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Best Christmas Rock Songs: An Essential Seasonal Playlist

From Def Leppard to Chuck Berry, U2, Tom Petty, Weezer and Eric Clapton, the best Christmas rock songs are satisfyingly turkey-free.

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It’s not just Santa Claus making lists and checking them twice. With Christmas coming, we’ll be ticking off the turkey, the tree, and all the trimmings, but what of the perfect music to provide the soundtrack for our festive fun? Most of us fall back on a solid Christmas hits collection regardless of our party’s persuasion, but what if we went one louder and gifted you the best Christmas rock songs ever? There’s no traditional Christmas carols here. No “Little Drummer Boy,” “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” or “Silent Night.” This Christmas, enjoy some rock around the Christmas tree.

Listen to the best Christmas rock songs on Spotify, and scroll down for our list of the best Christmas rock songs.

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Chuck Berry: Run Rudolph Run

First released by Chess Records in time for Christmas 1958, this exuberant rocker – co-written by Johnny Marks of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” fame – is quintessential Chuck Berry. It’s since been covered by Sheryl Crow, Bryan Adams, Billy Idol and many more. – Tim Peacock

Bobby Helms: Jingle Bell Rock

The epitome of the term “crossover hit,” Bobby Helms’ laidback, roots-flavored “Jingle Bell Rock,” from 1957, was originally a US country radio hit which also made it to No.6 on the mainstream Billboard Best Sellers chart. Currently ranked among the Top 10 Christmas/Holiday Digital Singles in the US, it remains an enduring Yuletide favorite. – Tim Peacock

Def Leppard: We All Need Christmas

Beautifully crafted acoustic rock ballad kissed with strings, and fueled by hope and optimism – and a final coda which goes up to 11. A seasonal classic-in-waiting wherein Joe Elliott and the boys raise a glass to “all that’s past – and to the future, long may it last!” ’Nuff said. – Tim Peacock

Weezer: We Wish You A Merry Christmas

As their recent Billboard Alternative Chart-topping take on Toto’s “Africa” proves, Weezer know a thing or three about cool cover versions. From 2008’s Christmas gift EP Christmas With Weezer, this short but sweet remake of a classic festive hymn is another belter. – Tim Peacock

John Lennon: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

Part of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s peace efforts, the Christmas song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” has become a staple of holiday season playlists. Featuring the Harlem Community Choir, the song focused on the Vietnam War at the time of its initial release, but remains sadly relevant and necessary decades later. – Sam Armstrong

U2: Christmas (Baby Come Home Please)

Mariah Carey made a fantastic version, of course. But Bono and co’s emotional, widescreen take of Darlene Love’s cult classic from 1963 is just as affecting. Co-written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector, the song was reputedly originally penned for Ronnie Spector. – Tim Peacock

Paul McCartney: Wonderful Christmastime

The Beatles’ Paul McCartney’s classic Christmas song isn’t exactly a rockin’ tune, but it’s worthy of inclusion nonetheless. The little ditty is based around a synthesizer line, and its lyrics have a wonderfully simple message: “We’re here tonight/And that’s enough.” – Sam Armstrong

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: Christmas All Over Again

A rousing, Tom Petty-penned anthem with a few tinges of Phil Spector thrown in for good measure, this was initially the lead cut from A&M’s star-studded 1992 A Very Special Christmas compilation, released in aid of the Special Olympics. – Tim Peacock

The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping

The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” doesn’t start out like “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” but eventually it turns into a little bit of a love song. A late-night trek to a grocery store on Christmas Eve leads to singer Patty Donahue meeting the man she’s been chasing all year. – Sam Armstrong

Little Steven: Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)

Do they know it’s Christmas? You wouldn’t expect the New York punk rock icons The Ramones to make a Christmas song. But with a killer riff and a plea for peace on Earth (or, at the very least, the apartment), this one is among the best Christmas rock songs ever. Case in point: The song’s sterling cinematic makeover in 2017 by Bruce Springsteen’s talented wingman. – Tim Peacock

Cocteau Twins: Frosty The Snowman

It may not immediately make sense, but the more you think about it, the more Cocteau Twins and hazy, Christmas music begins to seem like a perfect match. (Their take on “Winter Wonderland” is great as well.) – Sam Armstrong

Bryan Adams: Merry Christmas

Canadian rock icon Bryan Adams recorded an enduring festive song, “Christmas Time,” in 1985. He delivered a second in 2011, in the shape of this yearningly soulful, sleigh-bell-enhanced rock ballad. – Tim Peacock

The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl: Fairytale of New York

This Christmas classic has become a lightning rod of controversy in recent years, but as Nick Cave wrote in 2020, “the idea that a word, or a line, in a song can simply be changed for another and not do it significant damage is a notion that can only be upheld by those that know nothing about the fragile nature of songwriting.” – Sam Armstrong

Cheap Trick: Christmas Christmas

Legendary Illinois power-popsters Cheap Trick had Xmas all wrapped up with 2017’s Christmas Christmas. Driven by guitarist Rick Neilsen’s power chords, the album’s titular song is a seasonal sizzler which shows exactly why “Christmas Christmas” is so good they really should name it twice. – Tim Peacock

Slade – Merry Xmas Everybody

The iconic glam rock group didn’t want to release this record initially. Luckily, their manager had his way. It beat Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” to the top spot in the charts in 1973 and hasn’t looked back since. Reflecting on it in 2020, guitarist Dave Hill told Classic Rock that the “song lifted a nation. It took on a life of its own.” – Sam Armstrong

Eric Clapton: White Christmas

The iconic guitarist’s new Happy Xmas album got off to a blistering start when it topped Billboard’s seasonal Holiday Albums Chart on release in October 2018. More than capable of warming the cockles is the record’s lead cut: an imperious, Chicago blues-style version of Bing Crosby’s enduring “White Christmas.” – Tim Peacock

Looking for more? Discover the best Christmas songs of all time.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Markus

    December 3, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    ‘December Will Be Magic Again’, Kate Bush. Best Christmas song, imo.

  2. John M

    December 20, 2017 at 2:11 am

    Great list! I love obscure Christmas songs. Here’s a playlist of some lesser-known Christmas music: https://open.spotify.com/user/qaz23/playlist/22Hs4AlaOFExwI0cOEBHSj

  3. Ron Short

    December 6, 2018 at 5:04 am

    Father Christmas
    by The Kinks.

  4. David

    December 5, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    Huh? Not Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) By The Darkness?! Id there’s any track I can think of, apart from Slade’s Merry Xmas, this is the first track I would mention…

  5. David Chamberlin

    December 23, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    Sensational Alex Harvey Band–There’s No Lights on the Christmas Tree Mother, They’re Burning Big Louie Tonight

  6. Dimitris Dimitriou

    December 24, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Mistress for Christmas by
    AC/DC.

  7. Chris

    December 26, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    Christmas is the time to say I love you Billy Squire

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