20 Easter songs that capture what the holiday is all about
From baskets overflowing with colorful candies to celebratory church services to epic egg hunts, Easter is a time full of spiritual, meaningful and fun traditions.
But unlike festive Christmas classics, romantic Valentine’s Day hits and haunting Halloween tunes, this holy holiday isn’t necessarily known for its music. And while there may not be dedicated radio stations to turn to, there are still plenty of popular worship, gospel and secular songs to celebrate one of the most important days on the Christian calendar.
Whether you’re on your way to Sunday service or dyeing Easter eggs, we’ve compiled a variety of Easter songs to add to your holiday playlist. With traditional hymns like Charles Wesley’s “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” gospel favorites like C. Austin Miles’ “In the Garden” and contemporary offerings like Carrie Underwood's "Because He Lives," there are endless Easter offerings to listen to all Sunday long. And while a lot of these songs touch on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ — ya know, the meaning of Easter and all — we made sure to include a few fun ones for the kids in your crew.
So, let's hop to it! Keep reading to find 20 songs that are bound to make your Easter Sunday egg-stra special.
‘Easter Parade’ by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire
Performed by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in Irving Berlin’s 1948 musical film "Easter Parade," listening to this perennial Easter favorite will make you want to grab your finest bonnet and join the parade, too.
‘Amazing Grace’ by Aretha Franklin
Capturing the rebirth that the holiday symbolizes, "Amazing Grace" has been masterfully sung by the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Ray Charles, Celine Dion and Diana Ross. But it’s Aretha Franklin’s rendition of the spiritual anthem that made Oprah cry — and it’s destined to make you cry, too.
‘The Old Rugged Cross’ by Alan Jackson
Alan Jackson delivers an emotional and powerful rendition of this hymn written by Methodist minister George Bennard. This Eastertime staple depicting the sacrifice of Christ has been sung by church choirs and country singers alike.
‘Say Yes’ by Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams brought about a mini Destiny’s Child reunion with this 2014 gospel hit off her "Journey to Freedom" album.
‘Here Comes Peter Cottontail’ by Gene Autry
Written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins, the duo behind "Frosty the Snowman," the tune about the Easter Bunny “hoppin’ down the bunny trail” is bound to put a little spring in your step.
‘Peace In the Valley’ by Elvis Presley
The "King of Rock ‘n’ Roll" shows off his gospel side on this cover, which he dedicated to the people of Hungary after the invasion by the Soviet Union.
‘How Great Thou Art’ by Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood’s angelic rendition of this classic hymn praises both the greatness of God and the beauty of nature.
‘Hot Cross Buns’ by Super Simple Songs
This melodic nursery rhyme celebrates an Easter brunch staple and will captivate everyone seated at the table — especially your little bunnies.
‘Christ the Lord Is Risen Today’ by The Tabernacle Choir
One of the most loved Easter hymns was penned in the 18th century by Charles Wesley, who along with his brother founded the Methodist movement. But he can’t be credited for including those exuberant "Alleluias" at the end of each line, which were added later.
‘When You Believe’ by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston
Written for the film "The Prince of Egypt," the duet by superstars Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston leaves you longing for more. The song, which won an Oscar in 1999, reminds us all that there can miracles when we believe.
‘In the Garden’ by Meryl Streep and Garrison Keillor
Willie Nelson, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Alan Jackson and Meryl Streep have all covered this the gospel hymn by C. Austin Miles. The message is timeless: As long as Jesus is by your side, you're never alone.
‘King of Kings’ by Hillsong Worship and Kari Jobe
This acoustic take on the contemporary Christian song surely delivers the hope this holiday ushers in.
‘Because He Lives’ by Carrie Underwood
Straight from her album "My Savior," Carrie Underwood’s inspiring song “Because He Lives” celebrates the hope and peace knowing that Christ rose again.
‘Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord’ by Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash’s signature deep and calm voice shines through this gospel song, which tells the story of the crucifixion of Jesus.
‘Hands’ by Jewel
This folksy ballad captures the spirit of the holiday with the power of hope, kindness and prayer. Jewel urges us all to use faith to change the world in a positive way.
‘I Look to You’ by Whitney Houston
This single off Whitney Houston's seventh and final studio album touches on the importance of finding hope in the midst of desperation — something that's important on Easter and all the days to follow.
‘I Will Rise’ by Chris Tomlin
In this song, Christian musician and Grammy winner, Chris Tomlin explores the depths of grief — and how we can follow Jesus' example in those moments of sorrow.
‘How Can It Be’ by Lauren Daigle
Off Lauren Daigle's Grammy-nominated debut album "How Can it Be," the song by the same name features soaring vocals and powerful lyrics about finding strength through faith.
‘Jesus Christ is Risen Today’ by King’s College Choir
Written in Latin in the 14th century and later set to a piece of music entitled “Easter Hymn,” this beloved song really comes to life with a full choir.
‘Forever’ by Kari Jobe
Here, contemporary Christian artist Kari Jobe tells the story of Easter, singing “Forever, He is glorified / Forever, He is lifted high/Forever, He is risen.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com