Some well-known religious Christmas carols include "Joy to the World," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger." "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem," "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" and "The First Noel" are also very popular religious Christmas songs.
Religious hymns that address the birth of Christ are considered carols, and are often sung in churches. Other Christmas tunes, such as "Oh Christmas Tree," are only considered Christmas or holiday songs, as they don't directly touch on the birth of Christ.
Many carols are poems and lyrics set to old traditional melodies. "The First Noel" is thought to be set to an ancient French tune, with words originating in England. "What Child is This" is a hymn set to the traditional English melody "Greensleeves."
"Silent Night" is a universally known carol and has been translated into nearly 300 languages. It is a timeless melody that has been covered my numerous artists, both traditional and modern.
"Go Tell It on a Mountain" has its roots in America and is believed to be written by an African American slave around 1865. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" also originated in America. Upon returning to Philadelphia from a religious quest to the Holy Land, church rector Phillip Brooks wrote the lyrics to this special tune for the church children's choir. His organist, Lewis Redner, composed the music.