his cantata Festgesang, written to commemorate Johann Gutenberg and his invention of the printing press.

While it is a religious carol, one of my favorite versions of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is the one sung by the whole Peanuts gang at the end of Charles Schultz’ animated Christmas special A Charlie Brown Christmas.   It is a song of joy, and that is why it is my favorite.

The Little Drummer Boy

Steve Danko ~ When I was young, my favorite religious Christmas song was “The Little Drummer Boy.”  It’s not exactly a song I would expect to hear at Midnight Mass, but it held a special relevance to me since it tells the story of a young boy who thinks he has nothing to offer the Christ Child.  I could relate to that!  The song, originally titled “Carol of the Drum,” was written in 1941 by Katherine K. Davis who claimed that it was based on a traditional Czech carol.  The popularity of the song increased greatly when the Von Trapp Family Singers recorded the song in 1955, shortly before they retired.  Even now, I can remember playing “The Little Drummer Boy” over and over on my family’s little portable record player to the point where my mother would come over to me and gently say, “Let’s listen to something else now, Stephen.”

O Holy Night

Craig Manson ~ My favorite Christmas song is “O Holy Night.”  It is based on the French poem, “Cantique de Noel.”  Its transcendent melody and lyrics convey the joy of Jesus’ coming in an almost unearthly way. This song sounds great in any language, and anyone filled with true gladness can sing it (well, there is that HIGH note in the last stanza)! I suspect that even the skeptic or nonbeliever can’t help but be moved to some degree by this piece of music. My favorite version is Nat King Cole’s 1960 rendition. See it here:

Obsessed audiophiles may be interested in this 1914 recording of Cantique Noel

Donna Pointkouski ~ My favorite Christmas song is also “O Holy Night”.  I had heard the song countless times over the years, but I remember one evening when, for the very first time, one line jumped out at me and I truly listened to it for the first time in my life.  The line that struck me was: Long lay the world in sin and error, pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. My soul (and my eyes) flooded as I understood the meaning of those words like never before, and the beautiful, wondrous mystery of the Incarnation, the true meaning of Christmas, became clear to me.  I think that song sums it up rather well!

Adeste Fidelis

Jasia ~ My favorite religious Christmas song would have to be “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, aka “Adeste Fideles“. The reason for that is because it’s such an uplifting song! I can remember singing it in church every Christmas as a child and as an adult. It’s the song we sang as the opening hymn while the altar boys and the priest made their way down the aisle from the back of the church to the altar. Everyone in the pews would stand up and sing the old familiar lyrics with joy and goodwill in their hearts. Even those who don’t normally sing at Mass (like me) would sing their hearts out. For me it marks the beginning of the most wonderful Mass of the year!

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 Heaven above!
Glory to God
In the highest:

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing!

What’s your favorite Christmas carol?