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Christmas carols and songs

This page contains PDFs of reasonably singable 4-part arrangements of twenty-some Christmas carols and songs, aimed at Unitarian Universalists and other religious liberals. These carols and songs supplement the current Untarian Universalist hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition (SLT). Included are carols and songs with words from older Unitarian Universalist hymnals (with, e.g., gender-specific but more familiar language; or references to God; etc.), carols and songs not included in SLT (including wassail songs, "Jingle Bells," etc.), and one or two arrangements that may be more singable than the ones in SLT.

The older hymnals that I consulted include Hymns of the Spirit (HoS, "the red [or maroon] hymnal" from 1937); We Sing of Life (WSoL, 955); Hymns for the Celebration of Life (HCL, the "blue hymnal" from 1964); How Can I Keep from Singing (HCIKS, produced by First Unitarian in Los Angeles in 1976); and the liberal Quaker hymnal Songs of the Spirit (SotS).

These hymns are online mostly for my convenience, so this is not meant to be a comprehensive collection of Christmas carols sung by religious liberals. Also, note that I have not included any material protected by copyright. More Christmas and Yuletide songs can be found elsewhere on my Web site: Folkish songs for Christmas (including guitar chords, some lead sheets); also see Christmas carols and Yuletide songs for lyrics.

Angels We Have Heard on High
Words from older hymnal with the more singable arrangement from HCL.

Angels We Have Heard on High (Trad. words)
Same arrangement as above, with traditional Christian words.

Cornish Wassail
Not in SLT.

Deck the Hall
In the key of D, mostly because I cannot reliably sing above a high D. SLT has it in Eb; WSoL has it in E; and HCIKS has it in F.

The Friendly Beasts
4-part (SATB) folk-style arrangement, with four extra verses (of mixed quality) that are not in SLT.

The Friendly Beasts
4-part (SATB) arrangement based on R.V.W. 1906 arrangement of Orientis Partibus. (See also no. 158 in WSoL.)

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Not in SLT. With 9 (!) verses.

Good King Wenceslas
Not in SLT. Really for St. Stephen's Day (Dec. 26).

Go Tell It on the Mountains
SATB arrangement (which is lacking in SLT), based on Harry T. Burleigh's lovely piano/voice arrangement from 1917.

Here We Come A-Wassailing
Not in SLT.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
The classic Henry W. Longfellow poem, set to a R.V.W. tune. N.B.: Longfellow was a Unitarian.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
V. 1 of the classic Henry W. Longfellow poem set to Old Hundredth, for use as a doxology.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Mostly follows the version in HCL.

Jingle Bells
Not in SLT (even though it's by a Unitarian composer).

Jingle Coins
Anti-consumerist parody, not in SLT.

Joy to the World
Words from HoS. (I have correctly attributed the music to an English tune arranged by Lowell Mason, and have not repeated the common incorrect attribution to Handel.)

Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
The classic Praetorius arrangement of this lovely hymn, from HCL.

O Come All Ye Faithful
With the refrain in English translation (unlike SLT, which keeps it in Latin). Also includes words in Latin.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Advent song, this version from HoS.

O Tannenbaum
Not in SLT. Also includes words in German.

Once in Royal David's City
Version from HCL, with Cecil Frances Alexander's social-justice oriented (and theistic) second verse included as a bonus.

Rise Up Shepherds
SATB arrangement (which is lacking in SLT), with indications of how to use as call-and-response tune.

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night
V. 1 of the classic Isaac Watts Christmas hymn ("...all seated on the ground...") set to a wonderful "fuguing tune" by Daniel Read, composer of the First New England School. This would be a stretch for most congregations, but a fun tune for choirs to sing.

Silent Night
The old 6/4 arrangement of Silent Night from HoS.

Star in the East
A hauntingly lovely carol from The Southern Harmony. While the theology of this carol might not be acceptable to many liberal congregations, the beauty of the tune makes it worth including here; and the fourth verse has something of a liberation theology feel to it. This is a 3-part arrangement (STB) most suitable for choirs, rather than congregational singing. The melody has been transposed up to the sopranos, and the treble line of the original has been given to the tenors to make it easier for most choirs. Note that as originally written, all parts would have been doubled an octave apart by men's and women's voices.

This Endris Night
Tune and arrangement from HoS, with two sets of words: words to the original English carol set with the music, and words contained in HoS at the bottom of the page.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Not in SLT. Partridges, pear trees, the whole nine yards.

We Three Kings
Typeset to allow skipping over vv. 3 and 4; with v. 5 from the 1937 hymnal.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Not in SLT. (Must -- have -- figgy -- pudding!)


Page updated 7 January 2014.