Most Famous "Catholic" Christmas Songs

What are the most famous “Catholic” Christmas songs? I am looking for traditional Christmas songs and not the non-Christian music you hear over and over on the radio.

What is your favorite song you like to hear at Christmas Mass?

Please provide a link to your favorite song or version of the song if you can find it on youtube or somewhere else so we can all listen to it!!



In their anglicised versions, “Adeste Fidelis/O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Veni, Veni, Emanuel/ O Come, O Come Emmanuel” come to mind for me as very popular.

Away in a Manger is my all time favorite. I especially love watching young children sing it.

Tu scendi delle stelle is very popular in Italy and was written by St. Alphonsus Ligouri, a doctor of the Church. It’s not well known Stateside, but it is beautiful and very Catholic.

In what language do you want the Christmas carol? Do you want ones that are “cross-cultural” (like Silent Night) or unique to that language/culture?

“Huron Carol”, written by St Jean de Brebeuf SJ, in Huron “Tsonnue Iesous Ahatonhia”. This version by Heather Dale is sung in English, French and Wendat (Huron).

“Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”), by Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber

“O Holy Night” (“Cantique de Noël”) by Adolphe Adam, based on *“Minuit, chrétiens” *(“Midnight, Christians”) by Placide Cappeau

“Veni, veni, Emmanuel”

“The angel Gabriel from heaven came” *(“Birjina gaztetto bat zegoen”) *a traditional Basque carol – Sting’s version is the only one I’ve ever heard

“Ave Maria” – I like both Gounod’s and Schubert’s. Although Schubert was an agnostic, the subject matter is decidedly Catholic.

I always look forward to “Child of the poor” which often is coupled in a medley with “What Child is this”

I think Silent Night is my favorite.

I believe Silent Night is the most beloved. All Come all ye Faithful, would probably be next. I love them all. Oh come Oh come Emmanual. The 12 Days of Christimas is suppose to be a hidden way Catholics in England was teaching their children the basics of the faith.

O Holy Night, whenever I hear it I’m overwhelmed.

Oddly, many of the carols I like to hear are not composed by Catholics. Some of my favourites are:

  • “As With Gladness Men Of Old” and “What Child is This?”, William Chatterton Dix (CE)
  • “The First Nowell”, 18th Century English or Cornish, so most likely Protestant
  • “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”, 19th cent. or earlier English, so same as above
  • “Joy To The World”, Isaac Watts (Congregationalist)
  • “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, Charles Wesley (Methodist) and Felix Mendelssohn (Reformed, of Jewish descent)
  • “Ave Maria”, arr. Franz Schubert (agnostic)
  • “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, Phillips Brooks (Episcopalian)
  • “Away in a Manger”, usually attributed to Martin Luther, at the very least appearing earliest in Lutheran hymnbooks; my favourite arrangement is William Kirkpatrick’s (Methodist)

Oh, so many! But my all time favorite was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Don’t know if it’s catholic. Probably not…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day…

I’ll throw in Gesu Bambino.

This is the most famous of them all! There is not a language on earth in which this Catholic hymn is sung!

Adeste Fidelis. The altar rail at a church I used to go to for First Fridays had VENITE ADOREMUS as part of the metal work. I knew what the Latin meant but seeing it on an altar rail with Jesus in the monstrance behind it, the full meaning hit me like a ton of bricks. Now I get emotional at the chorus and it’s sort of embarrassing.

You beat me to it. I love that song, it always reminds me of my first parish priest who came to Toronto in the early 1960s to minister to the growing italian community. He loved music, wrote poetry and himself composed many beautiful hyms. He was a powerful influence through all my formative years, I still miss him. I know we’re not supposed to name clergy, but I’ll risk breaking the rules to thank Father Sbrocchi for providing his parishioners a powerful example of faith, hope and charity.

Although not a specifically “Christmas” song, I love the “Ave Maria” (Schubert)

Another favorite (don’t know who wrote it, but love it) is “Little Drummer Boy”

“Away In A Manger”

“Adeste Fidelis”

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”

The Hallelujah Chorus by Handel – not strictly for Christmas – can also be used for Easter, I think.

My Favorite Christmas Carols (villancicos) are in Spanish. I have tested each link to make sure they do work – sorry about the commercials! Hope you enjoy the selection. !Feliz Navidad!

The Spaniards sing with a sort of trill. Their voices are not cracking. If you notice, the children do not sing like that for it takes practice.

Arbolito de Navidad

Hay del Chiquirritín (OR Chiquirriquitín)
(I learned it as “entre el buey y el asno” not “y una burra”)

Los Peces en el Rio

Campana Sobre Campana

Vamos Pastores Vamos

En el Portal de Belén

¿Dime Niño de Quién Eres?

La Reina de los Cielos

Romance del Niño Perdido

“In the Bleak Midwinter”
“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”
“Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella”
“Good Christian Men, Rejoice” (In Dulci Jubilo)
“Ding, Dong, Merrily on High”
“The Holly and the Ivy”
“Once in Royal David’s City”
“Creator of the Stars of Night”
“Good King Wenceslas”

These are all from my home parish’s Christmas repertoire, new for this year. It hurts me very much that I will not be with the choir when they sing them. I will be visiting my family in OCP-land.

Let All Earthly Flesh Keep Silent sung in 5 or 6 part harmony