Skip to main content

Enter your email below to be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Please enter a valid email address
Please accept the terms
Best Christmas Songs: 60 Classic Tracks For The Holiday Season
List & Guides

Best Christmas Songs: 60 Classic Tracks For The Holiday Season

From festive celebrations to seasonal sass and holiday heartbreak, the best Christmas songs cover all the Yuletide bases.

Back

What makes a great Christmas song? It could be anything from a memorable hook to a moving sentiment – or the simple fact that it gets excited in the mood for the holidays. Whether they fuel your seasonal cheer (or capture those holiday blues), the best Christmas songs all have one thing in common: they are timeless classics destined to come around every year.

Here, then, from Mud to mistletoe, are our 60 best Christmas songs.

Listen to the best Christmas songs on Spotify, and check out our 60 best Christmas songs, below.

60: Idina Menzel And Michael Bublé: Baby, It’s Cold Outside (2014)

Dating back to the 1949 movie Neptune’s Daughter, songwriter Frank Loesser’s wintry tête-à-tête between two lovers, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, has come to be regarded as one of the best Christmas songs of all time. To modern ears, however, the original lyrics can stir controversy, so it’s a pleasure to hear how Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé reinvented the song for the 21st century, replacing the lyric “Say, what’s in this drink?” with the less creepy “Was that a wink?”, among other minor tweaks. With a music video featuring child actors lip-syncing and dancing – an ingenious way to reclaim the song’s intended innocence – it’s not a stretch to see Menzel and Bublé’s version of Baby, It’s Cold Outside becoming the seasonal standard. 

59: Marika Hackman: Driving Under Stars (2016)

English songwriter Marika Hackman delivered the splendid Wonderland EP in 2016, including among its six tracks the beautiful Driving Under Stars. With so many classics to do battle with, it’s hard for newer tunes to hold their own against the best Christmas songs, but Hackman succeeds here, in part due to framing her often moody music in a cheerier context, without losing sight of the melancholy that can pervade the holiday season.

58: Sufjan Stevens: That Was The Worst Christmas Ever! (2003)

Known for his emotional performances and devastatingly honest lyrics, indie-folk singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens brought his deepest, darkest feelings to Christmas. Proof that a fine tradition of alternative Christmas songs has grown alongside the tried and true standards that make up most people’s idea of what the best Christmas songs should sound like, That Was The Worst Christmas Ever! is performed beautifully with a twisted humour that should help us appreciate what we have more than ever.

57: Sia: Snowman (2017)

Despite not growing up with typical Christmas weather, plenty of Australian pop stars have captured the holiday spirit with aplomb (see also Kylie Minogue, elsewhere in this list of the best Christmas songs). With Snowman, Sia delivers a heartbreaking ballad about being left alone by your frozen friend once the Christmas season passes, using a powerful metaphor that can be applied to everyone’s life at some point.

56: Johnny Cash: I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day (1963)

Johnny Cash rarely did sweet, and here his gritty vocals bring a bit of danger to the festive period, as he delivers a sermon on God’s goodwill which doubles as a warning to the bad guys. Another great country ballad among the best Christmas songs, I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day finds The Man In Black swapping that funereal attire for a Santa suit of deepest red.

55: Tony Bennett: I Love The Winter Weather/I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (1968)

With a tight band performance and Tony Bennett’s perfectly delivered vocals, this winter medley stands as one of the greatest moments in the classic crooner’s 75-year career. Telling a typical tale of love at Christmastime, it’s an underrated number but, once heard, one that confidently takes its place among the best Christmas songs.

54: The Ronettes: Frosty The Snowman (1963)

Led by Ronnie Spector, former wife of Phil Spector, the iconic girl group The Ronettes epitomised everything about the late producer’s era-defining “Wall Of Sound” production style in the 60s. Spector may well have ended his days as a convicted murderer, but his 1963 album A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector contains all the warmth and joy of the holiday season, with Frosty The Snowman providing a high-energy standout.

53: John Denver: Silver Bells (1975)

One of the most delicate voices in country music, John Denver sang a beautiful version of this Christmas standard for his 1975 album Rocky Mountain Christmas. Originally written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, and brought to fame by Bing Crosby in 1950, Silver Bells has also been recorded by artists as diverse as Kate Smith (aka “The First Lady Of Radio”), mother-and-daughter country duo The Judds and Aled Jones of Walking In The Air fame, whose charity recording was an unlikely duet with Irish radio and TV host Terry Wogan.

52: Ramones: Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) (1989)

Bringing a bit of punk-rock energy to the best Christmas songs, Ramones prove that, under the gritty guitars and leather jackets, they really knew their way around a pop song – and could even extend that to seasonal subject matter. Closing their 1989 album, Brain Drain, Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight) finds frontman Joey Ramone pleading with his partner not to fight on Christmas Day. It’s a heartfelt moment from a band who defined a genre.

51: Carla Thomas: Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas (1963)

A pop-soul ballad that perfectly captures the gift-giving glow of Christmas romance, the 1963 single Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas crackles as warmly as a log fire. Written by singer Carla Thomas, Booker T And The MGs guitarist Steve Cropper and arranger Vincent Trauth, the song failed to ignite the pop charts in the year of its release, but later proved to be a blazing highlight on the 1968 Atlantic Records compilation Soul Christmas. Revealing how Thomas was coming into her own as the “Queen Of Memphis Soul”, Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas is a vibrant and youthful blast of festive innocence.

50: Dolly Parton And Willie Nelson: Pretty Paper (2020)

Country-music royalty unite for this delightful Christmas number. A flirtatious tale of gift-giving and affirmations of love, Pretty Paper will make for an excellent addition to any Christmas playlist.

49: Leona Lewis: One More Sleep (2013)

Peaking at No.3 in the UK upon its release in 2013, former X Factor winner Leona Lewis exudes pure joy while exploring her love of Motown on One More Sleep. Standing out among her pop contemporaries by gifting us a modern Christmas classic, the song is told from a child’s perspective with soul-stirring brass and plaintively angelic vocals. “It’s just the excitement, almost a childlike excitement that you have the night before Christmas,” Lewis told Perez Hilton of the song’s inspiration. “It’s really very close to my heart, so it was really fun.”

48: Jackson 5: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1970)

A young Michael Jackson shines through on this iconic recording of a song originally written in 1952. Filled with Jackson 5’s stellar harmonies, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus brings a little bit of drama to Christmas, as the protagonist believes he has seen his mother kissing old Saint Nick behind his father’s back. Little does he know, it’s actually his father in a Santa costume…

47: Ed Sheeran And Elton John: Merry Christmas (2021)

Like eagerly placing a star atop a Christmas tree, Ed Sheeran’s festive team-up with Elton John, on the 2021 single Merry Christmas, came to us practically gift-wrapped with Phil Spector-esque production tricks and a jingle-jangle groove. In an interview on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Sheeran spoke of his desire to create something magical and timeless: “I don’t really want to do a Christmas song unless we’re going in. Unless it’s like sleigh bells, ding-dong – yeah, it needs to be a proper Christmas song.” Going to No.1 in the UK upon its release, then later topping the charts again as a Sheeran-endorsed parody on LadBaby’s Sausage Rolls For Everyone, it’s obvious Merry Christmas is destined to sit among the best Christmas songs for years to come.

46: Ariana Grande: Santa Tell Me (2014)

Ariana Grande serves up her excellent brand of sugar sweet-pop with Santa Tell Me, recounting a tale of late-night flirtations amid seasonal celebrations, and scoring herself a modern classic among the best Christmas songs in the process.

45: Kelly Clarkson: Underneath The Tree (2013)

Co-written with pop production supremo Greg Kurstin, Kerry Clarkson’s festive offering, Underneath The Tree, lit up the charts upon its release in November 2013. Peaking at No.12 in the US and No.15 in the UK, it switches up the “Wall Of Sound” energy of The Ronettes’ Frosty The Snowman and the jaunty spirit of Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree to dazzle us with a nostalgia-filled blast of retro-pop. Undeniably catchy and excitable, the fact that Underneath The Tree is still played on the radio in the run-up to Christmas every year proves that it’s one of the best Christmas songs of modern times.

44: Cliff Richard: Mistletoe & Wine (1988)

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a little bit of mistletoe and wine, would it? That’s what Cliff Richard made sure to remind us on his classic 1988 single, originally written for a 1976 stage adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl. Released (astonishingly) as Richard’s 99th single, Mistletoe & Wine became the highest-selling single of the year, scoring the singer his 12th No.1 in the process.

43: Paul McCartney: Wonderful Christmastime (1979)

Wonderful Christmastime sees the legendary ex-Beatle doing what he does best: creating an incredibly simple, catchy song. McCartney covers all the bases in the verses – parties, festive spirit and carolling – before nailing it every time with an excellent chorus.

42: Otis Redding: Merry Christmas Baby (1968)

Released posthumously on Stax Records as the B-side to Otis Redding’s cover of White Christmas, the “King Of Soul”’s hair-raising rendition of the 40s R&B song Merry Christmas Baby is a revelation. With a merry lead organ hook played by Booker T Jones and some perky guitar work from Steve Cropper, the festive favourite is transformed into a funk-soul jaunt, made all the more sprightly by Redding’s impeccable vocal performance. With such a cheery and carefree vibe, it’s hard to believe this song failed to chart, but it more than deserves to be rediscovered by future generations as one of soul music’s best Christmas songs.

41: Elvis Presley: Winter Wonderland (1971)

Even The King Of Rock’n’Roll made time for Christmas. His version of this festive banger comes with all the swagger you’d expect, bringing a fresh energy to a timeless classic that earns its place among the best Christmas songs.

40: Michael Bublé: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (2012)

Second only to Santa himself, the Canadian crooner is a true poster boy for Christmas. Michael Bublé’s Christmas album is a guaranteed stocking-filler – and with songs like this, it’s clear to see why. Originally written by Meredith Willson in 1951, It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas has been recorded countless times, but Bublé’s version stands as one of the strongest, instantly conjuring the traditional holiday spirit, no matter where you are.

39: Bing Crosby And The Andrews Sisters: Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1947)

Both Bublé and Carey have also had stabs as this festive classic but, thanks in no small part to its irresistible swing, Bing Crosby And The Andrews Sisters’ version has crossed generations to become one of the best Christmas songs of all time

38: Boney M: Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord (1978)

Taking a cover of Harry Belafonte’s 1956 hit and giving it a disco groove, Boney M’s 1978 single Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord gives the story of baby Jesus a dancefloor spin. An early mash-up, of sorts, it’s essentially a medley that includes a newly-composed gospel-inspired outro written by German producer Frank Farian and Austrian songwriter Fred Jay, with lyrics performed with soulful gusto by singers Liz Mitchell, Marcia Barrett and Maizie Williams. Spending four weeks at No.1 in the UK, Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord is one of the best Christmas songs for reminding us of the greatest story ever told.

37: Frank Sinatra: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1957)

For many, Frank Sinatra is the definitive voice of Christmas – and, with a little tweak to its lyrics, he delivered the definitive version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas in 1957. The song had originally been written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane for Judy Garland to sing in the 1944 musical Meet Me In St Louis, and Sinatra took a first pass at it in 1948. Returning to it a decade later, Sinatra asked Martin to “jolly up” the line “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow”, and the resulting “Hang a star upon the highest bough” helped to place Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas among the firmament as one of the best Christmas songs of all time.

36: Stevie Wonder: What Christmas Means To Me (1967)

At just 17 years old, Motown boy wonder Stevie Wonder was already eight albums into his career when he released his 1967 album Someday At Christmas, a collection of yuletide rhythm’n’blues tracks. A key highlight was What Christmas Means To Me, a song penned by Anna Gaye, Allen Story and George Gordy, which would inspire countless cover versions and become a modern holiday classic. As one of the best Christmas songs of its era, Stevie Wonder’s version of What Christmas Means To Me remains the definitive cut, bolstered by the backing of Motown’s house band, The Funk Brothers, and driven home by Wonder’s insatiable enthusiasm.

35: Eagles: Please Come Home for Christmas (1978)

Following the huge success of their 1976 album, Hotel California, country-rock group Eagles crammed all their comfort and joy into a cover of Charles Brown’s 1960 blues track Please Come Home For Christmas. Released in late November 1978, the song peaked at No.18 in the US and became the first Christmas song in 15 years to crack the US Top 20. With new bassist Timothy B Schmit having joined the iconic Eagles line-up of Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Don Felder, Please Come Home For Christmas goes down like a cup of warm hot chocolate during a cold snap. The polar opposite of Life In The Fast Lane, its serene and laidback groove flows nicely into this list of best Christmas songs.

34: Dean Martin: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (1959)

A member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack – a collective of crooners that also included Sammy Davis, Jr, and actor Peter Lawford – Dean Martin delivers a potent dose of Christmas jubilance on his version of this legendary song, written in 1945 by lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne.

33: Chris De Burgh: A Spaceman Came Travelling (1975)

Long before Chris De Burgh wooed listeners in the mid-80s with The Lady In Red, the Irish songwriter recorded A Spaceman Came Travelling for his second album, Spanish Train And Other Stories, in 1975. Inspired by the ancient astronaut theories of Erich Von Daniken, as detailed in his book Chariots Of The Gods?, it’s an unusual festive song full of synths and otherwordly chanting that re-envisions the Nativity story as a science-fiction tale of extraterrestrial visitation. “What if the star of Bethlehem was a space craft,” De Burgh later expounded, “and what if there is a benevolent being or entity in the universe keeping an eye on the world and our foolish things that we do to each other?” After The Lady In Red became his breakout hit, De Burgh re-released A Spaceman Came Travelling and the song peaked at No.40 in the UK, almost a decade after its original release. You could almost call it destiny.

32: Coldplay: Christmas Lights (2010)

Coldplay’s bold, anthemic pop-rock seems tailor-made for the holiday season, so it’s perhaps a surprise that it took them a decade to step out with a Christmas song. Dropping Christmas Lights on 1 December 2010, the group officially served notice that that year’s yuletide season had started. More upbeat than much of Coldplay’s work, the song features production from the godfather of ambient music, Brian Eno, and sees Chris Martin deliver a stunning vocal performance that is by turns delicate and powerful.

31: Bing Crosby And Frank Sinatra: White Christmas (1964)

No list of the best Christmas songs is complete without White Christmas. Sinatra and Crosby’s Christmas duets are among both singers’ best performances, and their rendition of White Christmas serves as an excellent soundtrack to putting up the decorations at the start of the festive period.

30: Andy Williams: It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (1963)

Thanks to the big-band energy, and Williams’ charming voice, this is one of the best Christmas songs for a reason. A perfect reminder of everything we all love about a lively holiday season – carols, toasted marshmallows and mistletoe – this triple-time number has remained a favourite since the pop singer released it on his first Christmas album, in 1963.

29: José Feliciano: Feliz Navidad (1970)

Officially acknowledged by the American Society Of Composers, Authors And Publishers as one of the most performed holiday songs of all time, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano’s 1970 single Feliz Navidad is a bilingual blast of Christmas joy. “If I had left in Spanish only, then I knew the English stations might not play it, so I decided to write an English lyric,” Feliciano said in an interview with Billboard magazine. Switching between Spanish and English against an uptempo Latin pop melody, the song’s simple message of bestowing Christmas wishes upon all and sundry failed to become a hit in its day, but has since been embraced as something of a folk anthem. More than four decades after its release, Feliz Navidad reached an all-time high of No.6 on the US Hot 100 in 2020, solidifying its status as one of the best Christmas songs ever made.

28: Kylie Minogue: Santa Baby (2000)

With hits such as Spinning Around, the “Princess Of Pop”, Kylie Minogue, reasserted her credentials as pop royalty at the start of the 2000s. Initially tucked away as the B-side to her 2000 single Please Stay, Kylie’s version of Santa Baby made clear her intentions to make a move on the Christmas market – a promise she finally made good on in 2015, with the album Kylie Christmas. Eartha Kitt’s original 1953 recording may have ensured Santa Baby’s place among the best Christmas songs, but Kylie has truly claimed the tune as her own: it ranks as her second-highest-streamed song on Spotify, below only the equally immortal Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

27: Burl Ives: Have A Holly Jolly Christmas (1965)

Originally composed by Burl Ives for a CBS TV special, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, which aired in the US in 1964, Have A Holly Jolly Christmas proved so popular, Ives was convinced to release it as a standalone single the following year. Since then, it has established itself as one of the best Christmas songs, making its annual return to seasonal playlists just as assuredly as Rudolph leads Santa’s sleigh.

26: The Beach Boys: Little Saint Nick (1963)

More often associated with sun, surf and sports cars, California rock group The Beach Boys peaked at No.43 in the US with their 1963 single Little Saint Nick. Co-written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, it puts a festive spin on their earlier hit Little Deuce Coupe in order to craft a delightful ode to Santa Claus. Imagining Santa’s sleigh as a souped-up hot rod, the song is a bona fide rock’n’roll classic among the best Christmas songs, chugging along to a tinsel-rustling rhythm with lyrical nods to Rudolph The Reindeer to boot. As far as odes to Santa Claus go, nothing matches the pure and innocent glee of Little Saint Nick.

25: Donny Hathaway: This Christmas (1970)

A soulful Christmas number co-written with Nadine McKinnor, Donny Hathaway’s 1970 single This Christmas didn’t meet with chart success upon its release, but it is now considered to be a modern holiday standard. Inspired by Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song, Hathaway sought to capture a vision of Christmas in Chicago that Black audiences could identify with. In 2017, Nadine McKinnor spoke to the Chicago Tribune about the song’s creation, describing it as “a love affair with the atmosphere of the holiday”. Sadly, Hathaway died in 1979, never living to see This Christmas become the seasonal staple it is today, as it wasn’t until December 2020 that the song broke into the US Top 40 (though it reached No.11 on Billboard’s 1972 Christmas Singles chart). Now warmly embraced as one of the best Christmas songs ever written, This Christmas lives on as a reminder of Hathaway’s irrepressible talent.

24: Gene Autry: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1949)

Despite being covered many times, Gene Autry’s original pop-country recording of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer still stands as the definitive version. Autry’s sweet, smooth voice is an absolute joy to listen to while waiting for Rudolph to make his yearly appearance.

23: David Bowie and Bing Crosby: Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy (1977)

The curious sight of David Bowie making an appearance on a US TV special to perform a Christmas duet with easy-listening crooner Bing Crosby proved to be a masterstroke of marketing just a month after the release of Bowie’s groundbreaking “Heroes” album. Together they performed Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy, with the younger Bowie more than holding his own against Crosby’s wealth of experience. Less than a month after the performance was recorded, Crosby died, aged 74, essentially making Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy his swansong. Finally released as a single in 1982, not only did the song go on to sell over 250,000 copies in the UK, becoming one of the best-selling singles of Bowie’s career, but it would also prove to be the last time Bing Crosby ever graced the UK charts. Easily one of the most memorable duets in music history, Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy saw two legends meet and part ways with admirable humility and grace.

22: Frankie Goes To Hollywood: The Power Of Love: (1984)

Purveyors of excellently crafted synth-pop songs, Frankie Goes To Hollywood weren’t afraid to court a bit of controversy – their groundbreaking single Relax was banned for 35 weeks by the BBC, even as it sat at the top of the UK charts. The Power Of Love, however, was a far less incendiary song that scored the group their third UK No.1 in a row. Also worth mentioning is the excellent cover by Gabrielle Aplin, which was used in the 2012 John Lewis Christmas advert.

21: Band Aid: Do They Know It’s Christmas? (1984)

Embodying the idea that Christmas is a time for giving, the refrain of “Feed the world” has inspired more than just the Band Aid II, Band Aid 20 and Band Aid 30 re-recordings that have ensured Do They Know It’s Christmas?’s continued presence among the best Christmas songs. A direct precursor to Quincy Jones’ 1985 charity offering, We Are The World, the original 1984 Band Aid single was recorded in a day and featured a cast of music legends, among them Phil Collins, U2’s Bono and Adam Clayton, New Romantic icons Spandau Ballet and the era-defining pop behemoths Duran Duran.

20: Elton John: Step Into Christmas (1973)

Elton John’s 1973 festive favourite was declared the ninth most-played Christmas song of the 2000s in the UK, and continues to appear on all good seasonal playlists today. As is typical of Elton, its upbeat, boogie-fuelled chorus is insanely catchy, and can bury itself in your head well through the holidays – and even into the new year.

19: Mike Oldfield: In Dulci Jubilo (1975)

Evoking the galliard merriment of Elizabethan dances and set to the bounce of a perky recorder hook, Mike Oldfield’s 1975 single In Dulci Jubilo is based on a traditional Christmas carol from Germany which had previously inspired composers JS Bach, Robert Pearsall and JM Neale. Peaking at No.4 in the UK, Oldfield’s folk-pop instrumental transcends its classical inspirations, with an ARP string synthesiser helping to bring it into the 70s realm of Jethro Tull-esque prog-rock. So uplifting it makes you want to dance merrily around the room, In Dulci Jubilo captures the spirit of Christmas jollity to perfection.

18: The Darkness: Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) (2003)

British glam-metal revivalists The Darkness brought their high-intensity rock to the holiday season with the fantastically tongue-in-cheek Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End). At the time of its original release, in 2003, the song fought a strong battle to be crowned that year’s UK Christmas No.1, but it ultimately lost out to Michael Andres and Gary Jules’ cover of Tears For Fears’ Mad World. Two decades later, however, those bells keep on ringing…

17: Mud: Lonely This Christmas (1974)

Lonely This Christmas is one of the more solemn entries in our list of the best Christmas songs but, in typical Christmas spirit, listeners tend to look past vocalist Les Gray’s heartbreak and head straight for the irresistibly catchy chorus. Channelling Elvis Presley, the song was penned by Mud’s producers and primary songwriters, Nicky Chinn and Micky Chapman, and became the band’s second No.1 of the year, following their smash hit Tiger Feet.

16: Shakin’ Stevens: Merry Christmas Everyone (1985)

Hitting the UK Christmas No.1 spot in the year of its release, Shakin’ Stevens’ seasonal romp remains a firm favourite at every Christmas party, thanks to a bouncy synth rhythm and jingle-bell percussion that offers a perfect blast of 80s nostalgia.

15: Jona Lewie: Stop The Cavalry (1980)

With wistful lyrics sung from the perspective of a soldier longing to return home to his lover for Christmas, the 1980 single Stop The Cavalry, by Jona Lewie, is a yuletide work of wonder. Full of Salvation Army-esque brass backing and springy synths, its uptempo mirth is the perfect cover for an anti-war sentiment that dredged up memories of the First World War. “The soldier in the song is a bit like the eternal soldier at the Arc De Triomphe,” Jona Lewie later said in an interview with the Daily Express, in 2005, “but the song actually had nothing to do with Christmas when I wrote it.” On the urging of his record label, Lewie added tubular bells and Christmassy production flourishes to shape Stop The Calvary into one of the best Christmas songs of all time, with the results peaking at No.3 in the UK.

14: Bobby Helms: Jingle Bell Rock (1957)

Popularly regarded as the first-ever rock’n’roll Christmas song, country singer Bobby Helms’ 1957 hit Jingle Bell Rock is rich with rockabilly flavour. Sprinkling his guitar magic was Hank “Sugarfoot” Garland – who can also be heard on Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – and it was clear from the off that the song had all the ingredients to become a modern standard. Ringing its way to No.3 in the US and No.16 in the UK, it’s easy to see why Jingle Bell Rock has been a radio mainstay every Christmas season, only growing in popularity thanks to its appearances on movie soundtracks such as Lethal Weapon and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Easily one of the best Christmas songs of the 50s, Bobby Helms’ Jingle Bell Rock still stands the test of time.

13: Greg Lake: I Believe In Father Christmas (1975)

A founding member of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake And Palmer, Greg Lake’s place in the history books was assured long before he released I Believe In Father Christmas as his first solo single, in 1975. The song was kept off the UK No.1 spot by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody; Lake took it well, however, saying he could accept being beaten by “one of the greatest records ever made”.

12: Vince Guaraldi: Christmas Time Is Here (1965)

Evoking many childhood memories, thanks to its famous appearance on the 1965 Peanuts TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time Is Here was initially written as a piano-based instrumental before Peanuts producer Lee Mendelson wrote some words to accompany it. “It was a poem that just came to me,” Mendelson said of the lyrics in a 2014 interview. “Never changed the words to this day. It was only about a minute long.” To increase the song’s airy, melancholic feel, Guaraldi added a children’s choir, giving the final recording the feel of a long-forgotten Christmas carol. As hypnotic as a snowstorm, Christmas Time Is Here is still fondly regarded as one of the best Christmas songs ever made. We’re sure Snoopy would agree.

11: Brenda Lee: Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (1958)

The iconic voice of one of the biggest female singers of the 60s is impossible to resist. With infectious Christmas cheer, Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree is, like all the best Christmas songs, guaranteed to be stuck on repeat in your head throughout the whole of December – and quite possibly into the new year.

10: Pretenders: 2000 Miles (1983)

Chrissie Hynde turns in an unforgettable performance on 2000 Miles, the third single from Pretenders’ 1984 album, Learning To Crawl. The jangly guitars and tambourines enhance the beautiful melancholy of Hynde’s voice, as she sings an apparent tale of heartbreak, dreaming that her loved one will return at Christmas. In truth, however, the song was written for Pretenders’ original guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, who died in tragic circumstances in 1982. Released as a single the following year, 2000 Miles stands as one of the best Pretenders songs, and is now a recurring soundtrack pick for seasonal romcom heartbreak.

9: Nat King Cole: The Christmas Song (1946)

Blessed with one of the world’s most beautiful voices, Nat King Cole was born to record The Christmas Song, and oozes cool with every aspect of his delivery. Written by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells in 1944, and performed by The King Cole Trio two years later, the song continues to live up to its definitive title.

8: Chris Rea: Driving Home For Christmas (1988)

Never has a song so perfectly encapsulated that amazing feeling of returning home for the holidays – you can forget all your worries you travel back to see friends and family. It’s for good reason that we have long trusted Chris Rea’s Driving Home For Christmas to soundtrack this moment: his smooth, deep voice and the jazzy instrumental is the perfect pacifier.

7: Darlene Love: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (1963)

As one of the finest examples of Phil Spector’s “Wall Of Sound” production style, Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) first featured on the album A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector, released in November 1963. The album was somewhat overshadowed by the assassination of US President John F Kennedy that same month, and as a result it took many years for Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) to truly emerge as the timeless classic it is considered to be today. No doubt thanks to its inclusion in the 1990 movie Home Alone, the song eventually began to find the wider audience it always deserved, before finally entering the pop charts for the very first time in 2018, when it peaked at No.16 on the US Hot 100 and No.22 in the UK. Proof that form is temporary but class is permanent, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) still stands the test of time among the best Christmas songs.

6: Slade: Merry Xmas Everybody (1973)

A go-to festive classic full of boozy Santas and rock’n’roll-loving grannies, it’s impossible to get sick of Slade’s 1973 UK No.1, Merry Xmas Everybody. “We’d decided to write a Christmas song and I wanted to make it reflect a British family Christmas,” songwriter Noddy Holder later said, acknowledging the dire economic situation the UK was in at that time. “I think people wanted something to cheer them up – and so did I.” On the first day of its release, in December 1973, Merry Xmas Everybody sold over 300,000 copies and became the fastest-selling British single to date. In subsequent decades, the glam-rock anthem has only risen in stature as one of the best Christmas songs ever made.

5: Wizzard: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday (1973)

Despite being one of the most ubiquitous Christmas songs, I Wish It Could Be Christmas never made it to the No.1 spot. Instead, it was pipped to the post in 1973 by Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody. However, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday has one of the most relatable sentiments among the best Christmas songs, leaving you feeling warm and full of festive cheer – but also a little frustrated as you remember there’s another whole year to wait before it becomes socially acceptable to be drunk at 5pm, working your way through a third box of chocolates.

4: John And Yoko/Plastic Ono Band: Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (1971)

As a writer of truly universal anthems, of course John Lennon turned out a Christmas hit. In his signature uncompromising style, however, Lennon wished everyone a happy Christmas while calling for an end to military operations in Vietnam. Half a century on from its original release, Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’s message of peace remains as potent as ever.

3: Mariah Carey: All I Want For Christmas Is You (1994)

If Michael Bublé is the modern-day king of Christmas music, Mariah Carey is undoubtedly the queen. All I Want For Christmas Is You has served as the season’s unofficial theme song since appearing on her 1994 album, Merry Christmas. It’s one of the first songs you hear in stores on 1 December – if not before.

2: Wham!: Last Christmas (1984)

While Christmas is a time for merriment and cheer, there’s usually a little heartbreak – and, for Wham! fans, it didn’t get more heartbreaking than learning of George Michael’s death on Christmas Day in 2016. Though kept off the Christmas No.1 spot by Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, Last Christmas is an undeniable pop classic, and any run-down of the best Christmas songs that leaves it out doesn’t have the right to call itself a serious list.

1: The Pogues: Fairytale Of New York (1987)

With its Celtic bounce and uplifting chorus, Fairytale Of New York will forever head our list of the best Christmas songs. Though replete with singer Shane MacGowan’s typical lyrical beauty and driven by The Pogues‘ rollicking energy, the song’s standout performance comes from the late, great Kirsty MacColl, who emerges as the perfect sparring partner for MacGowan

Buy Christmas vinyl and more at the Dig! store.

Original article: 4 December 2020

Updated: 1 December 2021. Words: Fionn Crossan | 3 December 2022. Words: Luke Edwards

More Like This

‘Progeny’: A Guide To Each Gig In Yes’ Seven-Show 21LP Live Box Set
List & Guides

‘Progeny’: A Guide To Each Gig In Yes’ Seven-Show 21LP Live Box Set

Compiling seven concerts across 21 LPs, ‘Progeny: Seven Shows From Seventy-Two’ presents Yes at the peak of their prog-rock powers.

Astral Weeks: Behind Van Morrison’s Celestial Masterpiece
In Depth

Astral Weeks: Behind Van Morrison’s Celestial Masterpiece

Hailed as ‘the most adventurous record in rock’, ‘Astral Weeks’ ensured Van Morrison’s name would be forever written in the cosmos.

Sign up to our newsletter

Be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Sign Up