O come, O come, Emmanuel is a translation of the Catholic Latin text ("Veni, veni, Emmanuel") by John Mason Neale in the mid-19th century. It is a metrical version of a collation of various Advent Antiphons (the acrostic O Antiphons), which now serves as a popular Advent and Christmas hymn. Its origins are unclear, it is thought that the antiphons are from at least the 8th Century, but "Veni, veni Emmanuel" may well be 12th Century in origin. The text is based on the biblical prophecy from that states that God will give Israel a sign that will be called Immanuel (Lit.: God with us). states fulfillment of this prophecy in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
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It is believed that the traditional music stems from a 15th Century French processional for Franciscan nuns, but it may also have 8th Century Gregorian origins. It is one of the most solemn Advent hymns.
One widespread practice in the Catholic church has two subsequent verses sung each week of Advent, beginning with the First Sunday of Advent as verses 1 & 2. The Second Sunday of Advent, verses 3 & 4 are sung. On the Third Sunday of Advent, verses 5 & 6. On the Fourth Sunday of Advent however, verses 1 & 7 are then sung.
Performance variations exist today over the rhythm of the music. Many performances pause after "Emmanuel" in both the verse and the chorus, or extend the final syllable through a similar count. Often however, performances omit these pauses to emphasize the meaning of the chorus: "Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel". If a pause is included, the meaning may be confused, as an audible comma is perceived between "Emmanuel" and "shall come to thee...", changing the grammatical subject of the sentence from Israel to Emmanuel. Rushing the first and final lines to omit the pause produces a greater sense of movement, which may or may not be desirable in performance as it contrasts with the unhurried pace of the remainder of the song.
Ottorino Respighi quotes the melody in "The Gift of the Magi" in his Trittico Botticelliano.
The composer Arvo Part wrote a symphony, his 1977 Symphony no. 3, that utilizes the melody and expresses the millenarian (or even apocalyptic) theme of the text. He also wrote seven Magnificat Antiphons, which were essentially the German texts of the hymn set to a variety of arrangements.
The popular rock group U2 also pays homage to the first haunting phrases of the hymn in the song "White as Snow" from their album "No Line on the Horizon." 
Recorded versions (a selection)
- 1947 (and several reissues and re-recordings) - Robert Shaw Chorale
- 1966 - Joan Baez - Noël
- 1971, 1981 - Choir of King's College, Cambridge
- 1975 - Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus - Christmas with Robert Shaw
- 1978 - The Carpenters - "Christmas Portrait"
- 1988 - Mannheim Steamroller - "A Fresh Aire Christmas"
- 1992 - Francine Bell - "Together for Christmas"
- 1994 - Robert Shaw Festival Singers - Songs of Angels
- 1995 - Choir of Winchester Cathedral
- 1995 - Taverner Consort and Players - The Carol Album
- 1996 - Phillips, Craig & Dean - Repeat the Sounding Joy
- 1997 - Dana - Forever Christmas album
- 1997 - Rebecca St. James - Christmas
- 2000 - Belle and Sebastian - It's a Cool, Cool Christmas
- 2001 - Sufjan Stevens - Noel! Songs for Christmas - Vol. I
- 2003 - Tonus Peregrinus - The Naxos Book of Carols
- 2003 - Whitney Houston - One Wish: The Holiday Album
- 2002 - Sufjan Stevens - Ding! Dong! Songs for Christmas - Vol. III
- 2004 - Beth Nielsen Chapman - Hymns
- 2004 - Martha Munizzi - When He Came
- 2005 - Boyz II Men-Winter/Reflections
- 2005 - Michael McDonald-Through the Many Winters
- 2005 - Nox Arcana - Winter's Knight
- 2005 - Sloan Wainwright - On A Night Before Christmas
- 2005 - Hillsong - Celebrating Christmas (Instrumental)
- 2006 - Aaron Shust (peaked at #1 on Billboard's Hot Christian Songs)
- 2006 - Sufjan Stevens - Peace: Songs for Christmas - Vol. V
- 2006 - Haste the Day - A Santa Cause 2: It's a Punk Rock Christmas
- 2006 - Blackmore's Night - Winter Carols
- 2006 - Wynonna Judd - A Classic Christmas
- 2006 - Clay Aiken - All Is Well
- 2007 - Bradley Joseph - Hymns and Spiritual Songs
- 2007 - Rick Wakeman - Amazing Grace
- 2007 - Chris Squire - Chris Squire's Swiss Choir
- 2007 - Theocracy - A metal version for 2007
- 2008 - Loreena Mckennitt - A Midwinter Night’s Dream
- 2008 - Enya - And Winter Came
- 2008 - Sixpence None The Richer - The Dawn of Grace
- 2008 - Dustin Kensrue - This Good Night Is Still Everywhere
- 2008 - Sleepthief
- 2009 - U2 - No Line on the Horizon (tune used in White as Snow)
- 2009 - Sugarland - Gold and Green
- 2009 - Tori Amos - Midwinter Graces
- 2009 - Rob Halford - Halford III - Winter Songs
- 2009 - August Burns Red - O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (vinyl)
- 2009 - House of Heroes - The Christmas Classics EP
- 2009 - Hayley Westenra - Winter Magic
- 2009 - Heimataerde - Dark Dance EP