O Holy Night Is Your Christmas Carol Champion

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Holiday ornaments on the unseasonably quiet streets of Cherry Creek North, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020.

Updated 1:40 p.m.

In the end, there could only be one. And while “Silent Night” is as time-honored as they come, it wasn’t enough — “O Holy Night” is the champion carol in our bracket of Christmas classics.

There's a little magic of the season buried here in the final two of our 32-carol bracket. For one thing, it is said soldiers laid down their arms on a cold December night to sing one of these carols — or maybe it was the other one.

Still, the Christmas truce of World War I, a long-told and almost mythological story at this point, encapsulates the spirit of what we hope to find in the holiday season. A chance to set enmity aside, if just for a moment, and find some solace in friends, family, holiday cheer and fruitcake (probably. Let’s not get carried away…).

So let us lift our egg nogs high and toast the winning carol written in 1847 by a small-town French poet and his famous composer friend, Adolphe Adam, for Christmas Mass. “O Holy Night” came stateside thanks to John Sullivan Dwight, a minister who found his calling in music, specifically as a critic. He translated what we all sing and know today as the lyrics from the original French poem by Placide Cappeau and published the carol in his journal. From there it spread rapidly into church services, especially in the North where it was popular with abolitionists due to the third verse.

You’re having more than one nog anyway, so why not save some tidings of comfort and joy for the 30 songs that we arranged in a bracket of pitched competition which, we hope, was a small diversion in a tough year.

Listen to all of this year's contenders on The Carol Countdown hosted by Matt Weesner on CPR Classical: Dec. 17 at 11 a.m., Dec. 19 at 2 p.m., Dec. 21 at 7 a.m., Dec. 24 at 3 p.m. and Dec. 25 at 12 p.m. Votes in all five rounds of our bracket, as well as your write-in missed carol submissions in the first round, were used to help us arrange the order of the annual carol countdown.

CPR Classical's Marilyn Cooley contributed to this story.

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