Good King Wenceslaus
All my childhood Christmases occured during summer heatwaves in a sunburned land characterised by wildfire, burning northerly winds and dust storms. So all those songs about cold and snow and fir trees and medieval kings fascinated me and took me away into a faraway land. Here is a song written in 1853 in Britain by an Anglican minister about a duke, a thousand years earlier, who gave to the poor in Bohemia - in order to teach children about the virtue of generosity in celebrating the birth of a Jewish child in Bethlehem another thousand years earlier - and listened to by a marvelling child in twentieth century Australia. Like a beautiful woven gown circling the world with goodwill down the ages, this song says something about Christmas. And about goodwill to all men.
O Come All Ye Faithful
As a child I used to think it was O Calm All Ye Faithful and I would think to myself Why are they telling everybody to relax? Maybe it's because tomorrow is Christmas; and everyone is getting way too excited! Like me!
This is the most recorded song in history and the most famous of all the Christmas hymns. It exists because of a broken organ in a little parish in the little alpine village of Oberndorf in 1818. The priest, Father Mohr, asked his friend, Dr Gruber to compose some words for a poem to be sung with accompanying guitar because the organ had broken down. Dr Gruber did so in time for midnight mass. For me, the gentle lilt and simple melody of Silent Night is quintessentially Austrian.
Away in a Manger
Just because it is a sweet song, poignant, naive and beautiful. Children love it and it was the first Christmas song I learned, as far as I can remember.
Ave Maria sung by Kiri Te Kanawa
Find a copy of this, settle back on Christmas night, put the kids to bed, put the dog out, turn off the TV, turn off everything else, disable the front door bell, take the phone off the hook, turn down the lights and listen. If tears of joy are not running down your cheeks by the end, then you've already died and gone to heaven. On second thoughts, let the dog stay inside and listen with you.
Happy Christmas, every one.