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11 Of The Best Irish Christmas Songs

11 Of The Best Irish Christmas Songs

There are some mighty Irish Christmas Songs.

And, while some of the more popular Christmas songs in Ireland were originally written by non-Irish musicians, plenty of the festive tunes below were.

In this guide, you’ll find a clatter of Irish songs with a lovely festive buzz to them to play during the Christmas season.

The best Irish Christmas Songs

Christmas songs in Ireland

Photos via Shutterstock

Now, some Irish Christmas Songs (i.e. the Fairytale of New York) tend to grab all airtime during December.

However, there are heaps of lesser-known Christmas songs in Ireland that are worth kicking-back to.

1. Fairytale of New York

Arguably one of the most popular Irish Christmas Songs of all time, ‘Fairytale of New York’ is known and loved the world over.

Released by The Pogues back in 1987, this enduring Christmas song has officially been voted “Best Christmas Song of All Time” by various Irish TV and magazine polls.

This lovely duet by Shane McGowan and Kirsty MacColl tells the love story of two Irish emigrants in New York and was written by band member Jim Finer. 

2. Christmas the Way I Remember

One of the lesser known Irish Christmas Songs is the brilliant ‘Christmas the Way I Remember’.

Featuring words by Darren Holden set to the Scottish Loch Lomond melody “Red is the Rose” this heartwarming Christmas song was released by High Kings in November 2019.

The sentimental refrain “I’m coming home…” makes this a classic song as it recalls Christmases past “the way I remember”. 

Related read: Check out our guide to 13 of the most unique Irish Christmas traditions

3. Christmas in Killarney

Christmas in Killarney

Photo by Brian Morrison via Ireland’s Content Pool

Christmas in Killarney may be a “golden oldie” but it retains its popularity since it was released back on 1950 by Dennis Day.

Written by American songwriters John Redmond, James Cavanaugh and Frank Weldon, there’s a lovely ‘olde worlde’ feel to this one.

Like many of the more popular Christmas songs in Ireland, this has been recorded by many artists including Bing Crosby (1951), the Irish Rovers (2002) and Northern Ireland folk band Rend Collective (2020).

4. The Wexford Carol

Believed to have been written as early as the 12th century, The Wexford Carol was written in Enniscorthy and is also known as the Enniscorthy Carol.

One of the more traditional Irish Christmas Songs, it tells the story of the birth of Jesus and the nativity.

It was made popular in the early 20th century by William Grattan Flood, organist at St Aidan’s Cathedral in Enniscorthy. It was published in the Oxford Book of Carols and has lyrics in both English and Irish.

5. Once in Royal David’s City

Written in 1848 as a poem by Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander, this popular traditional Christmas carol was set to music by composer Henry John Gantlet.

It was intended as a children’s hymn with colourful lyrics that tell the story of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, the royal city of David.

It has been recorded many times including by Petula Clark, Jethro Tull and the choristers of Kings’ College Choir in Cambridge. 

Related read: Check out our guide to 11 of the most interesting Irish Christmas facts

6. Curoo, Curoo

Curoo Curoo is also known as the “Carol of the Birds” as it mimics the song of the birds visiting the manger on that first Christmas Day.

It’s believed that it dates back to the 1800s and the original author is unknown.

It has become a traditional Christmas song, included in many repertoires by Irish singers such as The Clancy Brothers and Danny O’Flaherty.   

7. Rebel Jesus

Irish Christmas music

Photo via Shutterstock

One of the more upbeat Christmas songs in Ireland is Rebel Jesus written by Jackson Browne.

This has been recorded by many famous bands, not least The Chieftains who included it on their Christmas album Bells of Dublin.

It’s a catchy folk song citing Jesus as a social rebel fighting against injustice, but the words are seen by some as controversial.

8. Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil

This popular Irish song “Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil” means “That Night in Bethlehem”. The lively music has the rhythm of a traditional reel and some say it dates back to the 7th century AD.

The haunting lyrics have been recorded by Anne-Marie O’Farrell (1988), The Chieftains (1991) and by Celtic Woman on their 2006 album A Christmas Celebration.

This is a good tune to have playing in the background as you tuck into your Irish Christmas dinner!

9. The Holly Tree

The Holly Tree celebrates the traditional story of Christmas through the symbolic Holly Tree.

It was adapted by The Clancy Brothers from the much older folk carol “The Holly and the Ivy” and was included in their 1969 Christmas album so it’s been around for a while.

10. Bells Over Belfast

Belfast Christmas markets 2022

Photos via Shutterstock

Bells Over Belfast is an Irish Christmas fold song written by George Millar and recorded by the Irish Rovers for their Songs of Christmas album released in 1999.

The song emphasizes “the rocky road that leads to peace” and the importance of finding peace and unity through the story of Christmas. 

11. Whilst Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night

One of the oldest and best Christmas songs is the classic carol “While Shepherds Watched their Flock by Night”. It was written by Dublin-born Irish poet and hymnist Nahum Tate who became Poet Laureate in 1692.

The carol focuses on the shepherds visited by angles telling them of the birth of Christ. It’s become a real Christmas tradition recorded by The Irish Tenors and Kings College Choir Cambridge in the past. 

FAQs about Christmas songs in Ireland

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What’s a good carol in Irish?’ to ‘What’s good for a party?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are the best Irish Christmas Songs?

In our opinion, the best Irish Christmas Songs are the Fairytale of New York, Christmas in Killarney and The Wexford Carol.

What are popular Christmas songs in Ireland?

It goes without saying that Fairytale of New York is an island-wide hit. Many festive tunes, like Carol of the Bells, while not Irish, are very popular here.

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