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Christmas carols and Yuletide songs

This page is intended as a supplement for the Unitarian Universalist (UU) hymnal Singing the Living Tradition (SLT). Most songs on this page have more traditional words for Christmas carols, taken from two older UU hymnals: Hymns of the Spirit (HoS), the 1937 hymnal; and Hymns for the Celebration of Life (HCL), the 1964 hymnal. Some songs on this page include additional verses to songs in Singing the Living Tradition. Also here is one Christmas song not in any UU hymnal. More Christmas and Yuletide songs elsewhere on my Web site: Folkish songs for Christmas (including guitar chords, some lead sheets); also see Christmas carols and songs for SATB arrangements of some common carols.

Angels We Have Heard on High (from HoS and HCL)
Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella (two more verses, different translation than SLT)
The First Nowell (HoS)
Go Tell It on the Mountain (incl. fourth verse not in SLT)
Hark the Herald Angels Sing (HoS)
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (HoS; incl. fifth verse not in SLT)
Joy to the World (HoS)
O Come All Ye Faithful/ Adestes Fideles (HoS; with Latin words)
O Come, O Come Emmanuel (HoS)
O Little Town of Bethlehem (HoS)
O Christmas Tree/ O Tannenbaum (can be used with the story of Rev. Charles Follen and the Christmas tree)
On This Day (HCL)
Silent Night (HoS)
We Three Kings (HoS; incl. fifth verse by Vincent Silliman)

 

Angels We Have Heard On High
anon. French carol, ca. 1862
vv. 1, 2, & 5 from
Hymns of the Spirit, 1937
vv. 3 & 4 from
Hymns for the Celebration of Life, 1964 (version by Earl Marlatt, 1937)

1. Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing o'er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.
Glo-ri-a in excelsis Deo,
Glo-ri-a in excelsis Deo.

2. In the fields, beside their sheep,
Shepherds watching though the night,
Hear, amid the silence deep,
Those sweet voices, clear and bright.
Glo-ri-a in excelsis Deo,
Glo-ri-a in excelsis Deo.

3. Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why these songs of happy cheer?
What great brightness did you see?
What glad tidings did you hear?
Glo-ri-a in excelsis Deo,
Glo-ri-a in excelsis Deo.

4. Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ, the Lord, the new-born king.
Glo-ri-a in excelsis Deo,
Glo-ri-a in excelsis Deo.

5. Joyful hearts with one accord,
Spread the tidings far and wise;
Born to us is Christ the Lord,
At this happy Christmastide.
Glo-ri-a in excelsis Deo,
Glo-ri-a in excelsis Deo.

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
Provençal carol attributed to Émile Blémont (16th C.)
English words adapted from a translation by Edward Cuthbert Nunn (1868-1914)

1. Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella
Bring a torch, and quickly run.
Come see Jesus, good folk of the village
Christ is born, and Mary's calling.
Ah! Ah! beautiful is the mother,
Ah! Ah! beautiful is her child.

2. It is wrong when babies are sleeping,
It is wrong to talk so loud.
Stop your talking one and all!
Lest this noise should waken Jesus.
Hush! Hush! quietly now he slumbers,
Hush! Hush! quietly now he sleeps.

3. Who comes there, who's knocking so loudly?
Who comes there, who knocks on the door?
Open wide! for I bear a basket
Filled high with cakes, which I have brought here.
Knock! Knock! let us inside the stable!
Knock! Knock! so we can celebrate!

4. Softly, come and enter the stable;
Softly, come for just a short while.
Go and see, how charming is Jesus!
Brown is his brow, his cheeks are rosy!
Oh! Oh! see how the child is sleeping,
Oh! Oh! see how he smiles and dreams.

French words:

1. Un flambeau, Jeanette Isabelle,
Un Flambeau, courons au berceau.
C'est Jésus, bonnes gens du hameau,
Le Christ est né, Marie appelle:
Ah! Ah! Ah! Que la mère est belle,
Ah! Ah! Ah! Que l'enfant est beau.

2. C'est un tort quand l'Enfant someille
C'est un tort de crier si fort.
Taisez-vous l'un et l'autre d'abord!
Au moindre bruit Jésus s'éville.
Chut! Chut! Chut! Il dort à merveille!
Chut! Chut! Chut! Ivoyez comme il dort.

3. Qui vient là, frappant de la sorte?
Qui vient là, frappant comme ça?
Ouvrez donc! J'ai posé sur un plat
De bons gâteaux qu'ici j'apporte.
Toc! Toc! Toc! Ouvrez-nous la porte!
Toc! Toc! Toc! Faisons grand gala!

4. Doucement dans l'étable close,
Doucement venez un moment.
Approchez, que Jésus est charmant!
Comme il est blanc, comme il est rose!
Do! Do! Do! que l'Enfant repose!
Do! Do! Do! qu'il rit en dormant.

Deck The Halls
trad. Welsh carol
appears in
Singing the Living Tradition

1. Deck the halls with boughs of holly.
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la.
Troll the ancient Yule-tide carol,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

2. See the blazing Yule before us,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Strike the harp and join the chorus,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Follow me in merry measure,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
While I tell of Yule-tide treasure,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

3. Fast away the old year passes,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Sing we joyous, all together,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

The First Nowell
English carol, 17th century
as it appears in
Hymns of the Spirit, 1937

1. The first Nowell the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds, in fields as they lay,
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the king of Israel.

2. They lookéd up and saw a star
Shining in the East beyond them far,
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the king of Israel.

3. And by the light of that same star,
Three wise men came from country far;
To seek for a king was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the king of Israel.

4. This star drew nigh to the north-west,
O'er Bethlehem it took its rest,
And there it did both stop and stay,
Right o'er the place where Jesus lay.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the king of Israel.

5. Then did they know assuredly,
Within that house the King did lie,
One entered in then for to see,
And found the babe in poverty.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the king of Israel.

6. Then entered in those wise men three,
Most reverently upon their knee,
And offered there, in his presence,
Both gold, and myrrh, and frankincense.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the king of Israel.

Go Tell It on the Mountain
from Folk Songs of the American Negro, collected by John W. Work, Jr., 1907
v. 4 unknown (from the singing of Diana Ross)

Refrain: Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and ev'rywhere,
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus has been born.

1. While shepherds kept their watching
O'er silent flocks by night,
Behold throughout the heavens
There shone a holy light.

Refrain.

2. The shepherds feared and trembled
When lo, above the earth
Rang out the angel chorus
That hailed a baby's birth.

Refrain.

3. Down in a lowly manger
A humble babe was born,
And God sent us salvation
That blesséd Christmas morn.

Refrain.

4. And I am like a shepherd
My hope and faith to guard;
Each day I find the answer
And love is my reward.

Refrain.

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Charles Wesley (1707-1788), 1739
as it appears in
Hymns of the Spirit, 1937

1. Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th'angelic host, proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king!

2. Gracious bond of earth and sky,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born king!

 

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876), 1849
as it appears in
Hymns of the Spirit, 1937

1. It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, good will to men [all],
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

2. Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blesséd angels sing.

3. But with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!

4. And ye, beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,--
Look now; for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

5. For, lo! the days are hastening on
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold:
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Joy To The World
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
as it appears in
Hymns of the Spirit, 1937

1. Joy to the world! The Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev'ry heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

2. Joy to the earth, the Saviour reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy

3. No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground:
He comes to make his blessings flow
As far as sin in found,
As far as sin is found,
As far, as far as sin is found.

4. He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love;
And wonders of his love;
And wonders, wonders of his love.

O Come, All Ye Faithful
attributed to John Francis Wade (ca. 1711-1786)
trans. composite, based on Frederick Oakeley, 1852
as it appears in
Hymns of the Spirit, 1937

1. 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.

2. Lo, humble shepherds,
Hasting to his cradle,
Leaving their flocks in the fields, draw near.
We, too, with gladness,
Thither bend our footsteps,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

3. Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heav'n above:
"Glory to God,
In the highest;
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord."

Latin words:

1. Adeste, fideles,
Laeti triumphantes:
Venite, venite in Bethlehem:
Natum videte regem angelorum:
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Veneite adoremus
Dominum.

2. En grege relicto,
Humiles ad cunas,
Vocati pastores approperant;
Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus,
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Veneite adoremus
Dominum.

3. Cantet nunc hymnos,
Chorus angelorum;
Cantet aula coelestium,
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Veneite adoremus
Dominum.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Veni Emmanuel)
13th C. hymn, trans. composite, based on John Mason Neals, 1854
as it appears in
Hymns of the Spirit, 1937

1. O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel;
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

2. O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy shades of night,
Break through the clouds and bring us light;
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

3. O come, O come, thou Lord of love,
Declare thy law all law above;
From dire oppressions bring release,
And lead us in the way of peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Little Town of Bethlehem
Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), 1868
as it appears in
Hymns of the Spirit, 1937

1. O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

2. For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wond'ring love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men [all] on earth.

3. How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

Once In Royal David's City
adapted by Carl Seaburg from words by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895)

1. Once in royal David's city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus was her little child.

2. Shepherds came to see this wonder,
And to kneel in holy awe
At that lowly stable manger
Where the infant lay on straw.
So may we this happy morn
Honor ev'ry child that's born.

3. From afar three magi journeyed
To that stable rude and bare,
To pay homage to the child,
Offering gifts both rich and rare.
So may we this happy morn
Honor every child that's born.

4. In that happy Christmas spirit,
Hear the angels from on high
Sing their ancient salutations:
Joy's a gift you cannot buy.
So may we, with heart that sings,
Live the truth this season brings.

O Christmas Tree
English version of traditional German "O Tannenbaum"

1. O Christmas Tree O, Christmas Tree,
Thy branches green delight us.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Thy branches green delight us.
Not only in the summer bright,
But still when winter snow is white.
O, Christmas Tree, O, Christmas Tree,
Thy branches green delight us!

2. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
For every year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!

3. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

German words:

1. O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter.
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein, auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter.

2. O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
du kannst mir sehr gefallen.
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
du kannst mir sehr gefallen.

3. O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
dein Kleid will mich was lehren:
die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
gibt Trost und Kraft zu aller Zeit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
dein Kleid will mich was lehren.

On This Day
Composite, 1958, based on Theodoric Petri's Piae Cantiones, 1582
as it appears in
Hymns for the Celebration of Life, 1964

1. On the day, everywhere
Children's songs fill the air,
Greet the child new and fair,
Christmas gift so holy,
Born in stable lowly.

Refrain: Id-e-o-o-o,
Id-e-o-o-o,
Ideo gloria in excelsis Deo!

2. Sweet the babe, strange his bed,
Manger's day round his head,
Cattle there in the shed;
Mary, Joseph by him,
Shepherds drawing nigh him.

Refrain.

3. Magi three find their way
By a star's shining ray
To the child in the hay;
Give their wondrous presents,
Gold and myrrh and incense.

Refrain.

Silent Night
Joseph Mohr (1792-1848), 1818
trans. anon., adapted from
Hymns of the Spirit, 1937

1. Silent night, holy night,
All is clear, all is bright
Round yon gentle mother and mhild.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

2. Silent night, holy night,
Darkness flies, and all is light;
Shepherds, hear the angels sing.
"Alleluia! hail the King!
Jesus the Savior is here,
Jesus the Savior is here."

3. Silent night, holy night,
Guiding star, O lend thy light:
See the eastern wise men bring
Gifts and homage to our King.
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

We Three Kings
John H. Hopkins, Jr., c. 1857
v. 5 by Vincent B. Silliman from
Hymns of the Spirit , 1964

1. We three kings of orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.

Refrain: O, star of wonder, star of night,
Star, with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

2. Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
Gold I bring to crown him again
King for ever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.

Refrain.

3. Frankincense to offer have I,
incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worship God most high.

Refrain.

4. Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in a stone-cold tomb.

Refrain.

5. See him now in power arise,
Mighty through his sacrifice.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Echo it, earth and skies.

Refrain.

 

Page updated Dec. 2008. (Text file of the songs on this page here.)