The Definitive Ranking of “O Holy Nights”

The Definitive Ranking of “O Holy Nights”

It is a well-documented and self-evident Christmas fact that O Holy Night is the greatest of all the Christmas hymns. This 19th century carol packs in some of the most richly theological lyrics around, (“Long lay the world in sin and error pining/til He appeared and the soul felt its worth,” remains one of the most compelling two-line kerygmas I have ever heard) and combines them with its famous goose-bump raising melody.

It is no surprise, then, that dozens of celebrities throughout the years have recorded versions of this Christmas classic. This song has been done by everyone from NSync (a cappella) and Leona Lewis to Bing Crosby and Vince Gill. As a “O Holy Night” connoisseur, I have taken it upon myself to provide the definitive top five ranking of these various versions so that you will know how to navigate properly your holiday listening experience. Enjoy!

Top 5 “O Holy Nights”

5) Josh Garrels from The Light Came Down the-light-came-down

Josh Garrels is a Portland-based indie folk singer-songwriter known for his own heart-wrenching lyrics and complex song arrangements. Garrels puts that producer-hat to good use in crafting this funky remake of O Holy Night which sounds like it should be grooved to sitting in a Pacific Northwest bar-that-used-to-be-a-Lutheran-church sipping on a bourbon egg nog with all of your other hipster friends.

4) Mariah Carey from Merry Christmas


Perhaps our most controversial inclusion in this list comes from this artist more Christmas-famous for her ubiquitous during December “All I Want for Christmas is You.” The former Queen of Pop breaks it down in this tune with a mix of 90s pop sounds and a whole lot of rock organ. What her arrangement lacks in good old fashioned holy reverence, it makes up in nasty vocal runs and an ineffable quality known as “getting after it.” Try to tell me her last belted out diviiiiiiine doesn’t give you goosebumps.

3) Celtic Woman from Christmas celtic-woman

Anyone familiar with Celtic Woman knows that their greatest quality is their clear and beautifully lilting voices lending themselves to perfect harmonies. This works really, really well with Christmas hymns and especially “O Holy Night.” This is the version to weep to driving home from midnight Mass.

2) Nat King Cole from The Christmas Songnkc

Nat King Cole = Christmas so no real list of any kind of Christmas song would be complete without tossing it up to NKC for a second. This was a tough decision because it is possible that Perry Como’s version is just a tad better, but in the end the King of Christmas Songs gets the nod.

1) Josh Groban from Noel 

grobanSay what you will about my man Grobes (he’s my father-in-law’s archnemesis), but the dude can sing. This Youtube video ( with Groban’s version set to shots from the movie The Nativity Story has almost eight million views at the time of this writing, so I think the people themselves have spoken.

Which versions of O Holy Night would you have thrown in the top five? How did our list do? Comments below!


Main image from here


Tim Glemkowski

Tim Glemkowski

Tim Glemkowski teaches high school theology in Ann Arbor, MI and is married to the lovely Maggie Glemkowski. John Paul II is his personal hero and Benedict XVI his theological one. A Chicago native and lifelong Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan and Chicago Bulls fan, Tim watches the last minute of game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals at least once a month on YouTube and still gets chills every time. He's read more JRR Tolkien than he'd care for you to know. Most importantly, Tim believes that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Tim Glemkowski

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