Most of the Christmas carols we know today come from the 18th or 19th centuries, in large part because this was the time when congregations first became involved in the singing of music in churches. Before this, the singing of hymns and religious music was largely or solely the responsibility of a trained choir.
The result of the transition to full-congregation participation was the need for songs with simple melodies which could be sung reasonably well by anybody. While this resulted in a great deal of religious music for all occasions, back then, as now, church attendance was much higher on Christmas Day than other days.
- "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing"
- "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen"
- "Come Ye To Bethlehem"
- "Silent Night"
- "What Child is This?"
- "Angels We Have Heard on High"
- "The First Noel"
- "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful"
- "Joy to the World"
Songs like "Jingle Bells" or "White Christmas" are not Christmas carols, as they are secular in topic.
- "Christmas carol." WordNet® 3.0. Princeton University. 07 Feb. 2010. Dictionary.com.