German Christmas Songs

Many German Christmas Songs became popular when they were translated into English. Chances are you've sung some of these holiday favorites without realizing that the song originated hundreds of years ago in Germany. 

Here are some English carols with German origins, as well as some traditional carols that are still sung in Germany today.

English Classics with German Beginnings
These Christmas carols, popular in English, began as German songs:

  • "Stille Nacht": The well-known and very spiritual "Silent Night" was originally written in German. It was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, with lyrics by Joseph Franz Mohr, and sung for the first time in Austria in 1818 in a church in Oberndorf. It was 24 years before it was published in English, by John Freeman Young.
  • "O Tannenbaum," known in English as "O Christmas Tree," is a traditional song that has been sung since the 16th century. This is one of the carols that is secular in nature; although the word "Christmas" appears in the English translation, there are no religious references to the holiday. The most well-known modern version in German was written by Ernst Anschütz in 1824. The most commonly used English translation was published in 1963 by George K. Evans.

Traditional German Carols
These German Christmas carols began as regular religious songs. Today they are well-loved carols that welcome the Christmas season.

  • "Alle Jahre Wieder," written by Wilhelm Hey in 1837 with music by Ernst Anschütz. This song tells how the image of the Christ child returns each year to bless everyone and guide them.    
  • "Es ist ein Ros' Entsprungen," in English, "How a Rose E'er Blooming," features music written in 1599 by Köln. It first appeared in a German hymnal, and describes Mary giving birth to the baby Jesus. The English version was written by Theodore Baker in 1894.  
  • "Heidschi Bumbeidschi" is a lullaby that is a traditional German Christmas song, although it has very little to do with Christmas at all. It is believed to have originated in the 1700s in Austria. The translation includes soothing nonsense words for lulling a child to sleep; the other lyrics are about a child whose mother has left him. Tradition has made this part of the German Christmas song repertoire.  
  • "Morgen kommt der… " is sung to the melody of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." This carol has lyrics written by Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1850. It's about Santa coming to bring toys to children who are eagerly waiting for his arrival.
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