As the old cliché goes, Christmas comes just once a year – but it’s inspired a truly timeless selection of seasonal songs. Drawing up a definitive list of festive hits is a task that would tax Santa Claus himself, but we think these are the best Christmas songs of all time to add to your Christmas Eve playlist ASAP. There is simply something for anyone that’s going to be unwrapping Christmas gifts – kid or adult – below.
66: Dermot Kennedy – Driving Home For Christmas
“Driving Home For Christmas” has become a festive favorite by stealth. Composed by highly-regarded UK singer-songwriter Chris Rea, the song first appeared on the flipside of Rea’s 1986 single “Hello Friend” but only became a full-fledged A-side when it was released as a single to help promote Rea’s first career retrospective, New Light Through Old Windows in 1988. Even then, it only made No. 53 in the UK, but it’s enjoyed a robust afterlife. Annual reissues have taken Rea’s original recording into the UK’s festive singles chart on a yearly basis since 2007, and the song enjoyed its highest chart peak to date (No.10) in 2021.
Dermot Kennedy recorded an exclusive cover of “Driving Home For Christmas” for Apple Music in 2021. His take is sparser and arguably more poignant than Rea’s, but then it’s a song which has always resonated with the Dublin singer-songwriter. “I think I feel an extra attachment to it now because I’m always away from home,” Kennedy said in a 2021 interview. “Christmas is the time I just know I’m going to be home and I can always count on that.”
65: Eagles – Please Come Home For Christmas
First recorded by American blues singer/pianist Charles Brown in 1960, “Please Come Home For Christmas” entered the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1961 and then appeared on the Christmas Singles chart for nine seasons, finally hitting No. 1 in 1972. With Don Henley taking lead vocals, Eagles’ 1978 version peaked at No.18 on the Hot 100, the first Christmas song to reach the Top 20 on that chart since Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Paper,” in 1963.
64: Blondie feat. Fab 5 Freddy – Yuletide Throwdown
Blondie are well-known for shouting out Fab 5 Freddy on their 1980 song “Rapture,” with lead singer Debbie Harry ending a verse with, “Fab 5 Freddy told me everybody’s fly.” What many don’t remember, though, is that the two linked up for a Christmas song called “Yuletide Throwdown” a year later. Blondie re-released the tune in 2021, shining a light on what may just be one of their first hip-hop Christmas songs ever. – Will Schube
63: Aly & AJ – Greatest Time of Year
It isn’t often that a Christmas original is accepted so quickly into the mainstream, but Aly & AJ’s 2006 hit “Greatest Time of Year” is one of them. Alyson and AJ Michalka co-wrote the winter and bright-spirited tune alongside Antonina Armato and Tim James. It was featured in the movies The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause and Barbie: A Perfect Christmas as well as the duo’s own album Acoustic Hearts of Winter. – Jacklyn Krol
62: Jonas Brothers – Girl of My Dreams
The Jonas Brothers are known for hits like “Sucker” and “Burnin’ Up,” but what you may not know is that they actually released an original Christmas song back in 2007 for the Disney Channel Holiday record. Kevin, Joe, and Nick sing about forgetting presents and wishing for a “girl of my dreams” and even bring out some “fa-la-la-la-las” for good measure. Lucky fans may have seen the trio of brothers perform the song at Walt Disney World and at a “Christmas at Rockefeller” television special. – Jacklyn Krol
61: The Muppets – I Wish I Could Be Santa Claus
It’s not just bands that have original Christmas music. Even The Muppets have their very own holiday carol. Muppets Gonzo and Fozzie sing about wanting Santa Claus’ job in this little number. The song appears in both A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa and The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas. It was even nominated for Outstanding Music and Lyrics at the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. – Jacklyn Krol
60: Frank Sinatra – Mistletoe And Holly
Though a long-established Christmas classic, “Mistletoe And Holly” – which was co-written by Frank Sinatra – actually failed to chart when Capitol released it in 1957. The song also featured on the star’s first full-length holiday album, A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra, and has since become a festive staple thanks to covers by artists including Jack Jones and Charlie Byrd.
59: Descendants Cast – Jolly to the Core
This song sees the cast of the Disney Channel Original Movie Descendants putting a holiday twist on their hit “Rotten to the Core.” The remixed version, “Jolly to the Core,” was sung by the movie’s stars, Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, Sofia Carson, and Booboo Stewart. The cast performed the song during the television special, “Disney Parks Presents: A Descendants Magical Holiday Celebration” which received over 48 million views on YouTube. The tune was also featured on the 2016 album, Disney Channel Holiday Hits. – Jacklyn Krol
58: Burl Ives – Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
By the time Burl Ives came round to recording “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in 1964, the song had already been a hit song for scores of musicians, including Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Dean Martin, and Ella Fitzgerald. Ives had released a Christmas album in 1957, and he returned to festive music with his voiceover role as Sam the Snowman in the NBC television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which aired in December 1964. The resulting album, which was released with the unusually long title The Original Sound Track And Music From Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer: A Videocraft TV Musical Spectacular featuring the voice of Burl Ives, was recorded at Brooklyn Studios and pressed by Decca Records. The popularity of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” has continued unwaveringly, and so has the classic 1964 television show. It is now the longest-running holiday special, having aired every Christmas for more than half a century. When Ives was asked about the show in 1978, he replied: “I always watch Rudolph every year. It’s always nice, it’s amazing seeing how well it’s held up.” – Martin Chilton
57: Ramones: Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)
“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” first appeared as the B-side to the 1987 single “I Wanna Live” and the Ramones recorded the better-known version for their 1989 album Brain Drain. It featured Johnny Ramone’s thrashing guitar behind Joey’s Ramone’s punchy vocal delivery of his own lyrics. Although this song about avoiding conflict at Christmas did not prove popular at the time, it is now hailed as an alternative Christmas classic, full of beguiling imagery (“All the children are tucked in their beds/Sugar-plum fairies dancing in their heads) and complete with a mention of Rudolph. In 2004, “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” was used in the film Christmas with the Kranks, starring Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Dan Aykroyd. – Martin Chilton
56: Willie Nelson: Pretty Paper
Back in 1963, when Willie Nelson was writing songs for commissions, he agreed to let Roy Orbison record “Pretty Paper” and the star of “Only the Lonely” promptly had a hit with this sweetly sentimental song about a street seller who markets his stationary and pencils with cries of “pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue.” Nelson based the song on a man in Fort Texas, whose legs had been amputated and who had to use rollers to move up and down the sidewalk to sell his wares. Nelson released his own version a year later, when it was originally called “Little Darling (Pretty Paper),” and has returned again and again to the song over the years, including in a memorable duet with Dolly Parton. – Martin Chilton
55: Bing Crosby: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing / It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Bing Crosby’s rich warm bass voice is perfectly suited to carols, and he recorded a whole set for his 1962 album I Wish You A Merry Christmas, using gorgeous orchestral arrangements by Bob Thompson, Peter Matz, and Jack Holloran and then over-dubbing his vocals on the music. The highlight of the album is a medley of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” based on a 1739 biblical carol using a melody from Felix Mendelssohn, and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.” The words for that latter tune were composed in 1850 by a dour cleric called Edmund Sears, who was writing about his melancholy times as a minister in Massachusetts. It says everything for the warmth in Crosby’s voice that he made a song about “the weary world” and “life’s crushing load” sound so joyful. – Martin Chilton
54: Jimmy Durante – Frosty The Snowman
On June 20, 1950, 57-year-old Jimmy Durante went into MGM’s recording studios in Hollywood to record his first version of “Frosty the Snowman.” That orchestrated version was arranged and conducted by Roy Bargy, a pianist who had worked with jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke. His raspy-voiced version proved a hit for MGM after it was released in December 1950 for the Christmas rush. Nearly two decades later, when Arthur Rankin Jr. was directing the famous television special based on the “Frosty the Snowman” lyrics, he said he wanted Durante to voice the narrator and sing the title song “in that strange Jimmy Durante voice.” The 25-minute animated film, featuring Jackie Vernon as the Snowman, was broadcast on CBS on December 7, 1969. The show quickly became a festive classic and Durante’s new version of the song, scored by Maury Laws, became popular again, proving its staying power as a holiday classic. – Martin Chilton
53: The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
One of the most unusual and innovative festive hits was 1981’s “Christmas Wrapping,” a charming, insouciant love song about a single woman who is determined not to be part of the exhausting seasonal rigmarole – until fate intervenes on Christmas Eve when she goes out to the all-night grocery to buy cranberries. The Waitresses were a new wave band from Akron, Ohio, and the song was written in a rush by guitarist Chris Butler (he finished the lyrics in a taxi on the way to the recording studio) and sung by the late Patty Donahue. Butler, who joked that before the song “I was such a Scrooge. I hated Christmas!”, said the positive reception to “Christmas Wrapping” put the band “on an upswing again.” – Martin Chilton
52: Kelly Clarkson: Underneath the Tree
Kelly Clarkson swept the charts in 2013 with her bubbly Christmas song “Underneath the Tree” – performed as a big band power ballad, with a fine baritone saxophone solo from David Ralicke – which she co-wrote with Grammy-winning producer Greg Kurstin. The feel-good song, complete with festive horns and bells, was released as the lead single from the singer’s first Christmas album, Wrapped In Red. Clarkson also made the shrewd move to bring in English director Hamish Hamilton, a man who’d filmed the Oscars and Super Bowl half-time shows, to oversee the video for the song, filmed during a live performance in Las Vegas for the television special Kelly Clarkson’s Cautionary Christmas Music Tale. – Martin Chilton
51: Judy Garland: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” contains the special sort of lyrics that speak to the heart of listeners in the most affecting way. It was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine for Judy Garland’s 1944 movie, Meet Me in St. Louis. Garland, star of The Wizard of Oz, thought the lyrics were too sad, but put her heart and soul into singing the lines about having to “muddle through somehow” in lonely times. When Frank Sinatra recorded it in 1957, he rang Martin and said, “The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?” Martin later confirmed that he “tweaked” the song for Sinatra. “We put ‘hang a shining star upon the highest bough’ instead of having to muddle through,” the songwriter admitted. – Martin Chilton
50: Alvin & The Chipmunks – The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)
As novelty songs go, “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” has lasted better than most. Written by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr (under the stage name of David Seville), in 1958, the song was conceived through a feat of pioneering studio wizardry during which the vocals were recorded at varying tape speeds to produce high-pitched “chipmunk” voices. Accordingly, the vocals are credited to The Chipmunks, Seville’s cartoon band, but it was their creator who bagged three Grammy Awards in 1958 – for Best Comedy Performance, Best Children’s Recording and Best Engineered Record (Non-Classical).
49: Thurl Ravenscroft – You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch
“You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch” was written for the 1966 cartoon special How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, based upon the eponymous children’s book by Dr Seuss. The song was performed by Thurl Ravenscroft, who readers of a certain age may also recall as the booming voice behind Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes’ animated spokesman, Tony The Tiger. However, because Ravenscroft went uncredited in the show’s closing credits, the track’s vocal is often mistakenly attributed to Boris Karloff, who served as the narrator and the voice of The Grinch in the TV special.
48: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez – Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
Ever since it leapt off the big screen in 2013, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” has been a blockbuster holiday song. The tune was recorded by Kristen Bell, Agatha Lee Monn, and Katie Lopez who portrayed the role of Anna at different ages for Frozen. Songwriting masterminds Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez penned the song, which became the second best-selling Christmas digital single of all time. It’s been covered by the likes of Mickey Guyton, Lea Michele, Laura Marano, and Disney Channel Korea’s Mickey Mouse Club. – Jacklyn Krol
47: Neil Diamond – Cherry Cherry Christmas
Neil Diamond’s third Christmas album, A Cherry Cherry Christmas, was released in October 2009. It kicked off with the freshly-penned title track, which references Diamond’s earlier hit “Song Sung Blue” in its lyrics, and has all the hallmarks of a festive song that will be around for a long time. The album also included a cover of Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song,” which Diamond recorded because “there are so many beautiful Christmas songs around and so few Hanukkah songs.”
46. Chuck Berry – Run, Rudolph Run
Written by Johnny Marks (of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” fame), Chuck Berry’s “Run, Rudolph, Run” was almost a Xerox of his hit “Little Queenie,” but with additional festive fun. Though only a minor hit (it peaked at No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100), it’s enjoyed a fertile afterlife, with Keith Richards, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Idol, Lulu and Mancunian glam-punks Slaughter & The Dogs among the multitude who have since recorded versions.
45: Michael Bublé – It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
Written in 1951 by US composer and flautist Meredith Willson, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” has been recorded by many artists, but was originally a hit for Perry Como in 1951 – the same year that Bing Crosby recorded a version that was also widely praised. Renowned Canadian crooner Michael Bublé’s rendition featured on his 2011 album Christmas, which topped the US Billboard 200 on release.
44: Justin Bieber – Mistletoe
A modern-day Christmas song with all the hallmarks of a keeper, the reggae-flavored “Mistletoe” was written by Justin Bieber and the song’s producers, Nasri and Adam Messinger. A Top 10 hit in Bieber’s native Canada and a Billboard Top 20 entry when it was first released in 2011, “Mistletoe” is among the all-time best-selling Christmas/holiday digital singles in history.
43: Jessie J – (Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag
Jessie J first recorded this ode to Santa’s sackful of presents for a 2015 Boots Christmas advert, and it also featured on her first festive album, 2018’s This Christmas Day. The song itself, however, dates back to the early 50s, when versatile US jazz and pop singer Kay Starr’s original recording was a regular feature of Billboard’s “Top Christmas Songs” run down.
42: Pentatonix – Mary, Did You Know?
Pentatonix’s memorable version of “Mary, Did You Know?” appeared on the a cappella outfit’s third album, 2014’s That’s Christmas To Me, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and went double-platinum in the US. A versatile Christmas tune addressing Mary, mother of Jesus, the song was originally recorded by Christian recording artist Michael English on his self-titled debut solo album, in 1991, and it’s since been reimagined by artists ranging from rapper CeeLo Green to country stars Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd.
41: Bing Crosby – Do You Hear What I Hear?
Unlikely as it may sound, 1962’s “Do You Hear What I Hear?” – created by married songwriting team Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne – began life as a plea for peace during the potentially apocalyptic Cuban Missile Crisis. The song’s universal message, however, led to it being recorded for Mercury Records by The Harry Simeone Chorale (of “Little Drummer Boy” fame) before Bing Crosby made the song into a hit when he recorded his own version, in October 1963.
40: Bryan Adams – Christmas Time
Bryan Adams’ most enduring festive number, 1985’s “Christmas Time,” was co-written by the singer and his longtime collaborator Jim Vallance, who also penned the single’s B-side, “Reggae Christmas.” The latter song was reputedly influenced by a chance meeting with Ringo Starr, and it was first released as a fan club-only single in December 1984, with a Christmas message by Adams and his band on the B-side, titled “Plum Pudding.”
39: Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmas Time Is Here
“Christmas Time Is Here” was written by Lee Mendelson and jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi for the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, one of the first animated Christmas specials produced for network TV in the US. Because the song became a hit, two versions were included on the album A Charlie Brown Christmas: an instrumental version by Vince Guaraldi Trio and a vocal version by choristers from St Paul’s Episcopal Church in San Rafael, California.
38: Ariana Grande – Santa Tell Me
A new breed of Christmas song, 2015’s R&B-influenced “Santa Tell Me” finds Ariana Grande questioning whether the big man at the North Pole really exists, and, if so, can he offer advice on what might just be a holiday romance or perhaps the real thing? Smart, sassy and highly infectious.
37: Gwen Stefani And Blake Shelton – You Make It Feel Like Christmas
The celebratory, Motown-esque “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” is the titular song from the No Doubt singer’s full-length Christmas album. A duet with country singer Blake Shelton, it was first released in time for Christmas 2017.
36: Seth McFarlane & Sara Bareilles – Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Penned by Frank Loesser in 1944, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” first rose to prominence five years later when it won an Academy Award after featuring in the soundtrack for the smash hit movie Neptune’s Daughter. Though not specifically a festive song, its winter theme has led to it becoming a Christmas standard. Recorded in 2014, Seth McFarlane and Sara Bareilles’ swingin’ version of this classic duet takes some beating, though artists such as Vince Gill and Amy Grant, and Darius Rucker and Sheryl Crow have also tackled it in recent years.
35: Burl Ives – A Holly Jolly Christmas
“A Holly Jolly Christmas” (also known as “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas”) was more festive gold from the pen of Johnny Marks, and most famously recorded by US entertainer Burl Ives, in 1964. It appeared on the album Have A Holly Jolly Christmas, first released by Decca Records in October 1965. alongside Ives’ other legendary festive song, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
34: The Temptations – Silent Night
The Temptations’ emotive reading of the classic Christmas hymn “Silent Night” appeared on the Motown stars’ second festive album, 1980’s widely-acclaimed Give Love At Christmas. The group’s version of the iconic 19th-century Austrian hymn was punctuated by bass singer Melvin Franklin’s memorable sign-off, “Merry Christmas, from the Temptations!” and the song became an enduring staple of rhythm’n’blues radio during the holiday season.
33: The Beach Boys – Little Saint Nick
“Little Saint Nick” is a Christmas-themed hot-rod song about Santa Claus and his sleigh, written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love. The song was first released as a single on December 9, 1963, and peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s special seasonal weekly Christmas Singles chart. It also appeared on the Californian legends’ Beach Boys Christmas Album in November 1964, which blended contemporary material with covers of standards such as “White Christmas” and “Frosty The Snowman.”
32: Peggy Lee – The Christmas Waltz
Eminent songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne originally composed “The Christmas Waltz” for Frank Sinatra, who recorded it in 1954 as the B-side of a new recording of “White Christmas.” However, Peggy Lee later cut a charming version for her 1960 Capitol Records album Christmas Carousel, and this enduring song has since proved its worth in the hands of stars such as Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett and Harry Connick, Jr.
31: Josh Groban & Faith Hill – The First Noël
Featuring a duet with country star Faith Hill, US singer-songwriter Groban’s version of “The First Noël” appeared on his 2007 Yuletide album, Noël, which became North America’s biggest-selling holiday album of 2008. However, the song itself – a traditional classical English Christmas carol of Cornish origin – has lent itself to cover versions for well over a century, with performers as diverse as Frank Sinatra, The Louvin Brothers, Al Green and even Chas & Dave having taken a tilt at over the past 60 years.
30: Stevie Wonder – Someday At Christmas
First released by Motown in November 1967, Stevie Wonder’s Someday At Christmas was the star’s eighth studio album and his first full-length holiday album. It included covers of festive standards such as “Ave Maria” and “The Little Drummer Boy,” but also freshly-penned material, such as the title track, which was a US Top 30 for Wonder and was later covered by Jackson 5, The Temptations, Mary J Blige and Pearl Jam.
29: Ella Fitzgerald – Sleigh Ride
Originally a light orchestra standard composed by Leroy Anderson, “Sleigh Ride” first became a hit after Mitchell Parish added lyrics and The Andrews Sisters recorded the first vocal version in 1950. It has also been recorded by The Ronettes and Spice Girls, but arguably its definitive version is Ella Fitzgerald’s regal take from 1960 – one of the many highlights of Verve’s Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas, recorded with a full studio orchestra conducted by Academy Award nominee Frank DeVol.
28: U2 – Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)
U2 first had a run-in with Christmas songs in 1984, when Bono sang, and Adam Clayton played bass, on Band Aid’s iconic “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” In 1987, however, future Rattle & Hum producer Jimmy Iovine oversaw the A Very Special Christmas charity album for the Special Olympics, to which U2 donated a cover of the Phil Spector-penned “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” The previous year, Darlene Love had sung the same tune on Late Show With David Letterman (starting a tradition that would continue until his show left the air), and she also contributed backing vocals to U2’s rousing version.
27: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Christmas All Over Again
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers brought a little Byrds-esque jangle to the festive season with the self-penned “Christmas All Over Again,” the lead cut from 1992’s A Very Special Christmas 2 – the second of A&M’s Yuletide-themed compilation albums produced to benefit the Special Olympics. The album was certified double-platinum in 2001, having moved two million copies in North America.
26: Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby
Another festive classic dating back to the 50s, Joan Javits and Philip Springer’s “Santa Baby” was a huge hit for Eartha Kitt in 1953. More light-hearted than many Yuletide songs, the track is a tongue-in-cheek look at a Christmas list addressed to Santa Claus by a woman who wants extravagant gifts such as sables, yachts and decorations from Tiffany’s. A perennial Christmas favourite, “Santa Baby” yielded a gold disc for Kitt in the US and has since been covered by Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and Ariana Grande.
25: Glen Campbell – I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Originally a US Top 10 hit for Bing Crosby in 1943, Kim Gannon and Walter Kent’s “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was originally written in tribute to overseas soldiers during World War II who longed to be home at Christmas time. The song has since become a holidays standard, with Frank Sinatra, Jack Jones and Connie Francis also recording versions, in addition to Glen Campbell, whose plaintive take on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” appeared on 1968’s That Christmas Feeling.
24: Charles Brown – Merry Christmas, Baby
Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers were one of the hottest blues attractions on the US West Coast when their recording of “Merry Christmas Baby” reached No. 3 on Billboard’s R&B Juke Box chart during the Christmas season of 1947. For the recording, Moore, a guitarist, was accompanied by singer/pianist Brown, bassist Eddie Williams and guitarist Oscar Moore (Johnny’s brother, then a member of The King Cole Trio). An enduring hit, “Merry Christmas Baby” has since been covered by many artists, including Chuck Berry, Otis Redding, BB King, Elvis Presley and Bruce Springsteen.
23: Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
Another Christmas cracker from Johnny Marks – who also penned Burl Ives’ “A Holly Jolly Christmas” – “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” was first recorded by the 13-year-old Brenda Lee, in 1958. An initial Billboard Hot 100 breakthrough came in 1960, but the song hit its US chart peak (to date) in 2018 when it rose to No. 9. Now an established seasonal standard, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” also featured prominently in the blockbuster 1990 movie Home Alone.
22: Elton John – Step Into Christmas
First issued in 1973, Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Step Into Christmas” was intentionally mixed using lots of compression, in homage to Phil Spector’s legendary “Wall Of Sound” productions from the 60s. Though recorded quickly, the song has an enduring appeal and it achieved its highest UK chart placing of No.11 when it was reissued in 2017.
21: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – The Power Of Love
If we’re splitting hairs, we could argue Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s “The Power Of Love” isn’t technically a Christmas song as its lyric doesn’t directly reference the yearly festivities. However, the original single sleeve depicted the Assumption of the Virgin, and the song’s promo video featured the Nativity of Jesus, so it’s a Christmas song in all but name. It also climbed to No. 1 in the UK in the run up to Christmas 1984, but only for one week before being usurped by Band Aid’s high-profile charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Nonetheless, as soaring power ballads go, “The Power Of Love” is right up there with the best of them. It didn’t have the controversy of “Relax” or the widescreen drama of “Two Tribes” but it’s got soul and spirituality, and it’s arguably the best of Frankie’s triumvirate of chart-toppers.
20: Carpenters – (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays
Another festive classic dating back to the 50s, “(There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays” is perhaps still associated primarily with legendary crooner Perry Como, who recorded the song twice with Mitchell Ayres’ Orchestra and The Ray Charles Singers, with its initial release peaking at No. 8 in the Billboard magazine chart in 1954. Carpenters, however, also recorded this tender version of the song, which appeared on 1984’s An Old-Fashioned Christmas.
19: José Feliciano – Feliz Navidad
Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano wrote “Feliz Navidad” in 1970, and it’s long been accepted as a classic Christmas pop song. Its Spanish chorus (the traditional Christmas/New Year greeting “Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad”) translates as “Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness”, while there’s no denying the sincerity of its English lyric, “I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart.” “Feliz Navidad” has a universal appeal, so it’s no surprise to learn it’s one the most-played Christmas songs in the US and Canada.
18: Bobby Helms – Jingle Bell Rock
An evergreen Christmas song, first released in 1957, Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock” was composed by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe, and its lyrics reference other popular 50s hits, such as Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock.” Remarkably, in January 2019, the song entered the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 10 for the first time – 60 years after it first charted, in 1958.
17: Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You
The lead single from Carey’s fourth studio album – and first holiday album – 1994’s Merry Christmas, the uptempo “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is the best-selling modern-day Christmas song, having moved an estimated 16 million copies to date. It’s also attracted critical acclaim, with The New Yorker referring to it as “one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon.”
16: Queen – Thank God It’s Christmas
Queen’s bid for festive glory, the stirring “Thank God It’s Christmas,” was written by lead guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Released on November 26, 1984, the single spent six weeks in the UK charts that Christmas and New Year, peaking at No. 21. It later appeared only on the band’s Greatest Hits III, in 1999, and was included on the bonus EP packaged with the deluxe edition of The Works, remastered and reissued in 2011.
15: Harry Simeone Chorale – The Little Drummer Boy
A festive song with an intricate history, “The Little Drummer Boy” was written (as “Carol Of The Drum”) by American classical music composer Katherine Kennicott Davis, in 1941. It was first recorded by the Trapp Family Singers (of The Sound Of Music fame) in 1951, but enjoyed more widespread popularity in 1958 after being rearranged as “The Little Drummer Boy” by composer/conductor Harry Simeone. With an added counterpoint harmony and additional lyrics, David Bowie and Bing Crosby revisited the song as “The Little Drummer Boy”/“Peace On Earth” in 1977 and scored a huge transatlantic hit.
14: Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas)
First recorded (twice) in 1946, then again in 1953 and, finally, in 1961, with an orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael, “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas)” is widely regarded as one of the season’s definitive songs. Ironically, the tune’s co-writers, Bob Wells and Mel Tormé, composed it at the height of a sweltering summer. We can probably assume there were no chestnuts roasting on an open fire right then.
13: Tony Bennett And Lady Gaga – Winter Wonderland
Composers Felix Barnard and Richard B Smith co-wrote “Winter Wonderland” in 1934 and it’s since become a Christmas standard, attracting upwards of 200 cover versions. Earning its place among the best Christmas songs ever is an especially dashing rendition by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, which was given a standalone release in 2014, shortly after the duo’s US chart-topping jazz standards album, Cheek To Cheek.
12: Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
Bearing in mind he was integral to The Move and a founder member of ELO, Roy Wood has quite a CV. He’s also synonymous with Yuletide, thanks to the anthemic “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday,” which he recorded with his glam rock outfit, Wizzard. First released in December 1973, the song soared to No. 4 on the UK Top 40, but it was beaten to that year’s Christmas No. 1 spot by Slade’s equally memorable “Merry Xmas Everybody.” However, “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” has since become part of the cultural fabric. In December 2012, the British public voted the song second (behind “Fairytale Of New York”) in ITV’s The Nation’s Favorite Christmas Song.
11: Jackson 5 – Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town
An enduring classic, John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie’s “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” was first recorded in 1934 and has passed down the generations from Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters to Bruce Springsteen and Mariah Carey. Jackson 5’s euphoric version first appeared on their 1970 bestseller, Jackson 5 Christmas Album.
10: Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime
A UK Top 10 hit on its initial release in 1979, “Wonderful Christmastime” now feels part of the festive fabric. The song still receives substantial airplay each year and has attracted covers from artists as disparate as Diana Ross, Jimmy Buffett, Demi Lovato and The Shins.
9: Andy Williams – It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
With its lyrical references to spending time with loved ones, sledding for children, roasting marshmallows and other festive staples, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” is a true Christmas chestnut. Curiously, though, while the track is widely regarded as the flagship song from the platinum-selling The Andy Williams Christmas Album, the Grammy Award-winning US vocalist’s version of “White Christmas” was originally chosen to promote the album when it first launched in 1963.
8: Elvis Presley – Blue Christmas
Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W Johnston, the melancholic “Blue Christmas” was first recorded by Doye O’Dell, in 1948, before country pioneer Ernest Tubb turned in a distinguished version of the song. However, Elvis Presley cemented “Blue Christmas”’s status as a rock’n’roll holiday classic when he recorded it for his 1957 record Elvis’ Christmas Album, which moved over 20 million copies and remains the world’s best-selling Christmas album.
7: Dean Martin – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow
This enduring festive song was recorded for RCA Victor in 1945, by Vaughn Monroe, and became a No. 1 on Billboard’s Best Sellers music chart in late January, where it remained through February 1946. Woody Herman’s competing recording peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard chart, though legendary crooner Dean Martin recorded what is often regarded as the definitive version in 1959, as part of his album A Winter Romance. A re-recorded version of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’ later appeared in 1966 on The Dean Martin Christmas Album.
6: John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
The culmination of more than two years’ worth of peace activism undertaken by John Lennon and Yoko Ono that began with the bed-ins they staged in March and May 1969, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was partially conceived as an anti-Vietnam War protest song. Recorded with the Harlem Community Choir, the song first charted in the UK Top 5 in 1972 and soon earned its reputation as one of the best Christmas songs of all time.
5: Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
Co-written by Bob Geldof and Ultravox’s Midge Ure in response to Ethiopia’s mid-80s famine, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” featured an array of stars including Sting, Phil Collins and U2’s Bono. It displaced Wings’ “Mull Of Kintyre” as the fastest-selling UK single in history and held the record until Elton John’s 1997 release of “Candle In The Wind”.
4: The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York
About as bittersweet a Christmas song as it’s possible to imagine, The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Celtic folk-flavored “Fairytale Of New York” was once banned by the BBC for its raw language (“You’re a bum, you’re a punk, you’re an old slut on junk”), but it’s now the most-played Christmas song of the 21st century. Wherever you stand on its lyrics, it’s impossible to deny the power of this truly singular ballad, which was inexplicably held off the Christmas No. 1 slot by Pet Shop Boys’ cover of “Always On My Mind” in 1987.
3: Frank Sinatra – Jingle Bells
“Jingle Bells” may now be synonymous with Christmas, but it was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857 and intended for Thanksgiving season in the US. First recorded on an Edison Cylinder in 1889, it’s been a million-seller for Bing Crosby, Perry Como and more, but Frank Sinatra’s sublime 1948 recording still takes some beating.
2: Wham! – Last Christmas
1984 was a year for iconic ballads, and two of them – Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “The Power Of Love” and the high-profile charity song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – conspired to prevent Wham!’s otherwise sure-fire festive chart-topper, “Last Christmas,” from reaching No. 1 that year. Reissues of the George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley song, however, have taken it into the UK Top 40 on 13 occasions. Indeed, “Last Christmas” currently holds the record as the biggest-selling single in UK chart history not to reach No. 1.
1. Bing Crosby – White Christmas
Simply a behemoth of a festive anthem, “White Christmas” is the daddy of all Christmas songs. Penned by Irving Berlin, it has been recorded countless times, but the definitive take is still Bing Crosby’s 1942 Decca recording – widely believed to the world’s best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales of over 50 million copies.
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