The Best Classical Music Christmas Songs

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

It’s that time of year again! Get into the holiday spirit with our list of the best classical Christmas songs. From traditional carols to modern masterpieces, these pieces will have you feeling festive in no time.


As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, many people start to feel the holiday season approaching. One of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit is to listen to festive music. And what better genre of music to get you into the Christmas spirit than classical music?

There are so many great classical Christmas songs out there, it can be hard to narrow down the list. But we’ve done our best to put together a list of some of the best classical Christmas songs for you to enjoy this holiday season.

So put on your cozy Christmas sweater, pour yourself a mug of hot cocoa, and enjoy these beautiful classical Christmas songs.

“Ave Maria” by Franz Schubert

One of the most popular and well-known Christmas songs is “Ave Maria” by Franz Schubert. The song is based on a poem by German poet, Johann Ludwig Uhland, and was originally composed as a setting for seven voices. Schubert’s “Ave Maria” is a beautiful and serene piece of music that has been performed by many famous classical singers over the years.

“The Nutcracker Suite” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

“The Nutcracker Suite” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of the most popular classical music Christmas songs of all time. The piece was originally written for the ballet “The Nutcracker,” which premiered in 1892. The ballet tells the story of a young girl named Clara who is given a nutcracker doll by her godfather. On Christmas Eve, the nutcracker comes to life and takes her on a magical journey to the Land of Sweets. Along the way, they battle the Mouse King and dance with the Sugarplum Fairy. The suite is made up of eight parts, each representing a different character or scene from the ballet. Some of the most famous sections include “The March of the Toy Soldiers” and “The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy.”

“Messiah” by George Frideric Handel

One of the most popular and well-known classical pieces, “Messiah” by George Frideric Handel, is a must-have for any music lover’s holiday playlist. This oratorio, or musical drama, was written in just 24 days and first performed in London in 1742. Since then, it has been performed countless times all over the world and is a staple of holiday concerts and choral performances. The work includes some of the most beautiful and moving passages in all of classical music, including the famous “Hallelujah” chorus.

“The Christmas Song” by Mel Torme and Robert Wells

“The Christmas Song” is a classic Christmas song written in 1945 by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells. The song was first recorded by Tormé and Wells in 1946 and released as a single in 1947. It has been covered by many artists, including Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and The Carpenters.

“O Holy Night” by Adolphe Adam

This French Christmas carol, composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847, is one of the most popular and enduring Christmas songs of all time. Its English lyrics, written by John Sullivan Dwight, are based on the French poem “Minuit, chrétiens” (“Midnight, Christians”) by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877).

The song was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1847 at the church of Saint-Eustache in Paris. It quickly gained popularity and has been sung by some of the world’s most famous classical singers including Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, Mariah Carey, Andrea Bocelli, and Michael Bublé.

O Holy Night has been covered by many artistes across genres over the years including Bing Crosby, Celine Dion, Natalie Cole, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Reba McEntire.

“Silent Night” by Franz Gruber

“Silent Night” is a popular Christmas carol, composed in 1818 by Franz Gruber to words by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. It was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2011. The song has been recorded by many singers across many genres. The version sung by Bing Crosby is the third best-selling single of all-time.

The song’s original manuscript has been lost; however, a copy was made by Gruber’s student, Franz Xaver Gruber, and given to Mohr the next day. This copy was made in 1820 and is the only surviving manuscript of the carol.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by Felix Mendelssohn

One of the most popular classical Christmas songs, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was written by Felix Mendelssohn in 1841. The music is adapted from a much earlier piece, “Vater unser im Himmelreich,” which was composed by Martin Luther in 1524. Luther’s melody was paired with new lyrics in 1739 by Charles Wesley, and it wasn’t until Mendelssohn’s arrangement that the song became popular outside of church circles.

“Joy to the World” by George Frederick Handel

The text of “Joy to the World” is derived from Psalm 98, Psalm 96:11-12, and Genesis 3:17-18. Handel’s music was first published in 1761 in an arrangement by John Christopher Smith. The German text was translated into English by the English hymnwriter Isaac Watts and first appeared in print in 1719. Watts’ least-known Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World”, was first printed in 1719 within a collection of his works entitled The Psalms of David.

“Auld Lang Syne” by Robert Burns

Auld Lang Syne is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world, its traditional use being to farewell the old year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations and as a farewell or ending to other occasions.

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