Christmas Song Tournament–Round 6: Final Four

We started this little endeavor with 128 songs, and now we’ve finally arrived at the Final Four.  One song from each division remains, and if you’ve been paying attention, it should come as no surprise that three of them went in as the #1 seeds, and the fourth was #2.  But only 1 can be the winner!

Representing the Religious Division is “O Holy Night,” which advanced past “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by a score of 54-25.

The song is based on a French poem “Minuit, chretiens” written in 1847 by a wine merchant named Placide Cappeau.  The poem was set to music that same year by composer Adolphe Adam, and the lyrics were translated to English by John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian minister,  in 1855.  It has been recorded by many artists, including Nat King Cole, Josh Groban, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Mariah Carey, and Tracy Chapman.

In the Sad Division, we have the juggernaut “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which steamrolled over “Christmas Time Is Here” with a score of 64-16.

Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane for the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis, in which it was sung by Judy Garland.  In the movie, Garland’s character sings this song to cheer up her little sister on Christmas Eve after learning that their father’s promotion will mean the family has to leave their home in St. Louis and move to New York.  The lyrics have been altered a few times to make the song more upbeat, but it still retains a certain melancholy tone.  The song has also been recorded by many artists, including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, the Pretenders, Luther Vandross, Michael Buble, and Sam Smith.

The champion from the Seasonal Division is “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” just squeezing past “Linus ans Lucy” with a score of 44-37.

This song was originally written for the 1966 Christmas special How the Grinch Stole Christmas, based on Dr. Seuss’s classic children’s book.  Dr. Seuss wrote the lyrics, set to music composed by Albert Hague.  In the original special, it was performed by Thurl Ravenscroft, who famously voiced Tony the Tiger.  It’s been covered by various artists, most recently Tyler the Creator for the newest film adaptation of the story.

Finally, the Secular Division saw “Carol of the Bells” defeat “White Christmas” with a score of 52-28.

This song was composed in 1914 by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych based on a pre-Christian Ukrainian folk chant “Shchedryk,” which celebrated the coming of spring in April.  Much later, in 1936, Peter J. Wilhousky rearranged the melody for orchestra and added the lyrics, referencing bells, caroling, and Christmas.  Another version appeared in 1947, with lyrics written by Minna Louise Hohman that were based on the Christian Nativity story (this version is known as “Ring, Christmas Bells”).  The song has been recorded by Jonnhy Mathis, Mannheim Steamroller, Ray Conniff, Wynton Marsalis, The Piano Guys, Pentatonix, and many others.  It also forms the basis for Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo.”

The pairings for the Final Four match-ups are completely arbitrary and have to do with how I arranged the brackets.  The videos above are there as examples, but are not meant to denote a definitive version of the songs.  Feel free to post your favorite versions in the comments below each song.