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Essential Irish Christmas Songs for the Best Festive Playlist

(Photo: modified from MadamLead via Canva)

Best Christmas Songs in Ireland

Christmas is coming and you feel like some festive cheer with an Irish twist? Do you need asome inspiration for your Christmas playlist?

This guide to the top Irish Christmas songs is all you need whether you are looking for:

  • Popular Christmas songs in Ireland
  • Christmas songs in the Irish language 
  • Christmas songs performed by Irish artists 

While this long list of xmas songs and carols is not conclusive, it does include some of the most popular Christmas songs in Ireland. 

Like them or by the end of the festive season, loathe them, they are certainly part and parcel of the Christmas experience! 

While you are in the festive mood, why not also learn more about some Irish Christmas culture and some of the most loved favorite Irish Christmas Traditions? The post includes everythings from how to say Merry Christmas in Irish to what should be included in a traditional Irish Christmas dinner and lots more. 

Christmas Songs Ireland – The Most Popular Festive Hits

  1. Fairytale in New York – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl
  2. Last Christmas – Wham!
  3. All I want for Christmas – Mariah Carey
  4. Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono
  5. Walking in the Air – Peter Auty
  6. Do They Know it Christmas Time – Band Aid
Holly on sheet music
Holly branches are a traditional decoration often found in Irish houses at Christmas time
(Photo: © Esolla via Canva)

Fairytale in New York – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

Fairytale in New York by the Pogues is possibly the most famous Irish Christmas song. It is definitely a Christmas song Irish people are very fond of. For some people, it is memorable as the Irish Christmas song with funny lyrics, after all not every Irish Christmas song mentions “You’re a bum”!

Listen to Fairytale in New York on Youtube here.

Created by the London based, British-Irish band “The Pogues” and featuring the late British singer Kirsty MacColl, this enduring classic is repeatedly voted as a favorite at Christmas time. 

The song does not have typical Christmas themed lyrics and instead includes a bickering couple reminiscing over times gone by. 

It took over two years to perfect the song, with multiple rewrites in between its conception in 1985 to its release in November 1987. It was worth the wait though and this classic Christmas song has left an impressive chart topping legacy. 

It has featured in many films through the years. Did you know that it is also the Irish Christmas song P.S. I Love You featured in the funeral remembrance scene?

Last Christmas – Wham!

Christmas time is filled with nostalgia, sentimentality and often a bit of longing for what might have been. 

Wham!’s Last Christmas definitely hits the mark with this Christmas track about lovers a year on from the end of their relationship. 

With the smooth voice of the late George Michael, this track is almost as much part of Christmas as the Christmas pudding itself.

Christmas present of headphones
In order to stop bothering other family members, good headphones are an excellent choice for the Christmas song lover in your life! (Photo: © Olga Yastremska via Canva)

All I want for Christmas – Mariah Carey

All I want for Christmas” was in fact co-written by Mariah Carey herself along with Walter Afanasieff. 

Since its release in 1994, this has become a top performer in the standard list of Christmas songs. 

The film “Love Actually” (2003), which was a big hit in Ireland, also features a rendition of this song.

Happy Xmas – John Lennon & Yoko/Plastic One Band – 1971

Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon is another gold standard Christmas song.

Originally released in 1971, this timeless classic is as relevant now as it was then. It has been a worldwide hit and holds a special resonance in Ireland.  

Do they know it’s Christmas Time – Band Aid 

In response to the devastating famine in Ethiopia between 1983 and 1985, Bob Geldoff and Midge Ure created the famed “Do they know its Christmas Time at all?” 

This record breaking song was performed by a supergroup of musical acts from Britain and Ireland called Band Aid.

It was widely promoted in the news and on radio and the proceeds from the sale of the record were used to help tackle the famine in Ethiopia

The song was recorded on a single day in November 1984 and featured over some of the biggest artists of the time, such as Bono (U2), George Michael (Wham!) and Boy George (Culture Club).

Santa with headphones
Even Santa enjoys listening to Christmas songs (Photo: © Olga Yastremska via Canva)

Boy George almost missed the entire recording as he was in New York. He had to travel on Concorde to London to make the recording session late in the evening. 

The song has been rereleased several times since with the lyrics modified and updated to based on the criticism received for stereotyping.  

Walking in the Air – Peter Auty 

This beautiful Christmas song, “Walking in the Air”,  was created for the animated movie “The Snowman” in 1982.

This original version to accompany the movie features the haunting voice of Peter Auty. A later recording, possibly a more well known recording, features Aled Jones

There have been many different versions of this Christmas classic recorded over the years and the charming animated Snowman video has also appeared in several television adverts in different countries (including An Post postal service in Ireland). 

Christmas Songs in Irish

  1. Oíche Chiúin (Silent Night) – Enya
  2. Fairytale of New York (in Irish) – Seo Linn
  3. Nollaig Shona (Merry Christmas) – TG Lurgan
  4. I wish it could be Christmas everyday – TG Lurgan 

If you are looking for Irish Christmas songs as gaeilge (or in Irish). Here are some of the best translated versions of popular Irish Gaelic Christmas songs.

Christmas Candles
Festive decorations to bring some holiday cheer
(Photo: © Gitusik via Canva)

Oíche Chiúin (Silent Night) – Enya 

The iconic voice of Enya is one that many people instantly associate with Ireland and Celtic music in general.

As a native Irish speaker from Gweedore in County Donegal, Enya’s take on Oíche Chiúin (or Silent Night in English) sung as a Christmas Irish song is especially moving. (Silent Night is one of the more common Christmas mass songs in Ireland, but it is rarely sung in Irish.)

Fairytale of New York (in Irish) – Seo Linn

If you like the original Fairytale of New York, have a listen to this version of the Pogues’ Christmas song in Irish by the Irish Band Seo Linn.

"Nollaig Shona" is Irish for "Merry Christmas"
Nollaig Shona” is Irish for “Merry Christmas” and can often be seen in the street lights around the cities
(Photo: © Levers2007 via Canva)

Nollaig Shona (Merry Christmas) – TG Lurgan 

TG Lurgan is a Youtube Channel that uses easy Irish songs to help people learn Irish.

It was established by the private summer school for teaching Irish, Colaiste Lurgan. There are many translations of pop songs in Irish including this lively Nollaig Shona (or Merry Christmas) song.  ((In case you want to practice some caroling songs, the Irish song lyrics of this Happy Christmas in Irish song are in the video description)

I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday – TG Lurgan

I wish it could be Christmas Everyday” was a big hit for the Wizzards in 1973.

There have been many cover versions by artists since, but it is likely safe to say that you may not have heard an Irish version of it before! 

Bonus tip: If you search for Irish Christmas song lyrics or just Irish songs lyrics in general, the website, Songs in Irish, will likely have what you are looking for. It has a section for popular Irish Christmas songs and carols in Irish.

Christmas Songs by Irish Artists

  1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2
  2. The Wexford Carol (or Enniscorthy Carol) – Cara Dillon
  3. God Rest you Merry Gentlemen – Choral Scholars of University College Dublin
  4. Christmas Angels – Clannad
  5. Fairytale of New York – Christy Moore
  6. While Shepherds watch their Flocks – The Irish Tenors
  7. Once in Royal David’s City – The Chieftains
  8. The Christmas Traveller – The Irish Rovers
  9. Happy Xmas (War is Over) – The Corrs
  10. White Christmas – Westlife
  11. We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Celtic Woman
  12. I saw Three Ships – Órla Fallon
  13. Noël Nouvelet – Anúna
Santa on his sleigh
Some English Christmas carol songs have a special magic (That is the Christmas song melody gets stuck in your head all day long!)
(Photo: © Wattblicker via Canva)

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2 

No list of Irish musicians would quite be complete without the most successful Irish bands of all time. U2 has had and continues to have phenomenal success. 

This Christmas song, Christmas (Baby please come home), is a cover of the original by Darlene Love and was recorded as a sound check in Glasgow, Scotland in 1982.  

The Wexford Carol (or The Enisscorthy Carol) – Cara Dillon

The Wexford Carol (also known as The Enniscorthy Carol or the Irish Christmas Carol in some cases) is one of the most well liked Irish Christian songs about the nativity. 

Its name comes from the origin of the song, which is thought to have been in and around the town of Enniscorthy, County Wexford in the 15th or 16th century. 

Particularly during the last few decades, The Wexford Carol has enjoyed renewed popularity and is now one of the better known Irish Christmas carols. 

Several well-known artists, including Celtic Woman, have created impressive versions of the song. 

This rendition, by the Irish solo artist Cara Dillon was included in her 2016 Christmas album. 

A carol singer at night-time by candle light
A night-time Christmas carol session by candle light can be a very spectacular event
(Photo: © Boonyachout via Canva)

God Rest You Merry Gentlemen – Choral Scholars of University College Dublin 

If you are not yet familiar with the very talented Choral Scholars of University Dublin, then this is a good tip for Irish music lovers.

Their Christmas album, Be All Merry was released in 2020, and features a stunning collection of Christmas songs.  Listen here for their lively version of God Rest you Merry Gentlemen is here. 

(Although not Christmas related, their remarkable rendition of Mo Ghille Mear (My Gallant Hero) is truly beautiful.) 

Christmas Angels – Clannad

Clannad is an internationally well-known Irish family band from Gweedore in County Donegal that has been performing since the 1970s.

Their music styles have varied over the years and have included Irish folk, traditional Irish and Celtic. Did you know that for a short while another very famous Irish musician, Enya, was also part of their band before she embarked on her solo career?

Christmas Angels” is one of Clannad’s more well known Irish folk Christmas songs. 

Fairytale of New York – Christy Moore

There have been many renditions of The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, but this particular rendition by the legendary voice of Christy Moore is one that had to be included in this list of Irish songs.  

Robin on snow
The Robin is traditionally associated with Christmas in Ireland and beyond
(Photo: © Eskimaux via Canva)

Curoo, Curoo (Carol of the Birds) – The Clancy Brothers

It is worth listening to the lyrics of Curoo, Curoo (Carol of the Birds) as they are a little different to other Christmas carols. The word “Curoo” mimics bird song on Christmas morning after the birth of the baby Jesus.

The origins of this Carol are not fully known, but it is thought to date back to about the 18th century. 

This soft rendition by The Clancy Brothers is a lovely addition to a Christmas playlist.

While Shepherds watch their Flocks – The Irish Tenors

This traditional Irish Christmas Carol was written by the Irish poet and lyricist Nahum Tate in the 16th century. 

The Irish Tenors sing this rendition of the song, which is still a popular choice of Christmas carol today. 

Once in Royal David’s City – The Chieftains

Another Irish Christmas carol is “Once in Royal David’s City”. 

This was composed as a Christmas carol for children by the Dublin-born Cecil Frances Alexander. This hymnist was known for her charitable work around the Strabane area in Northern Ireland, where she resided for the majority of her life. 

The Chieftains included a medley of “Once in Royal David’s City” in their Christmas album “The Bells of Dublin” from 1991. 

The Christmas Traveller – The Irish Rovers

The Irish Rovers band has been promoting Irish music worldwide since the creation of the band in Canada in the 1960s.

The band is still active today and their lively, toe-tapping Irish tunes are still a favorite in Irish pubs across the world.

Here is one of their Christmas songs, “The Christmas Traveller”. 

Christmas decorations and music
With a Santa hat and some candy canes, Christmas carols instantly become more fun!
(Photo: © Olga Yastremska via Canva)

Happy Xmas (War is Over) – The Corrs 

Irish family bands have a good track record of success and the same can be said of the Corrs from County Louth.

This 4-piece band of 3 sisters and 1 brother reached worldwide success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

In December 2000, they played their version of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” for President Bill Clinton at the “Christmas in Washington” Concert. 

White Christmas – Westlife

The band Westlife holds the title of being one of the biggest selling Irish bands of all time. This all-boy band reached the levels of stardom world wide in the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

Their version of the White Christmas song is perfect for some easy listening background Christmas music. 

Festive holly in snow
Festive holly on snow
(Photo: © Aristotoo via Canva)

We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Celtic Woman

The Irish music ensemble Celtic Woman has gathered a huge following internationally through many extensive tours and more than ten albums. 

Ironically, the all-female group was originally established for a single event in 2004, but proved so popular that the group remained and the rest is history! 

Their delightful rendition of We wish you a merry Christmas is a great addition to any Celtic Christmas songs playlist. 

I saw Three Ships – Órla Fallon 

The Irish singer songwriter, Órla Fallon’s has had a long musical career which has included intervals with both Anúna and Celtic Woman. 

Hear her beautiful clear vocals in this lively rendition of the traditional Christmas song, I Saw Three Ships

Noël Nouvelet – Anúna

Anúna, the Irish choral group who came to prominence after their spectacular performance in the original Riverdance which  occurred as the Interval Act of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. 

The haunting voices of the singers are simply breathtaking. In this French Christmas carol, Noël Nouvelet, hear the impressive voices and judge for yourself.

Christmas tree in snow
It is rare for Ireland to experience a White Christmas, but occasionally it does happen! (Photo: © Comstock via Canva)

Christmas in Ireland

Irish Christmas music is part and parcel of the Holiday celebrations. From the international hits, to the less well known songs in Irish or even trad Christmas songs, there is something for most people (regardless of whether you have Irish roots or not). Whether you decide to sing your heart out with the Irish Rovers Christmas in Killarney lyrics or opt for something a little more calming, is completely up to you!

Did you know? Ireland has many interesting Christmas traditions, including Christmas Day Swims, the Wren Day on December 26th. Find out more about what makes a traditional Christmas in Ireland from shopping for tins of biscuits and Irish Christmas stockings, to attending carol service concerts.  Read all about these favorite Irish Christmas traditions, Irish Christmas sayings and many more here in the Christmas in Ireland post.

Plus if you are wondering whether it snows in Ireland at Christmas time, you’ll find the answer here

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