Two Plants Get Uppity About Which is Better; also, Jesus Was Born
December 3, 2015 3:51 PM   Subscribe

 
I detect a lack of wassail. Wassail!
posted by Countess Elena at 3:56 PM on December 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Good King Wenceslas is definitely the best Christmas Carol, followed closely by I Saw Three Ships, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen*, so good list.


*The best version of this being by the Barenaked Ladies w/ Sarah McLachlan of course.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:00 PM on December 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I had no idea about The Cherry Tree Carol, and it is totally amazing. In fact, though I'm a Jew, I thought I was pretty well versed in Christian theology and I've read the Bible -- even the new upstart parts -- but I had no idea that Joseph was snarky and jealous of God for knocking up Mary. That's pretty awesome. And hilariously petty. And awesome. #teamjoseph
posted by The Bellman at 4:04 PM on December 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


No "O Holy Night" with the awesome abolitionist verse? Nah.
posted by bgal81 at 4:05 PM on December 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Personent Hodie! We sang that in Latin class. It was a nice change from discussing Caecilius (est pater) and Metella (est mater). Like God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, it gloats about triumph over Satan, but not until the second verse, so, not as badass.
I love a good minor-key Christmas carol.
posted by gingerest at 4:07 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not going to fight him, but for my money, any list that doesn't include "Silent Night" - referencing, of course, the Only Ones' run at it - or Alex Chilton's "Jesus Christ" is incomplete.
posted by ryanshepard at 4:07 PM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


VEILED IN FLESH THE GODHEAD SEE
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 4:10 PM on December 3, 2015 [21 favorites]


Don't even try to lecture me about Christmas carols if you leave out the comma in "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen."
posted by straight at 4:13 PM on December 3, 2015 [27 favorites]


It's a pretty English list (it's begging for "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella"), but it's a good list.

My blasphemous Christmas carol opinion is that "Silent Night" is overrated, it's fine in the hands of professionals, but for a congregation? No better way to make Christians sound bored and disgruntled about the birth of Christ.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:14 PM on December 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


I love a good minor-key Christmas carol.

I remind you of Noel Nouvelet.
posted by BWA at 4:16 PM on December 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


My blasphemous Christmas Carol opinion is that "Silent Night" is overrated...

How about if you pair it with Richard Speck, Lenny Bruce's death and five more years of war in Vietnam?
posted by The Bellman at 4:19 PM on December 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Good list, but it loses points for knocking the English translation of "Personent Hodie," which, let us not forget, has a verse beginning "His the doom, ours the mirth!"
posted by ostro at 4:20 PM on December 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


I got a few into the list and was like, well, this person and I are obviously cut from the same cloth and if I don't see The Boar's Head Carol on this list I'm going to be pretty shocked. I was not disappointed!

My 2 year old sings "Boar's Head" to her toys including nonsense Latin. It is the cutest thing.
posted by town of cats at 4:21 PM on December 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Holy cats, that IS where the comma goes, and that changes my whole interpretation - I thought God was keeping the merry gentlemen (as in "The Lord bless you and keep you"), not keeping them merry, but of course, that's why nothing is to them dismay, because Jesus done come to rescue us all from Satan! IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

Also, if you're going to complain about English lists - it's "Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle!" and man there's a lot of well-sung badly pronounced versions out there. (We also sang that as a break from talking about la plume de ma tante.)
posted by gingerest at 4:22 PM on December 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Though, granted, the Latin Personent Hodie may have the edge for referring to Satan as "Princeps Infernorum."
posted by ostro at 4:23 PM on December 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Really, the main point of Personent Hodie is that medieval Latin is hi. larious.
posted by ostro at 4:26 PM on December 3, 2015 [5 favorites]




where is dominic the donkey
posted by poffin boffin at 4:27 PM on December 3, 2015 [23 favorites]


this list is GARBAGE
posted by poffin boffin at 4:28 PM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm a sucker for Peter Warlock's "Bethlehem Down" because I love the tune so much, but I don't think it really counts as a carol. My very favorite carols are the Sussex Carol (which gets bagpipe points on his scale), Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen.
posted by straight at 4:28 PM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is it blasphemous to say I've always hated Good King Wenceslas? And god rest ye merry gentleman? And to give a shout out to O holy night as my pious favorite...


And Grandma got run over by a reindeer as my silly favorite :)
posted by dness2 at 4:30 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


WITH A CORN COB PIPE
AND A BUTTON NOSE
AND TWO EYES
THAT STARE INTO YOUR SOUL
AND ALSO ANIMATED BY ELDRITCH FORCES BEYOND HUMAN COMPREHENSION
FROM BEYOND THE STARS
IA IA
posted by GuyZero at 4:31 PM on December 3, 2015 [50 favorites]


I'm still working out the scanscion
posted by GuyZero at 4:32 PM on December 3, 2015 [35 favorites]


4. Songs about decidedly non-canonical adventures of Jesus, Mary, and/or Joseph

Oh man. Does this author ever want some traditional Spanish carols.

A few examples!

La Marimorena: Ande, ande, ande La Marimorena/Ande, ande que es la Nochebuena/En el portal de Belén/han entrado los ratones/y al bueno de San José/le han roido los calzones

Translation: Let's go, let's go, let's go, a huge party!/Let's go, let's go, let's go, because it's Christmas Eve!/At the doorway of the Nativity/the mice have come in/And of the good Saint Joseph/they have chewed up his underwear. [There are an amazing number of Christmas carols in Spanish with this theme]


La Virgen y San José: La Virgen y San José/juntos pasaron el rio/y en una cuna de flores/llevan al niño metido.

Translation: The Virgin and Saint Joseph/crossed the river together/and in a cradle made of flowers/they carried the child inside. [I don't remember this from the Bible??]


Tiene San José (sometimes this is part of Peces en el Río): San José tenme a este niño/Mientras enciendo la candela/Y San José le responde/Quién lo parió que lo tenga.

Translation: 'Saint Joseph, take this child from me/While I light the candle'/And Saint Joseph responds,/'The one who gave birth to him should hold him'. [Yikes]


Peces en el Río: La virgen está lavando/En el romero tendiendo/Los angelitos cantando/Y el romero floreciendo

Translation: The Virgin is doing the washing/Hanging to dry on the rosemary bush/The little angels are singing/and the rosemary bush is flowering.


Emprendieron su Viaje (this one is Biblical, but suuuuper dark): Salieron de la ciudad, los campos a recorrer/porque un posadero infame, no los quiere recoger./Hallaron refugio María y José en un pobre establo,en un pobre establo, portal de Belén./A las doce menos cuarto, San José fue a buscar leña/ para abrigar a la Virgen, porque de frío se hiela.

Translation: They left the city to traverse the countryside/because an vile inkeeper didn't want to host them./They found a refuge, Mary and Joseph/in a poor stable, in a poor stable, the Nativity site./At a quarter to twelve, Saint Joseph went to look for firewood/to warm the Virgin, since she was frozen with cold.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:32 PM on December 3, 2015 [34 favorites]


Any Christmas carol that depicts Mary and Joseph trudging through the snow gets the side-eye from me. I'm looking at you, "In the Bleak Midwinter." What were you thinking, Christina? Unless there was a mini-ice age around the time of Caesar Augustus, there was little chance that there was "snow upon snow" and "water hard as iron". It's Bethlehem, not the English Countryside.
posted by Elly Vortex at 4:33 PM on December 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


this list is GARBAGE

"Songs about sleighs, Santa, sugarplums, etc., are NOT carols, they are garbage that deserves to rot on the side of the street like so much crumpled wrapping paper."

Indeed.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 4:33 PM on December 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't know why The Wexford Carol doesn't get worked over more often.
posted by lagomorphius at 4:37 PM on December 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


One more thing: No discussion of Xmas Carols is complete without mentioning Steve Mauldin's breathtaking arrangement of O Holy Night.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 4:39 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Remember this one well when I was in the school choir - Sir Christèmas

But we'd have out song these toffs... especially the shouting at the end. And given then a good scrap before the coach home.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:44 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does this one count as a Christmas carol?
posted by lagomorphius at 4:46 PM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


No Christmas would be complete without the Jingle Cats, here doing Silent Night. and for a change of pace Oh Come All Ye Faithful.
posted by Death and Gravity at 4:53 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


My mother always decorated with Holly AND Ivy.

My sister still does.
posted by Megafly at 4:53 PM on December 3, 2015


I got a few into the list and was like, well, this person and I are obviously cut from the same cloth and if I don't see The Boar's Head Carol on this list I'm going to be pretty shocked. I was not disappointed!

Whilst it's one of my favourites too, it is now also a carol I am never going to be able to sing with a straight face again after this comment.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 4:53 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Lacks Britten's This Little Babe, but is otherwise pretty good.
posted by rtha at 4:54 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


No Gabriel's Message?! FAIL.
posted by pecanpies at 4:56 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


This list is a good list, except it's missing O Come O Come Emmanuel (blah blah advent carol, whatever).

Also, please consider Christmas Unicorn as a new addition to the Christmas carol canon. I know I've linked it before, but it's that time of year again so here it is again. Slip some acid into your eggnog and listen to this masterpiece. Or if you're like me, stick it on your holiday playlist and every year, be surprised anew when you listen absent-mindedly and then abruptly tune in to lyrics like "oh I'm a pagan heresy, I'm a tragical Catholic shrine." (Also make sure to keep listening for the bonus "Love Will Tear Us Apart" homage/cover.)
posted by yasaman at 4:59 PM on December 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


Personent Hodie! We sang that in Latin class. It was a nice change from discussing Caecilius (est pater) and Metella (est mater).

Oh come on, the wacky antics of Ancilla and Grumio were enough to keep my Latin class interested. Ancilla Matellam non delectat. It's like a wacky Roman telenovella, for some reason.

Anyways the best carol is the Harlem Boy's Choir singing Carol of the Bells and you're all wrong.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 5:07 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


This seems like someone who should check out the verses to We Three Kings, especially the one about how myrrh represents the death and entombment of Jesus.

Also, while the Coventry Carol has a whole verse about infanticide, it's also musically interesting because it has a quick moment of dissonance (I believe the technical term is false relation) toward the end of the verse. Once you hear it, it definitely adds a little jolt of something.
posted by Copronymus at 5:09 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok, so it's actually a pretty solid start, but c'mon. Where is Do You Hear What I Hear? What Child is This? We Three Kings?
posted by brennen at 5:10 PM on December 3, 2015


No mention of the Showcase Showdown's "Merry Christmas, I Fucked Your Snowman"?

Heathens.
posted by Ufez Jones at 5:11 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE
SMOKING ON A RUBBER CIGAR...
posted by eriko at 5:11 PM on December 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


IT WAS LOADED AND
IT EXPLODED

WE TWO KINGS OF ORIENT...
posted by brennen at 5:14 PM on December 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


It WAS LOADED, IT EXPLODED
ALL OVER DAD'S NEW CAR

OHHH

CAR OF WONDER, CAR OF LIGHT ....
posted by pyramid termite at 5:22 PM on December 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


Dammit you guys, too quick!
posted by notsnot at 5:23 PM on December 3, 2015


Kickass! I've been looking for someone to fight all week as part of wrapping up last year's new years resolutions...
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:24 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe the Huron Carol isn't popular outside Canada? The English version is pretty colonialist, but Heather Dale's version in the original Huron and French (and very revised English lyrics) is lovely.
posted by angiep at 5:24 PM on December 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


It's Bethlehem, not the English Countryside.

easily 99.9999% of people on earth believe jesus was a tall ripped blue-eyed dude with flowing golden nellie oleson curls; some of them also believe he rode dinosaurs

it's a losing battle is my point
posted by poffin boffin at 5:30 PM on December 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


No "I Wonder As I Wander," so I guess there's gonna be a fight.
posted by Guy Smiley at 5:33 PM on December 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


(car of wonder, car of light
runs on cadbury's crunch delight
what's the panic, sir mechanic?
at least we all put up a fight...)

sorry, I just made that bit up...
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 5:34 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't know exactly how to work it into this conversation but I feel like somebody has to say something about the idea that Adeste Fideles is secretly a Jacobite anthem.

The evidence for this seems to be mostly that it was (maybe) written by a Jacobite and that "Regem Angelorum" might be a pun on "Regem Anglorum."

I have to admit I'm not entirely convinced, but I'm no historian.
posted by a mirror and an encyclopedia at 5:36 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Any Christmas carol that depicts Mary and Joseph trudging through the snow gets the side-eye from me.

guess where it just snowed?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:38 PM on December 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


well that's definitive proof i guess, now i totally believe in god, thanks
posted by poffin boffin at 5:39 PM on December 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


easily 99.9999% of people on earth believe jesus was a tall ripped blue-eyed dude with flowing golden nellie oleson curls; some of them also believe he rode dinosaurs

Hey, for the purposes of these carols, he's just a wee kid hanging out in a manger!

I mean, you could make a case for no one demanding maternity leave or health care, they're just happy not to be slaughtered, but there it is.

And Advent hymns for the win anyway.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:42 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, choir kids, raise your hand if you ever sang "our testes may fail us" in the school choir....
posted by Wolfdog at 5:51 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


My twelve-year-old cousin was complaining that they have to sing the Coventry Carol in middle-school choir and it's really depressing singing about babies being slaughtered. I was like, someone should make it into a medley with "Sleigh Ride"! you could get to the end of the second line and be like "all young children to slay...slay...sleigh...just hear those SLEIGH bells ring-a-lin, ring-ting-ting-a-lin' toooooooo!!!" CHORAL PUBLISHERS HERE I AM, I'LL DO ALL THE ARRANGING
posted by daisystomper at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2015 [19 favorites]


Does "The Friendly Beasts" count as non-canonical or not? Either way, it deserves a mention.
posted by Cash4Lead at 5:53 PM on December 3, 2015


Delighted to see Good King Wenceslas (aka the best Christmas carol ever) getting its due attention. I was just singing it to myself this morning as I got ready for work. Every year I pester my husband to sing it with me on video (I'm not a great singer but I can carry a tune and I know the harmony part, so he could just do the melody) but he doesn't get why I like it so much.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 5:54 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE
SMOKING ON A RUBBER CIGAR...
posted by eriko at 8:11 PM on December 3


The variant I learned as a kid:

WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE
TRIED TO SMOKE A RUBBER CIGAR
IT WAS LOADED
AND EXPLODED
NOW WE'RE ON YONDER STAR
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:58 PM on December 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Silent Night" is overrated, it's fine in the hands of professionals

Like this version (the entire album is great).
posted by effbot at 5:58 PM on December 3, 2015


The definitive version of Good King Wenceslas was performed by Mandy, Stephen, and Michael (crossing my fingers that Stephen does something similar in the next couple weeks)
posted by Ber at 6:04 PM on December 3, 2015


Y'all have great taste in Christmas music; keep the songs coming!
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:05 PM on December 3, 2015


Y'know, I just did a whole blog post about how I like my Christmas season leavened with a little darkness, and I admit that Coventry Carol was one of my favorites.

Although I've lately been listening to Sting's If On A Winter's Night album, and I've been digging his rendition of "The Burning Babe", which is a seriously whackadoo song about a guy walking in the woods and suddenly hallucinating that a flaming baby is talking to him, and then it disappears and the guy goes, "hey wait, it's Christmas today."

SERIOUSLY, THAT IS THE SONG.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:06 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


It ain't Christmas yet.

Day of wrath, O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophet’s warning,
Heaven and earth in ashes burning.


It just gets more metal from there. Angry God is coming and he's going to kill DEATH ITSELF and pretty much everybody else too so beg for your life because he's setting people on fire.

Have an unsettling Advent, everybody!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:07 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well crap, Comedy Central has somehow trashed the video of Colbert's GKW. When are content companies going to figure out how to supply content?
posted by Ber at 6:10 PM on December 3, 2015


“Good King Wenceslas” is my favorite too, but I'm also rather partial to the ancient Yuletide carol.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:10 PM on December 3, 2015


Hey - are there any Finnish carols from Rare Exports that anyone knows? I bet they are good, too!
posted by Snowishberlin at 6:10 PM on December 3, 2015


I first heard The Cherry Tree Carol sung by Joan Baez.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:11 PM on December 3, 2015


IMVHO, it isn't Christmas without the Song of the Ass, more politely known as Orientis Partibus
posted by knuspermanatee at 6:16 PM on December 3, 2015


also once I composed and and entered a setting of Edna St. Vincent Millay's "To Jesus On His Birthday" in a "Write a New Christmas Carol!" contest.

It didn't win.
posted by daisystomper at 6:20 PM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Given the author's predilection, I expected to see Down In Yon Forest, The Spookiest Christmas Carol™. It's slow, it's ominous, and it weds the slow zoom structure of "In a Dark, Dark Room" to imagery of blood and mourning:

Under that bed there runs a flood
(The bells of Paradise I heard them ring)
The one half runs water, the other runs blood
(And I love my Lord Jesus above anything)

posted by Iridic at 6:23 PM on December 3, 2015 [7 favorites]




The New Standards holiday show usually includes a wonderful "God rest you merry, gentlemen" in a raucous version, and includes an appearance by Satan (played by Rupert the dancing man). Always a treat, and my favorite as a child and now.
posted by librosegretti at 6:36 PM on December 3, 2015


How quickly they forget Metafilter's Own Christmas Carol Generator.
posted by delfin at 6:37 PM on December 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I can't stand Oh Holy Night, largely because it was always the favorite of male singers with barely enough voice and never enough restraint. It's a dirge-like earworm that never failed to make the equally tedious advent sermon even worse.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:50 PM on December 3, 2015


But for something nice, The Copper Street Quintet arrangement of Greensleeves.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:53 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I fully agree with this list, great songs all. I am in a church choir and totally dread any modern Christmas music. Did you ever hear the song "Mary Did You Know?" with the deathless line "Did you know that your baby boy/would one day walk on water...."and it only gets worse.

Also loathe almost all the stuff played endlessly in stores, I used to work in one and Christmas season was hellish with all the "Holly Jolly".

Most of the many songs added on this thread are fine as well, love the Wexford Carol especially.
posted by mermayd at 6:54 PM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Car of wonder, car of light
Car of Royal Car Wash bright
Westward merging, lanes converging
Guide us by thy Magnalight
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:30 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
The lips acquire stains
The stains become a warning

posted by moonmilk at 7:39 PM on December 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


Rather than establishing policies to address structural inequality in Bohemia, or even abolishing feudalism, "Good" King Wenceslas decides to endanger the life of one of his servants by staggering about in a blizzard, just because he happened to see a poor person wandering outdoors on boxing day.


I will hear no criticism of The Boars Head Carol. It is everything Christmas.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:44 PM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's the rarest dish in all the land!
posted by moonmilk at 7:49 PM on December 3, 2015


It's beginning to look a lot like fish-men
Everywhere I go;
From the minute I got to town
And started to look around
I thought these ill-bred people's gillslits showed...
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:02 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had only ever heard of Good King Wenceslas; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; and I Saw Three Ships, except that a mystery series I like about an Episcopal priest and the chief of police includes books called In the Bleak Midwinter and All Mortal Flesh.
posted by not that girl at 8:09 PM on December 3, 2015


Heh, glad to see that article calling out "The Holly and the Ivy" for terrible rhymes, because I have some personal experience in that. Back in the far-off early '90s, I was in a public school children's chorus. It was actually a very good public school children's chorus, and we did well-received holiday concerts. Now, we weren't one of those Christian-territory-marking public schools of the sort who ignore separation of church and state, so We Had Rules. One of those rules was that our repertoire featured some music from outside the Christian tradition. Another was that in order to sing overtly religious music, it had to either be (a) in a foreign language, or (b) carefully expurgated of a large but very specific set of phrases which constituted a too-strong statement of religious faith.

So this was the group that was singing "The Holly and the Ivy" one year, which is how I got to be bewildered by the terrible lyric "The holly bears a blossom/As white as lily flower/And Mary bore the little child/On Christmas day in the morn", which is not so much a terrible rhyme as no rhyme at all, because that final line is ripped from a completely different verse to avoid having to use the word "saviour".

That may be why we sang in Latin and German a lot.
posted by jackbishop at 8:17 PM on December 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


So, my favorite rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" remains the version sung at the conclusion of the epic Royal Shakespeare Company performance of "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby." I was pretty young when I first heard this, and I remember that the way the arrangement changes suddenly from minor chord to major chord on the last "joy" really amazed me - both within the song itself, but also when joined to that moment at the end of the massive 8+ hour journey of the play.
posted by dnash at 8:24 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm happy to see "The Cherry Tree Carol" on this list. This Judy Collins version is my favourite.
posted by Dismantled King at 8:25 PM on December 3, 2015


Jesus Born in Beth'ny
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:39 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


8+ hour journey of the play

Eight‽
posted by brennen at 8:42 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


My favorite, which I think meets his criteria is Riu Riu Chiu. It's in a romance/latin language, Spanish (criteria 1) A wolf wants to eat Mary (aka Mary is food, criteria 2). But the kingfisher cries out and keeps the wolf at bay! (criteria 4) And it mentions flesh (criteria 5)!

so, the only way this does not satisfy is that it is not King Wenceslas and it fails to directly mention hell. Also, there's a pretty nice version by The Monkees
posted by vespabelle at 9:47 PM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Handel's Messiah is the only good Christmas song. Everything else is OK at best.

Also, I'd like to take a moment to call out Wonderful Christmas Time, that fucking auditory war crime of a christmas song. The worst part of the season every single goddamn year. Every time it comes on I want to fly to London and fistfight Paul McCartney.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:55 PM on December 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


It skipped my favorite, St. Stephen's Day Murders.
posted by KernalM at 9:57 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Have a merry freakin' Christmas...
posted by aydeejones at 9:59 PM on December 3, 2015


"O Holy Night" from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:16 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I approve of this list. Seriously, the best Christmas carols, whether ancient or modern, are those which have at least a touch of darkness and/or dread about them. For that reason, regardless of the issues that folks have with it (previously), "Do They Know It's Christmas?" is for me at least partially redeemed by that "clanging chimes of doom" line.
posted by e-man at 10:40 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ctrl+F "hark"

Ctrl+F "tris mccall"

0 matches


Y'all don't know shit about Christmas carols or the ranked lists thereof
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:53 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


"O Holy Night" by Cher, by Paul Shaffer.
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:55 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


And can I give a shout-out to "Shepherds Arise" - either this a cappella version by the Copper Family, or in full folk-rock glory courtesy of The Home Service.
posted by e-man at 11:02 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I am not a Christmas person by any stretch, but I just listened to Gaudete a few times and Boar's Head Carol now I'm like OH FUCK YEAH CHRISTMAS! and you know I do kind of want to fight.

Not anyone in particular, just sort of in general.

Which seems not very Christamssy but trust me it is.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:40 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I will channel these feelings into listening to all the Steeleye Span.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:55 PM on December 3, 2015




I can let In the Bleak Midwinter off for the inaccurate meteorology of the first verse; it's the last one that always puzzled me.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb
If I were a wise man, I would do my part
Yet what can I give Him? Give Him my heart
As a very literal-minded 7-year-old singing this at a church primary school, these lines were terribly confusing to me. What if I did have a lamb? Would I not be giving my heart to Jesus then? Because it sounds like a lamb is the optimal gift if you've got one.posted by Catseye at 12:14 AM on December 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also I think you'll find the one true version is:

WE FOUR BEATLES OF LIVERPOOL ARE
JOHN IN A TAXI, PAUL IN A CAR
GEORGE ON A SCOOTER, BEEPING THE HOOTER
FOLLOWING RINGO STARR
posted by Catseye at 12:31 AM on December 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


Yay, Personent Hodie! The best Christmas hymn IMO. Arranged by Gustav Holst (the "Planets" guy, and "Suite in E flat for Military Band.") Here's an instrumental version by North Sea Radio Orchestra (check out their other work)

(The worst hymn? My vote is this one... I'll bet $1000 it'll be on the playlist this Christmas Eve at our church. Someone there loves that song. But look at those lyrics, at that minor 4th chord. Just... yeesh.)
posted by kurumi at 12:38 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not a good list, does not include the Krampus song I wrote to the tune of AC/DCs "Big Balls" except its about "Big Bells" get it? Feel free to sing it yourself as I have not recorded it yet.

Well I'm here to punish childhood impropriety,
gods gift to adolescent notoriety ,
And I always fill the streets,
my events are never small,
and the childrens books all say
I have the biggest bells of all!
I've got big bells, I've got big bells,
they're such big bells,
and they're rusty big bells,
and He's got big bells, and She's got big bells,
BUT WE'VE GOT THE BIGGEST BELLS OF THEM ALL!
My bells are always ringing
My baskets always full
and the children always cry and yell in vain
if your names' on Santas bad list
no one can save you now
it's "in the basket ,and off we go
straight to the depths of hell!"
I've got big bells, Oh Iv'e got big bells,
they're such big bells,
and they're rusty big bells,
and he's got big bells, and she's got big bells,
BUT WE'VE GOT THE BIGGEST BELLS OF THEM ALL!
Some bells are rung for charity
some by ships when in distress
but when there rung by Krampus
they're the bells that we like best!
My bells are always ringing
to the left and to the right,
It's my belief that my big bells
should be rung every night!
We've got big bells,
Weve got big bells,
Weve got big bells,
rusty big bells,
He's got big bells,
She's got big bells,
BUT WE'VE GOT THE BIGGEST BELLS OF THEM ALL!
We've got big bells,
Weve got big bells,
And I'm just itching to tell you about them
oh we have such wonderful fun
St Nicolas, children, baskets
(but we've got the biggest bells of them all)
Bell shaker
bell shaker
bell shaker
bell shaker
posted by boilermonster at 12:39 AM on December 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've only skimmed through these comments, but I did a CTL-F for "comments", so I'm assuming no one has mentioned how awesome the comments are on the original link. To be clear: those comments are awesome.
posted by trip and a half at 1:14 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


He missed another category, which is 'tortured metaphors about how Jesus is great' so as to include my favourite carol, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (which I also like to imagine is really about how an apple tree did something surprising)

Also, just yesterday I was reading cortex's christmas carol generator thread and someone posted the true Boar's Head Carol lyrics, which I will find it very hard not to sing at my choir's carol concert tomorrow.
posted by litereally at 2:04 AM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Seriously, no one has mentioned While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night (or as my wife sang it, Washed Their Socks)? It's the carol you sing when you need to occupy an hour or so. All the verses form a single interminable phrase so it's impossible to skip one without it becoming gibberish.
posted by Octaviuz at 4:35 AM on December 4, 2015


Cortex's Endless Jingling Christmas Carol Mashup Generator, posted last year
posted by rebent at 5:06 AM on December 4, 2015


The definitive Christmas-type-song ranking:

1. Proper Christmas carols, i.e. the churchy Jesusy ones
2. You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
3. Christmas in Hollis
4. Any traditional song with the lyrics reworked by kids to be about Batman or farting
5. Günther's "Ding Dong Christmas Song"
6. The Monster Mash
7. Some Adele songs kind of sound Christmassy if you're drunk and not really paying attention
8. Removing your eardrums with a grapefruit spoon
9. Like 95% of the secular Christmas songs that they've been playing on all ClearChannel stations since late August
10. Jingle Bell Rock/Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (they are more or less interchangeable)
11. Train's "Hey Soul Sister," which is not Christmassy and probably not legally a song, but is still better than
12. Any song that is about snow/winter and not Christmas
13. A slow, painful death alone in the wilderness
14. Wonderful Christmastime
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:12 AM on December 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


Best. MeTa. Ever.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:14 AM on December 4, 2015


The definitive Christmas-type-song ranking:

You left out:

Songs belonging to the Emperor
Christmas songs that sound like flies when heard from a long way off
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:49 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Günther's "Ding Dong Christmas Song"

I thought people had stopped listening to that clown, especially after his recent rants about how successful young female artists should shut the fuck up when there are men in the building.

(If you want Swedish-made parody Germans on your list, Achtung X-Mas is a much better song.)
posted by effbot at 6:07 AM on December 4, 2015


I just saw the episode of The Simpsons where the town becomes a Christmas tourist trap and the family turns their house into a B&B, ruining Marge's Christmas spirit. The best part is when she's tired of the incessant carol singing and forbids all second verses because that's where everything starts to get all weird. Then they get to "Good King Wenceslas," and she yells, "That one gives me the creeps right from the beginning!"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:13 AM on December 4, 2015


C+F Zither - alas, no results. I bloody love The Zither Carol. ........tzing!!!
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 6:15 AM on December 4, 2015


Whenever we're carol singing in my family and we're only going to do two verses, my sister insists that the second verse be the one about the shepherds. And "The First Nowell" is her favorite carol in general. I guess she's got a shepherd thing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:16 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE
SMOKING ON A RUBBER CIGAR...
posted by eriko at 8:11 PM on December 3


WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE
TRIED TO SMOKE A RUBBER CIGAR
IT WAS LOADED
AND EXPLODED
NOW WE'RE ON YONDER STAR
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:58 PM on December 3


Our version went like this:

WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT WERE (said in Southern to rhyme with "are")
SMOKING ON A RUBBER CIGAR...
IT WAS LOADED
AND IT EXPLODED
THAT'S HOW WE TRAVELED SO FAR
posted by mightshould at 6:36 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE
ONE IN A TAXI, ONE IN A CAR
ONE ON A SCOOTER BLARING HIS HOOTER
SMOKING A FAT CIGAR
OHHHHHH
posted by litereally at 7:01 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


While shepherds washed their socks by night
All watching ITV
The angel of the Lord came down
And switched to BBC

Hark, the Herald Tribune sings
Advertising wondrous things
Beecham's Pills are meek and mild
Two for a man, and one for a child

Also: re Nativity weather. A few years back, we went to Jerusalem for Christmas. On the 27th December, we sat drinking gin and tonic in a hotel overlooking Mount Zion, watching the snowploughs go up. There was a lot of snow. It was very cold.
posted by Devonian at 7:08 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


4. Any traditional song with the lyrics reworked by kids to be about Batman or farting

JINGLE BELLS BATMAN SMELLS
ROBIN LAID AN EGG
BATMOBILE LOST ITS WHEEL
AND THE JOKER GOT AWAY

In the version of We Three Kings that we used to sing they all get blown to Mars when their cigar explodes, but I can't remember the rest of the lines about Mars.
posted by lagomorphius at 7:12 AM on December 4, 2015


While shepherds washed their socks by night
All seated 'round the tub
A shower of Ivory Flakes came down
And they began to scrub
posted by lagomorphius at 7:13 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just so long as Fairy Tale of New York isn't on that list, it's fine by me.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 7:15 AM on December 4, 2015


I had no idea that Three Ships was the one with "On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day" which is the only part of that song I apparently ever paid attention to.

Silent Night is nice to sing in Latin.

My high school Latin class once sang "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" in Latin. It is a thing high school Latin classes do. There are many ways to horribly translate Rudolph into Latin: my class used number 4 on this list. I still walk around singing "Rudolphus cervus nasum; Rubicundum habebat" to annoy my husband.
posted by emjaybee at 7:19 AM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


In the spirit of the Boar's Head Carol, one of my favorite English Christmas carols with bits of Latin mixed in is Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva (News! News! 'Ave' [as in 'Ave Maria'] is made from Eve). So right out of the gate, we've got a groaning Latin pun about Mary being the new Eve, in the same way Jesus is the new Adam. I have a sense that a lot of great English Christmas hymns like this one didn't make it into modern usage because post-Reformation England deemed them too 'Marian' (i.e., Catholic).
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:26 AM on December 4, 2015


His #1 is my #1, and the first eight are all also personal favorites so he obviously knows what he's talking about!
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 7:56 AM on December 4, 2015


My high school Latin class once sang "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" in Latin. It is a thing high school Latin classes do.

My school choir sang it in Esperanto one year! (We didn't study Esperanto; someone's Esperanto-enthusiast dad provided the translation.) I can still remember the first couple of lines.
posted by Catseye at 7:56 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]




WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE

When I was little, I always thought Orientar must be a really fancy place to have three kings running it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:07 AM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised "We Three Kings" didn't make it for the myrrh verse:

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

For best results, get the Mario Lanza version with the booming voiceover between verses announcing which king is singing.
posted by gladly at 8:22 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I booked this band at a venue I run last year, they are amazing, here is their incredibly creepy version of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.
posted by emjaybee at 8:45 AM on December 4, 2015


I like Silver Bells the best. And I agree that the Paul Macartney one is the worst ever. The insipid melody ... And those keyboards ... Just wow, really?
posted by freecellwizard at 9:27 AM on December 4, 2015


Let us not forget the genius of ol' Walt Kelly:
Good King Sauerkraut, look out!
On yo' feets uneven.
While the snoo lay roun' about
All kerchoo achievin'.
And the evergreen "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie".
posted by oakroom at 9:46 AM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Why are all the online versions of "Here We Come a-Wassailing" fluty little twee Celtic numbers?? It's a goddamn drinking song. You are supposed to slur it in a drunken bellow as you stagger from house to house through the snow demanding more booze. It is not a tinkly little Boys' Choir song that needs angelic harmonies. It needs to be sung loutishly.

/grumbles
posted by emjaybee at 9:55 AM on December 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


"We Three Kings" is an Epiphany carol.

We three kings of orient are
Tried to smoke a rubber cigar
It was loaded it exploded
Boom pop

We two kinds of orient are
Tried to smoke a rubber cigar
It was loaded it exploded
Boom pop

I one king of orient am
Tried to smoke a rubber cigar
It was loaded it exploded
Boom pop

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiilent Niiiiiiiiiight

posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:45 AM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]



I booked this band at a venue I run last year, they are amazing, here is their incredibly creepy version of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence .
posted by emjaybee at 8:45 AM on December 4 [+] [!]


If there's a non-creepy version of "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," I've yet to hear it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:50 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Songs about sleighs, Santa, sugarplums, etc., are NOT carols, they are garbage that deserves to rot on the side of the street like so much crumpled wrapping paper."

Fine, forget all that. Important, though: songs about bells.

Ding Dong Merrily on High: AWESOME
Carol of the Bells: GREATNESS
Silver Bells: Hey, you do you.
In Liverpool: I DON'T CARE IF IT'S NOT (technically) ABOUT CHRISTMAS, SUZANNE VEGA SELLS IT
Sleigh Ride: PERFECTLY FINE
Jingle Bells: *sigh* Just please don't do the asides, if you have to sing it.
Jingle Bell Rock: TO. HELL. WITH. YOU.
posted by psoas at 11:50 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


From the link: "(Also, this video of Anuna features LADS SINGING MERRILY IN DOUBLETS, so it comes doubly recommended.)"

Anuna are wonderful. I haven't kept up with them but I used to be a big fan. Check them out for more Irish and Latin choral singing.
posted by dnash at 12:35 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


What, no love for Deck Us All With Boston Charlie? Heathens.
posted by egypturnash at 12:51 PM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just so long as Fairy Tale of New York isn't on that list, it's fine by me.

PISTOLS AT DAWN
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:08 PM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Chocolate Burro is probably not a canonical part of the Christmas story either, I'm guessing.
posted by enf at 1:09 PM on December 4, 2015


Translation: The Virgin is doing the washing/Hanging to dry on the rosemary bush/The little angels are singing/and the rosemary bush is flowering.

Thanks for that, y'know, I've had this Gypsy Kings version of "Peces en el Rio" on my Christmas Favorites playlist for many years and somehow never thought to look up a translation!
posted by dnash at 1:19 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I go to Christmas Eve midnight Mass with my Mum every year and they always sing O Holy Night. And every year I cringe in anticipation of the soloist slightly missing the high note on "night Divine" (and she always does) and I still get choked up. Done right it's transcendent, and even slightly off its beautiful.

also where is Boney M's Mary's Boychild because nothing says Christmas like steel drums and a silver jumpsuit
posted by billiebee at 5:43 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


psoas: “Jingle Bell Rock: TO. HELL. WITH. YOU.”
If you insist.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:12 PM on December 4, 2015


Just so long as Fairy Tale of New York isn't on that list, it's fine by me.

You are dead to me, and you are getting coal in your stocking this year.
posted by eriko at 6:34 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


IT WAS CHRISTMAS EVE BABE,
FROM THE DRUNK TANK
posted by eriko at 6:38 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Underpants Monster: When I was little, I always thought Orientar must be a really fancy place to have three kings running it.

I always sang it as Orientar just on purpose for fun. In my mind that country is right next to Forwichistan that I was always pledging allegiance to.
posted by traveler_ at 8:52 PM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


also where is Boney M's Mary's Boychild because nothing says Christmas like steel drums and a silver jumpsuit

You joke but somehow that carol is the majority of my white canadian childhood.
posted by GuyZero at 11:44 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


What, no love for Deck Us All With Boston Charlie? Heathens.

Yoo-hoo!
posted by oakroom at 5:17 AM on December 5, 2015


“An ode to Shane MacGowan and Fairytale of New York,” Caroline O'Donoghue, The Irish Post, 04 December 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 6:57 AM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have not actually heard any Christmas carols yet this year, but even so just thinking about how many I'm going to be forced to listen to on the drive out to visit the aunt and uncles makes me already sick to the teeth of the whole goddamn lot of them.

Grinch, grinch, grinch.
posted by rifflesby at 9:32 AM on December 5, 2015


Oh! My apologies, oakroom, I was on my phone scrolling through and didn't bother searching.

Meanwhile here is a chorus doing a mighty spirited rendition of Boston Charlie.
posted by egypturnash at 9:35 AM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


NO EL, NO EL
NO EL, NO EL
I'M STUCK ON THE PLATFORM
IT'S FREEZING AS HELL...
posted by eriko at 6:03 PM on December 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


For something new, try Lux Aurumque. Listen to it here.

And speaking of bells ... I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.
posted by gudrun at 8:13 AM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


About a half hour ago I mis-read the title "Personent Hodie" as "Persistent Hoodie", and now I can't un-see it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:01 AM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]




Christmas memories you don't forget: being in church singing O Christmas Tree, and having the nice old German lady from the village bursting into uncontrollable tears.
posted by Devonian at 7:26 AM on December 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


OK, guys, guys, here's my Eastern European Carol Story.

I grew up in a small town with very srtong Irish- Italian- and Polish-American communities - many the descendents of the immigrant laborers who dug that particular stretch of the Erie Canal and then farmed and manufactured alongside it. Two things happened in my senior year of high school : Our French teacher, who had spent her childhood in Soviet Lithuania, agreed to start a Russian-language club after school and give the half-dozen of us who were interested a Russian lesson once a week. We also got a new choir/vocal music director. The girl singers who had been pets of the last director didn't get on with the latter, so suddenly I found myself getting more attention and more solos.

At Christmas, she asked me if I would do something special for her. Her elderly mother was coming up from the city to stay with her over the holidays as a trial for for possibly moving in with her, which she really wanted. Turns out the mother had come from Poland as an adult; she had been a Carmelite novice who cast off the veil at the very last minute to marry her childhood sweetheart, and they had come to America to avoid the scandal and shame to their families. She said since Russian was the closest thing to Polish anyone in the town would be able to get their lips around, would I be willing to sing the carol "W Zlobie Lezy" (known to Anglophones as "Infant Holy, infant Lowly) if she coached me pronunciation?

She wrote it out phonetically and painstakingly worked with me. It was set up so I'd sing a verse in Polish and then the choir would repeat in English and harmony, for two verses. The big night came. Mama was pointed out to me in the front row. No pressure, huh? Anyhow, I stumbled a bit over the first line, but I looked down at Mama and she was just smiling like a kid opening her stocking. That gave me the confidence to just let go, let it happen, and sing just to her. It was one of those tranformative musical moments that you just never want to end. Both mother and daughter got a little misty-eyed, and one or two older people in the audience said they remembered their own grannies singing it when they were little, and how good it made them feel.. THere is such a great surge of power that comes when you know you've been able to mess with people's minds like that, in a good way. I was told I was an honorary [ethnic slur].
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:30 AM on December 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


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