Irish Christmas Carols and Where to Find Them

Updated July 1, 2021
woman holding sheet music at christmas

Every country has its own unique Christmas carols that can light up the holiday season, including Ireland. Explore some new and old Irish Christmas carols to liven up your Christmas playlist.

Popular Irish Christmas Carols

The people of Ireland are predominately Catholic, so Christmas is a reverent time filled with symbolism. For Christians, holiday greenery made with holly represents the crown of thorns and the blood of Jesus. Irish people place candles in the window to welcome Mary and Joseph.

In Gaelic, "Nollaig Shona Dhuit" means "Happy Christmas!" In addition to celebrating the reason for the season, the Irish have a fun public holiday on December 26th known as St. Stephen's Day. Learn some lively and unique Irish Christmas carols to expand your holiday listening.

Wexford Carol

Believed to have originated in County Wexford in the 12th century, this carol is also called "The Enniscorthy Carol." It is a traditional Irish Christmas carol that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. This song has been recorded and played by numerous bands including The Celtic Woman.

Curoo, Curoo

Thought to date back to the 18th century, Curoo, Curoois also known as Carol of the Birds. The original creator of this song is unknown, but it celebrates the birds and their song on Christmas day. It's become part of several famous Irish singer's repertoires including The Clancy Brothers.

Bells Over Belfast

Bells Over Belfast is an Irish Christmas folk song written by George Millar and recorded by The Irish Rovers. The lyrics of this song illuminate the importance of finding peace in the scene. It also highlights the rocky road that must be taken to find peace.

The Holly Tree

By some families, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus's birth. Therefore, several Irish Christmas carols like The Holly Tree celebrate this momentous occasion through the symbolic holly tree. It was adapted from a traditional British folk Christmas carol The Holly and the Ivy. The song The Holly Tree was adapted by The Clancy Brother for their Christmas album in 1969.

Christmas in Killarney

In 1950, Christmas in Killarney was written by John Redmond, James Cavenaugh, and Frank Weldon, but it was recorded by several artists including The Irish Rovers. It sings of the joy of the Christmas season in Killarney from sleigh rides to memories with your family.

A Silent Night (Christmas 1915)

Written by Cormac MacConnell in the 1990s, this haunting carol details how troops laid down their guns during World War I on Christmas day. It has been adapted by other musicians including The Web Boys and Jerry Lynch.

Once in Royal David's City

Written in 1848 by Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander as a poem, Once in Royal David's City was set to music by composer Henry John Gantlet. Since it was designed as a children's hymn, it uses catchy lyrics to tell of the birth of Jesus. This Irish Christmas Carol has been adapted by vocalists including The King's College Choir.

Whilst Shepherds Watched Their Flock by Night

A famous Irish Christmas carol written by Nahum Tate in the 1600s, this carol describes the angels telling the shepherds about the birth of Christ. Several choirs and vocalists like the Choir of King's College and The Irish Tenors have made this carol a famous holiday tradition.

Listening to Irish Christmas Carols

Celebrating the holidays with customs from your ancestors is growing in popularity. Incorporating these traditions is a great way to keep a culture alive and help children understand their background. You can also broaden the Christmas magic by incorporating Christmas carols from all over the globe.

Irish Christmas Carols and Where to Find Them