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The Best Traditional Christmas carols: lyrics and their origin

Carols are one of the most timeless customs in many regions. They are usually associated with celebrations of the Twelve Days, that is Christmas, New Year and Epiphany.

 

Essentially, the carols are folk songs and their lyrics express customs that are passed down from generation to generation and are sung even today.

 

We Three Kings Of Orient Are We Three Kings Of Orient Are

 

John Henry Hopkins Jr. was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was the author and composer of this christmas song. He composed the carol around 1857 and was inspired from the narrative of the journey of the magi in Matthew 2:1-12.

 

We three kings of Orient are bearing gifts we traverse afar,

Field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder Star.

O, star of wonder, star of might, star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.

 

 

Oh little town of Bethlehem 

 

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) penned this cherished Christmas hymn specifically for the Sunday school children within his Philadelphia parish, Holy Trinity Church.

 

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie;

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

 

Oh little town of Bethlehem

 

Silent night

 

Silent night stands as a timeless Christmas carol. Ideal for various settings such as concerts, performances, church gatherings, and home celebrations. 

 

Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright,

Round yon Virgin Mother and Child.

Holy Infant, so tender and mild.

Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

 

 

The first Noel

 

This song is a traditional christmas carol from the 16th or 17th century. The word ‘Noel’ originates from the French word ‘christmas' and Latin word ‘natalis' which means birthday.

 

The first Noel, the angel did say,

Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;

In fields where they lay keeping their sheep,

On a cold winter's night that was so deep.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel. Born is the King of Israel.

 

The first Noel

 

Away in a manger

 

The origins of the Christmas hymn "Away in a Manger" have often been linked to Martin Luther (1483-1546), but these connections are largely steeped in legend rather than historical accuracy.

 

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,

The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay. 

 

 

Hark! The herald angels sing

 

This Christmas song is based on Luke 2:8-14, the well-known segment of the Christmas narrative that encompasses the angels and the shepherds.

 

Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!

Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled."

Joyful, all ye nations, rise. Join the triumph of the skies;

With th' angelic host proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem."

Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King! 

 

 

Away in a manger

 

O come, all ye faithful

 

The Christmas hymn was a version from a Roman Catholic traditional text that was found in the 18th century in the College at Douai.

 

O come, all ye faithful, joyful, and triumphant,

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!

Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels!

O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him,

O come let us adore Him: Christ, the Lord. 

 

 

Joy to the world

 

This Christmas hymn is based on a second part of a psalm (Psalm 98:4-9), entitled “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom.”

 

Joy to the world! The Lord is come:

Let earth receive her King. 

Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room.

 And heaven and nature sing,

 And heaven and nature sing, 

And heaven and heaven and nature sing. 

 

 

Joy to the world

Christmas Carols in Greece

Carols are one of the most timeless customs in many regions of Greece.

 

 

Christmas Carols -  in Bethlehem

 

We bid good evening, gentle folk.

Would you… would you desire to hear told

Of Christ's nativity divine?

We'll sing... we'll sing it to your household.

 

For Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Sing out... sing out in jubilation!

The heavens break forth into joy.

Rejoice... rejoice all of creation

.

The King of heaven has been born,

Who is… who is the world's creator.

With horses 'round him in a cave,

He lies... he lies inside the manger.

 

The hosts of angels sing His praise:

"All glo... all glory in the highest!"

The faithful shepherds at his side

Draw near... draw near him, first to be blest.

 

From out of Persia, Magi come;

With gifts... with gifts they will adore him.

Led by the brightness of the star,

Three kings… three kings, who bow before him.

 

So, many years we wish to you

And all…and all of your relations.

And may God grant you peace and joy

In all...in all your celebrations.

 

Christmas Carols -  in Bethlehem

 

Christmas Carols - Lyrics in Greek

 

Καλήν εσπέραν άρχοντες,

Kalin esperan, archondes,

 

αν ει.. αν είναι  ορισμός σας,

an i... an ine orismos sas,

 

Χριστού τη Θείαν γέννησην,

Christou tin thian yennisin

 

να πω… να πω  στ’ αρχοντικό σας.

na po... napo st' archontiko sas.

 

Χριστός γεννάται σήμερον,

Christos yennate simeron

 

εν Βη.. εν Βηθλέεμ  τη πόλη,

en Vi... en Vithleem ti poli,

 

οι ουρανοί αγάλλονται,

 i Ourani aghallonde,

 

χαίρεται η κτίσις όλη.

cheri, cheri i ktisis oli.

 

Εν τω σπηλαίω τίκτετα,

En to spileo tikteta,

 

εν φα.. εν φάτνη των αλόγων,

en fat... en fatni ton aloghon,

 

ο βασιλεύς των ουρανών,

o Vasilefs ton ouranon

 

και ποι…και ποητής των όλων.

ke pi... ke piitis ton olon.

 

Πλήθος αγγέλων ψάλλουσι 

Plithos angelon psallousi

 

το Δο.. το Δόξα εν Υψίστοις

to dho... to dhoxa en ipsistis

 

και τούτο άξιον εστί 

ke touto axion esti

 

η των… η των ποιμένων πίστις.

i ton... i ton pimenon pistis.

 

Εκ της Περσίας έρχονται 

Ek tis Persias erchonde

 

τρεις Μά… τρεις Μάγοι με τα δώρα

tris ma... tris maghi me ta dhora,

 

άστρον λαμπρόν τους οδηγεί 

astron lambron tous odhighi

 

χωρίς…χωρίς  να λείψει η ώρα.

choris... choris na lipsi ora.

 

Χρονιά πολλά ευχόμεθα,

Chronia polla evchometha

 

στους σε.. στους σεβαστούς γονείς σας

stous se... stous sevastous ghonis sas

 

και σ’όλους τους αγαπητούς

ke s'olous tous aghapitous

 

φίλους.. φίλους και συγγενείς σας!

filous... filous ke singenis sas!

 

 

Carols Christmas Carols Christmas

 

The song 'Christmas' is very well-known in Greece and abroad as well. It is not a folk song, while its lyricist and composer are Stelios Sperantzas and Georgios Horafas respectively.

 

In the corner fireplace glow the embers red and still. 

While outside the snowflakes fall, softly on the window sill.

All the village keeps a watch in the cold moonlight 

church bells toll the glad some news: Christ is born this night. 

You whom all the angels praise, come to us this holy night. 

We shall cut the Christmas bread, join us for the sweet delight.

Near the hearth so warm and bright,  we have made your bed,

 where my Christ Child you may lay down your sleepy head.

 

 

Carols Christmas - Lyrics in Greek

 

Στη γωνιά μας κόκκινο τ’ αναμμένο τζάκι.

Sti ghonia mas kokkino t’ anammeno tzaki.

 

Τούφες χιόνι πέφτουνε στο παραθυράκι.

Toufes chioni peftoune sto parathiraki.

 

Silent night

 

Όλο απόψε ξάγρυπνο μένει το χωριό

Olo apopse xaghripno meni to chorio

 

και χτυπά Χριστούγεννα το καμπαναριό.

ke ktipa Christoughenna  to kambanario.

 

Έλα Εσύ, που αρχάγγελοι Σε ανυμνούν απόψε,

Ela esi, p'Archangeli s'a nimnoun apopse

 

πάρε από την πίττα μας που ευωδιά και κόψε.

pare apo tin pitta mas pou evodhia, ke kopse.

 

Έλα κι η γωνίτσα μας καρτερεί να ρθεις!

Ela k'i ghonitsa mas karteri na'r this,

 

Σου έστρωσα, Χριστούλη μου, για να ζεσταθείς!

Sou strosa, Christouli mou, ghia na zestathis. 

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