What are the indispensable Christmas carols?

Two years ago, I posed the opposite question to Hot Air readers in a burst of Christmas Eve misanthropy, so consider this a long-overdue penance.  What Christmas carols simply must be heard in order to make a joyous season more complete?  Which specific versions do you like best?  For instance, one might love “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, while detesting the disco version of it (a big thanks to Duane “Generalissimo” Patterson of the Hugh Hewitt show for dropping that into a break bed last night).  As I mentioned in the post two years ago, you can love “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt even if you want to smash the radio when Madonna sings it.

So what are your favorites, the must-hear carols of the season?  My tastes run generally to the religious Christmas songs, especially to the hymns and classics, but I have a few more modern and secular favorites as well.  Here are a few favorites from the First Mate and me to start us off:

  • Silent Night – This is one the FM’s favorites, as it puts her exactly in the frame of mind of the reason for the season.
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – This song and its hope for world peace is timeless.  It’s about Christmas, but more about Christianity.
  • Gloria in Excelsis Deo – Just a beautiful song, one of the best of the season.
  • Ode to Joy – Not so much a carol, obviously, but it’s indispensable at Christmas.  One of my favorite pieces of classical music as well.  And it went well with the ending of the hilarious Get Smart movie with Steve Carrell, but don’t hold that against it.
  • Joy to the World
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Carol of the Bells – It’s a carol, and it has words, but I actually prefer the instrumental versions better.  The Trans-Siberian Orchestra has a good version of it, which blends God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen into the introduction.  Speaking of which …
  • God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen/We Three Kings, Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan – I’m a sucker for harmonies and acoustic guitars. It gives me the feeling of sitting near the fireplace and singing with friends and family, celebrating and enjoying the holiday … as long as you have friends and family with a lot of musical talent.
  • Mary, Did You Know – This is a great example that shows that a modern Christmas song can capture the true meaning of Christmas.  I haven’t heard a bad version of it, but Reba McEntire’s is especially good, laying off of the excessive orchestration of some other versions.

Here are a couple of our favorites to entertain you on this Christmas eve.

And for those of you who simply must have a disco Christmas …