12 Easy Christmas Songs to Play on the Piano

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Christmas is a time for laughter, family, and of course, music. As the shops begin to overflow with holly, ivy, and mistletoe, the unmistakable Christmas sounds filter through and we find ourselves humming along and tapping our feet to the tune of Jingle Bells, Michael Bublé’s White Christmas, and Boney M’s Mary’s Boy Child.

This Christmas, when Grandpa or the infamous uncle begins to tickle the ivories, why not tell them to scootch over and wow the family with this list of easy Christmas songs to play on the piano.

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The Giant Book of Christmas Sheet Music: Easy Piano (The Giant Book of Sheet Music)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 168 Pages - 08/01/2014 (Publication Date) - Alfred Music (Publisher)

1. Silent Night

One of the most famous of all Christmas songs has to be “Silent Night” which was first heard at Christmas Eve mass in Oberndorf, Austria in 1818.

The lyrics were written by Joseph Mohr, a young priest, two years before. He was inspired when out for a walk one evening and was awestruck by the calm and serene beauty of the snow-covered town.

Silent Night is written in A Major, a relatively easy key to play on the piano but you can of course play it in any key you’re comfortable with.

The melody has a few leaps that can be a challenge and it’ll help to pay close attention to the fingering. An Adagio tempo ensures the song is as calm and serene as the lyrics suggest.

2. The First Noël

This iconic carol The First Noël dates all the way back to medieval Europe and was inspired by the dramatization of Bible stories that were the order of the day. Based on the gospels of Luke and Matthew, it tells the story of the birth of Jesus, or the first Christmas (Noël).

The original tune begins peacefully in C major, with the heart of the melody in the right hand. The left hand takes the melody to the key of F, ending off majestically in G.

Tempo-wise, the First Noël is meant to be played at around 112 Beats Per Minute (Moderato). Think of the tempo as a gentle walking pace or a heartbeat.

3. O Holy Night

A true classic, loved by film directors, school pageant coordinators, and carollers alike, O Holy Night has a fascinating backstory. Composed in 1843 by French poet Placide Cappeau, the song stirred up controversy within the church and was banned. This was after they discovered that Cappeau was an atheist, strongly opposed to organized religion.

The ban was lifted after the song once again gained recognition during the Franco-Prussian War. A French soldier leaped from the trenches during a German attack and began singing the hymn. The Germans, moved by the gesture, returned the favor with a Lutheran hymn, and a truce was declared.

Written in C Major, with an Adagio tempo, the song has a beautiful lullaby rhythm, which will flow when you keep the left-hand eighth notes steady.

4. Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Written in 1739 by Methodist movement leader, Charles Wesley, the song was originally named “Hark, How all the Welkin Ring,” (welkin being an old English term, meaning “heavens”).

It was only 120 years later that a tune was assigned – written by Felix Mendelssohn. It is now one of the most widely sung Christmas carols in churches worldwide.

The breath-taking composition is simple to learn and great for beginners. It is best to master the right hand first, before attempting the left hand, to ensure better success.

The song, written in F major, intertwines two melodies and is played at a Moderato tempo, ending slowly with a powerful fortissimo.

5. Deck the Halls

Dating back to the 16th Century, Deck the Halls has been featured regularly in pop culture and is a firm Christmas mainstay.

Mozart utilized the tune to inspire a piano and violin duet and Joseph Haydn wrote “New Year’s Night” to its tune. Even the Red-Hot Chili Peppers recorded a fun, witty version on a seven-inch single.

The song was not always associated with Christmas. It was originally a Welsh winter song called “Nos Galan,” meaning New Year’s Eve. The Welsh lyrics were written by John Ceiriog Hughes and later translated to English by Thomas Oliphant.

The song is played with both hands, starting in the C position with your right-hand thumb resting on Middle C. The gentle Larghetto tempo carries the tune steadily throughout.

6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

The Christmas classic Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was originally featured in the 1944 classic musical film “Meet Me in St. Louis”.

Performed by Judy Garland, it was written by Ralph Blaine and Hugh Martin. The song has since been recorded by numerous musicians – Frank Sinatra probably being the most iconic and notable.

‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is a little more complex than most featured on our list, but the basic melody flows beautifully and is easy to master.

Written in the key of E Minor, the beautiful Christmas song will familiarise you with intervals that will need you to stretch and jump your fingers throughout.

7. It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Written for the Broadway play “The Music Man”, Meredith Willson, wrote the song It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas during a stay at Yarmouth’s Grand Hotel. References to a tree in the Grand Hotel and Frost Park across the road feature in the lyrics.

Celebrating the excitement and anticipation that comes in the weeks running up to Christmas, the song has been immortalized by Christmas crooners such as Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Michael Bublé. A version from Johnny Mathis’s 1986 album “Christmas Eve with Johnny Mathis” featured in the film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

Written in E Major, the Andante Moderato tempo is flexible and offers the freedom of a Rubato.

8. 12 Days of Christmas

According to Christian theology, the 12 days of Christmas cover the time between the birth of Christ and the arrival of the three wise men. Beginning on December 25, it is concluded with the Epiphany or Three King’s Day on January 6.

The origin of the carol is not clear, but it was most likely designed as a memory game. It appeared in a 1780 children’s book called Mirth Without Mischief, but historians think the song could be French in origin.

12 Days of Christmas has just three main chords and is one of the simplest to master. Originally written in Eb Major, the Andantino tempo is steady and rhythmic.

9. Jingle bells

What would a family sing-along be without “Jingle Bells”? It was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857. Originally titled “The One-Horse Open Sleigh,” the original version had no connection to Christmas, and merely told the story of an eventful jaunt in the countryside that ended with an overturned sleigh in a snowdrift.

Over the years, it was adapted to fit the festive season, and in 1965, Jingle Bells made history by becoming the first song broadcast from space. The Gemini 6 crew performed the song on a harmonica, accompanied by “contraband” jingle bells, as a part of a prank on mission control.

Written in C Major with a Moderato tempo, this classic Christmas song is one that every pianist should be able to play.

10. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph was not an original member of Santa’s entourage but came into existence as a marketing tool for the Montgomery Ward department stores.

Over the Christmas period, coloring books would be distributed to children by the store, and author Robert L. May was asked to write poems for one of these books. He created the shy, timid reindeer with a shiny, red nose, based on the experiences he had when bullied as a child.

The widely distributed books made the character famous, but it was only 10 years later that May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote the musical version. It became a chart-topping hit in 1949.

Written in C major, the holiday staple has a quick Allegro tempo but can be slowed to half-time or even played at double time, depending on the mood to help you to practice it at a speed you’re comfortable with.

11. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause

Written by Tommie Connor in the early ’50s, “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” was commissioned by Saks department store in New York to accompany their Christmas card.

Immortalized by The Jackson Five in the 70s, it was first recorded by 13-year-old Jimmy Boyd and proved to be extremely controversial. Church groups found the lyrics to be too suggestive and pressure was put on radio stations to ban it.

Reiterating that Santa Clause was “just Daddy in a Santa suit”, it was Boyd who convinced the radio stations to lift the ban and the song became a massive hit.

Also written in C major, this feel-good family tune has a bright and bouncy allegro tempo.

12. All I Want For Christmas Is You

No Christmas song list would be complete without Mariah Carey’s cult classic, “All I want for Christmas is You”. Since its 1994 release, it has appeared on the Christmas charts every single year.

It holds three world records, including Spotify’s most-streamed song in a 24-hour period. Mariah co-wrote the hit with songwriter Walter Afanasieff, and it took them less than fifteen minutes to write.

The timeless classic has been covered numerous times and was featured in the much-loved Christmas movie, “Love Actually”. The lively Vivace tempo will have your hands flying across the keyboard, ensuring the song sticks in everyone’s head for days.

Certainly not the easiest song on the list; it includes lots of major-to-minor or diminished sequences, but these can be easily mastered if you take it slowly.

Summing up our List of Piano Christmas Songs

This is a mere slice of the wide variety of much-loved carols and Christmas songs that are easy to master on the piano.

We all have that one that takes us back to childhood Christmases or reminds us of a, particularly special holiday season.

So, pass the gluhwein, settle in and pick your favorite on this list to create new, special holiday memories for you and your loved ones.

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Written by Robert Jackson
Robert is a professional pianist and writer who's been playing the piano for over 20 years. He studied music education at college and now works as a full time musician and piano teacher all over the country.