9 greatest Christmas carols from around the world

12 December 2023, 14:02

Christmas carols from around the world – Poland, UK, Norway, Ukraine
Christmas carols from around the world – Poland, UK, Norway, Ukraine. Picture: Getty

By Rosie Pentreath

Step aside for a moment, ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ and ‘Good King Wenceslas’. We’re taking a sleigh ride around the world to discover the greatest international Christmas carols.

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People and cultures all over the world have contributed to the canon of traditional Christmas carols. Here are some of the best...

Read more: The 30 greatest Christmas carols of all time

  1. Suo Gân (Lullabye) – Wales

    Across the border from England, Welsh carollers have several of their own beautiful Welsh language carols. Among the traditional songs sung at Christmastime are this wonderful Lullabye, the melody of which is also used for Christmas hymns like ‘As the Winter Days Grow Longer’ and ‘Christ Before Us’.

    Read more: Why do we sing Christmas carols?

    Cai Thomas sings Welsh lullaby, Suo-Gân

  2. Campana Sobre Campana (Bells Over Bethlehem) – Spain

    A popular carol in Spain and South American countries, this carol originates from Andalucia, and sings of the bells that sound in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. Bethlehem is “Belén” in Spanish, and the word is used to create a sense of rhythm in the song.

    Yuri - Campana Sobre Campana

  3. Stille Nacht (Silent Night) – Germany

    The English version of this sublime German carol is well known as ‘Silent Night’. It was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber and lyricist Joseph Mohr, and translated to English in 1859.

    The King's Singers - Stille Nacht

  4. Sankta Lucia (Santa Lucia Song) – Sweden

    ‘Santa Lucia’ is a lovely children’s Christmas song hailing from the chilly latitudes of Northern Europe. 13 December is Saint Lucia Day in Sweden, and each town votes to crown it‘s own Saint Lucia, who wears a crown of candles and brings bright light and song to homes and workplaces, accompanied by a choir of girls wearing white with a red sash.

    Sankta Lucia

  5. Musevisa (The Mouse Song) – Norway

    ‘The Mouse Song’ is a modern Christmas carol, composed by Alf Prøysen in 1946. Prøysen was commissioned by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation to write the song, and he set his lyrics to a traditional Norwegian folk tune.

    Caamora Norway - Musevisa - The Mouse Song

  6. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – United States

    ‘It Came Upon’ is a dignified and melodious carol, with lyrics by Massachusetts pastor Edmund Sears. The most common musical setting of Sears’ carol has been adapted from an 1874 melody by English composer Arthur Sullivan.

    It Came Upon the Midnight Clear – Winchester Quiristers

  7. Go Tell it on the Mountain – United States

    The African-American community has its own rich tradition of Christmas carols and spiritual songs that celebrate the birth of Jesus. ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ was compiled by John Wesley in around 1865, and it’s been recorded and performed extensively by gospel singers ever since. Civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer added the phrase “let me people go” from the spiritual, ‘Go Down Moses’, to the song to make ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ an anthem for the civil rights movement of the 1960s and beyond.

    Go Tell It On The mountain ~ The Kingdom Choir

  8. Christmas na Kimangu (Christmas Mystery) – Kenya

    This is an upbeat and joyous celebration of the birth of Jesus, featuring bright guitar motives and vibrant eastern African rhythms.


  9. Pasko Na Naman (It's Christmas Again) – Philippines

    ‘It’s Christmas Time Again’ is one of the most popular Filipino Christmas songs, composed by Felipe Padilla de Leon, and arranged by George Hernandez. “It’s Christmas again, how fast time flies, Christmases past, seem just like yesterday…” the beautiful song intones.

    Filipino Christmas Songs - Pasko na naman - It is Christmas Again + Lyrics + Translation

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