At Christmas time it's good to have a selection of music especially for the occasion. There are of course many selection discs on sale showcasing collections of Christmas related music, but there are also many works which are very suitable for playing at Christmas time.
First up for our listing and a suggestion for Christmas Eve is Handel's Messiah. This was actually first performed on 13th April 1742, but is now usually performed by choirs the world over as part of their Christmas festivities.
For Christmas morning I would recommend Bach's Christmas Oratorio. This work comprises a collection of six cantatas which were performed over the Christmas period, the first on Christmas Day and the others later on in the Christmas period. Imagine being a member of the congregation on that first Christmas Day and hearing the stupendous thunder of the timpani introducing the first of the cantatas within the Christmas Oratorio! The huge introductory chorus in that first cantata and the similar tremendous lift at the beginning of the fifth cantata are both wonderful moments within the music of the oratorio.
Britten's oratorio St Nicolas is another must to listen to during the Christmas period. If you can, do try to obtain the recording made by Peter Pears which is available as an mp3 download using the link from amazon.com. This oratorio covers the life of Nicolas as a saint including the miracles he performed, his election as Bishop of Myra and finishes with his death. Britten gave this work wide ranging scope in his composition including choirboys, a full SATB choir, a tenor to sing the role of St Nicolas, and several hymns in which the audience participates rather in the manner of a congregation.
Another work for Christmas by Benjamin Britten, his Ceremony of Carols is also well worth adding to your Christmas collection. It is for boys voices and has also been recorded by female choirs. Alongside this don't miss his other Christmas choral work A Boy was Born, both of which are available from Amazon on CD recorded by The Sixteen.
The Musicological Journey through the Twelve Days of Christmas by Craig Courtney is another one which will provide plenty of enjoyment. It is what is called in the musical world a style composition. Each number in the collection is composed around one of the songs in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" tune series, except it's done with a difference - they're all composed around styles from different periods of music! The funniest by a long way is Eight Maids a Milking from 19th Century Germany, which is a take-off of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries from his opera Die Valkyrie!
Vaughan Williams's music is usually very singable and his Fantasia on Christmas Carols is no exception. Also well worth listening to is the Hodie, which is a cantata set around the Christmas story.
Last but not least, I must include Wagner's Siegfried Idyll. In 1870 Wagner had a few months before married his second wife, Cosima Wagner. The Siegfried Idyll was his Christmas present for her, and his friends gathered on the stairs of their villa to play it for her on Christmas morning.
Happy Christmas to you all!