There are two great choral masterpieces performed regularly at Christmas. The first is Handel's ''Messiah' and the second is Bach's wondrous 'Christmas Oratorio',. Bach was responsible for the music in Leipzig's major churches. While there he composed the 'St Matthew Passion', the 'St John Passion' and more than 200(!) other church cantatas written for Sunday services. I still love the idea of the choir rolling in to rehearsal on a Thursday evening wondering what the old man had written for them that week! The Christmas Oratorio consists of 6 cantatas each dealing with major events of the season. The first part (for Christmas Day) describes the Birth of Jesus, the second (for December 26) the annunciation of the shepherds, the third (for December 27) the adoration of the shepherds, the fourth (for New Year's Day ) the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the fifth (for the first Sunday after New Year) the journey of the Magi, and the sixth (for Epiphany) the adoration of the Magi. Each cantata has different instrumentation ranging from the three fanfare trumpets of Cantata 1 to the scuttling oboes of Cantata 5. Either listen to one cantata per day or binge the whole thing like an 18th century box set! The music is amazing.
See John Eliot Gardiner conduct it here
Try this version with solo boys as Bach would have expected - click here