Christmas supposedly represents the season of goodwill and joy to all men, but it can be a dismal experience for some. It might be that you’re missing friends and loved ones you’ve either lost or will otherwise be unable to see over the holiday – but it doesn’t have to be anything so dramatic as that. Perhaps you’ve just heard the schmaltziest of Christmas songs one time too many, and it’s turned you off Christmas forever? If so, then fear not. If it’s beginning to feel far too much like Christmas, we have a remedy. The 20 best anti-Christmas songs can’t fail to send Santa and his elves packing.
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20: The Fall – No Xmas For John Quays
If you’re dreaming of a curmudgeonly Christmas, then few musicians fit the bill better than The Fall’s late frontman, Mark E Smith. Starting as he meant to go on, his band’s 1979 debut album, Live At The Witch Trials, included “No Xmas For John Quays”: a spirit-dampening post-punk romp, with MES railing cryptically about both Christmas (“The “X” in “Xmas” is a substitute crucifix for Christ”) and junkies, while his band mercilessly caned the same riff for nigh-on five minutes.
19: The Damned – There Ain’t No Sanity Clause
With their 1980 single “There Ain’t No Sanity Clause,” The Damned had one eye fixed firmly on the lucrative festive market. Yet, even though the anthemic song is a right old knees-up, its highest chart peak is still a lowly No.97, despite several reissues. The song’s Grinch-like title hasn’t helped its cause, though it actually derives from the Marx Brothers’ movie A Night At The Opera, in which Groucho attempts to explain a business contract’s “sanity clause” to Chico. The latter responds with: “You can’t fool me – there ain’t no Santy clause!”
18: Gruff Rhys – Slashed Wrists This Christmas
Songs about suicide attempts don’t generally feature on Christmas playlists, but this ultra-melancholic, yet beautifully-crafted ballad from Super Furry Animals’ frontman stood out on 2011’s BBC-released An Alternative Christmas, alongside other notable festive naysayers such as The Futureheads’ “Christmas Was Better In The 80s,” Denim’s “I Will Cry At Christmas” and Sufjan Stevens’ “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever.”
17: All Time Low – Merry Christmas, Kiss My Ass!
As U.S. emo-rockers All Time Low clearly understand, breaking up with your significant other is very likely to burst your bubble at Christmas. The Maryland quartet released this plaintive anthem as a standalone single after their 2011 album, Dirty Work, peaked inside the Top 10 of the Billboard 200. Its heartfelt lyric (“When I gave you my heart, you ripped it apart like wrapping-paper trash”) and furious chorus have a universal appeal. Sadly, the song’s sentiments will probably never go out of fashion.
16: Brenda Lee – Christmas Will Be Just Another Day
The enduring Georgia-born star Brenda Lee is synonymous with the holiday season thanks to her evergreen classic, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”. Her signature hit was, however, just one of many festive treats to be found on Merry Christmas From Brenda Lee: a U.S. Top 10 hit released through Decca Records in 1964. The album revisited choice Christmas fare such as “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Winter Wonderland,” but also included “Christmas Will Be Just Another Day”: a wistful ode to lost love and loneliness which Lee delivered with dignity to spare.
15: Albert King – Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’
Responsibility must weigh heavily on Santa Claus, who covers more miles in one night than most people do in a year’s worth of commuting. Yet, until Albert King recorded the supremely funky “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’” (one of the many highlights of Stax’s 2007 compilation Christmas In Soulsville) hardly anyone spared a thought for how the big man’s hectic delivery schedule must wreak havoc on his love life. Here, however, the blues legend reflects Santa’s frustration with Christmas when he sings, “I don’t want no turkey, don’t care about no cake/I just want you to come here Mama, ’fore the children wake.”
14: Hollywood Undead – Christmas In Hollywood
Controversial, L.A.-based rap-rock fusionists Hollywood Undead all wear masks and use pseudonyms, but the mystique did nothing to prevent their 2008 debut album, Swan Songs, from going double-platinum in the US. The band is renowned for their hedonistic stance, so it’s no surprise that when they tackled the festive season with “Christmas In Hollywood” (“Santa’s back up in the hood/So meet me under the mistletoe, let’s f__k!”) they urged us to over-indulge and forget the consequences.
13: Danny Elfman – Kidnap The Sandy Claws
Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated Halloween-Christmas film, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), was initially deemed “too scary for kids” by Disney, but it became a box office smash and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects – a first for an animated film. Another of its strengths was composer Danny Elfman’s evocative soundtrack, which included brilliant, off-beat tracks such as “Kidnap The Sandy Claws” – as catchy an ode to kidnapping, torturing, and murdering Santa Claus as you could possibly imagine.
12: Big Star – Jesus Christ
The jury’s still out on what Big Star leader Alex Chilton’s motives were when he recorded what seems to be an out-and-out Christmas song for Big Star’s shambolic, but frequently brilliant Third – a project that remained unfinished when his cult power-pop outfit imploded in 1974. Chilton delivers the hymnal lyric (“Royal David’s City was bathed in the light of love”) and the song’s stirring chorus with apparent sincerity, but as other Third highlights such as “Thank You Friends” are soaked in sarcasm, it’s likely ‘Jesus Christ’ may have been anti-Christmas in design. It’s a doozy, regardless, and the ambiguity only adds to the song’s enduring appeal.
11: blink-182 – I Won’t Be Home For Christmas
A stalwart anti-Christmas anthem, blink-182’s “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” makes absolutely no bones about its Scrooge-like stance, with the Californian pop-punk legends sneering through lines such as “It’s time to be nice to the people you can’t stand all year/I’m growing tired of all this Christmas cheer” before breaking out the baseball bats. Curiously, the song was particularly well received in Canada, where it remained at No.1 for five consecutive weeks in 2001.
10: Loretta Lynn – Christmas Without Daddy
Released by Decca in 1966, Loretta Lynn’s Country Christmas album stylishly blended original songs with covers of festive staples such as “Frosty The Snowman” and the ubiquitous “White Christmas”. Strangely, despite widespread critical praise (with Billboard ironically declaring it “great programming material for country music stations which will create high sales”), Country Christmas failed to chart, but it’s still a fantastic record, and its blue’n’lonesome “Christmas Without Daddy” is an unrelenting tear-jerker.
9: Fall Out Boy – Yule Shoot Your Eye Out
A heartfelt semi-acoustic rebuke to an unfaithful ex-lover, Fall Out Boy’s “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out” (“The gifts you’re receiving from me will be one awkward silence and two hopes you’ll cry yourself to sleep”) clearly hates Christmas from the heart. The band originally donated it to Immortal Records’ 2003 compilation A Santa Cause: It’s A Punk Rock Christmas, released for AIDS charities, and it was later included as a bonus track on Fall Out Boy’s self-explanatory Believers Never Die: Greatest Hits collection in 2009.
8: EELS – Christmas Is Going To The Dogs
A typically tasty slice of off-kilter alt-pop from Mark “E” Everett, the rousing but little-known “Christmas Is Going To The Dogs” was included on the soundtrack for Ron Howard’s suitably anti-festive How The Grinch Stole Christmas, in 2000, and later took its place among a series of equally thrilling offcuts on EELS’ sardonically-titled Useless Trinkets rarities collection, released in 2005.
7: Sparks – Thank God It’s Not Christmas
Sparks’ marvelous breakthrough album, Kimono My House (1974), included their signature hit, “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us” but also phenomenal tracks such as the Albert Einstein tribute “Talent Is An Asset” and the glorious, widescreen pop of “Thank God It’s Not Christmas.” Featuring a typically wry Ron Mael lyric, the latter song is as dramatic and memorable as any anti-Christmas tirade you’ll hear. As vocalist Russell Mael said in 2014, “When Yuletime approaches, we give you our tribute to every day of the year that doesn’t fall on the 25th of December.”
6: Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas
Emerson Lake & Palmer mainstay Greg Lake launched his solo career with 1975’s memorable “I Believe In Father Christmas,” which peaked at No.2 in the U.K., behind Queen’s legendary “Bohemian Rhapsody”. A festive staple ever since, “I Believe In Father Christmas” was quickly categorized as a Christmas song, but Lake actually intended it as a protest song about the overt commercialization of the festive season. Penned by Pete Sinfield, the song’s barbed lyric (“Hallelujah, Noel, be it heaven or hell/The Christmas we get, we deserve”) quickly bears this out.
5: Nat “King” Cole – The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot
Nat “King” Cole recorded a swathe of festive perennials such as “Deck The Halls,” “Silent Night” and many more, but he also recorded one of Christmas’ most heart-wrenching songs, “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot.” Originally written in 1937 and also recorded by Vera Lynn, Cole’s definitive version of this achingly sad ballad (“He sent a note to Santa for some soldiers and a drum/It broke his little heart when he found Santa hadn’t come”) appeared on the flip of his 1956 hit, the notably more mainstream-friendly “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You).”
4: King Diamond – No Presents For Christmas
Metal – be it black, thrash or any other type – is perhaps the genre most suited to carving out memorably dark anti-Christmas songs, so it’s high time we saluted King Diamond’s “No Presents This Christmas.” The trailblazing Danish outfit’s first single from 1985, this hard’n’heavy blitzkrieg began with a parody of“Jingle Bells” and then drove Panzer tanks all over Christmas cheer. Rightly, it’s still regarded as one of the band’s signature songs.
3: Kate Nash – I Hate You This Christmas
The standout track from the U.K. singer-songwriter’s 2013 EP, Have Faith With Kate Nash This Christmas, “I Hate You This Christmas” initially seemed quite perky until the chorus (“It’s Christmas once again, but you’re f__king one of my friends!”) kicked in – after which the song descended into hell-hath-no-fury territory in no uncertain terms. As Nash told NME at the time of the EP’s release, “‘I Hate You This Christmas’ is about a break-up ruining your holiday, really, someone cheating on you and going home and being embarrassed to tell your parents. Being broken-hearted at Christmas sucks!”
2: Miles Davis – Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)
Caustic, cynical, and still effortlessly cool, “Blue Xmas (To Whom it May Concern)” was the brainchild of the iconic Miles Davis and jazz vocalist Bob Dorough, who embraced the season’s downside in this 1962 cut built on swinging rhythms and moody horns. Originally released on a compilation titled Jingle Bell Jazz (which also featured Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck), the track included a scything critique of festive commercialism (“all the waste, all the sham”) and a verse relating to homelessness, which – tragically – remains all too relevant today.
1: Spinal Tap – Christmas With The Devil
They say the Devil has all the best tunes, and that’s hard to deny as we reach the top spot of our 20 best anti-Christmas songs with a number singing the praises of Beelzebub himself. We are, of course, here to genuflect at the altar of faux-metal heroes Spinal Tap, who (literally) went to hell and back in constructing this monstrously good ode to a Satanic Christmas (“The elves are dressed in leather and the angels are in chains/The sugar plums are rancid and the stockings are in flames”) and famously debuted it on Saturday Night Live in 1984. It’s up against some stiff competition here, but ultimately, when it comes to anti-festive anthems, “Christmas With The Devil” is the only one that goes all the way up to 11.
Looking for more? Discover the best Christmas songs of all time.