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Best Christmas Songs: 40 Classic Tracks For The Holiday Season
List & Guides

Best Christmas Songs: 40 Classic Tracks For The Holiday Season

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


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 40 best Christmas songs.

Listen to the best Christmas songs on Spotify, and check out our 40 best Christmas songs, below.

40: 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.

39: 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.

38: 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.

37: 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.

36: 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”.

35: 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.

34: 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.

33: 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.

32: 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.

31: 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.

30: 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.

29: 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…

28: 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.

27: 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.

26: 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.

25: 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.

24: 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.

23: 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.

22: 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.

21: 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.

20: 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.

19: 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…

18: 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.

17: 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.

16: 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.

15: 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.

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

Second only to Santa himself, Michael Bublé is a true poster boy for Christmas. His 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.

13: 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.

12: 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.

11: 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.

10: 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.

9: 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.

8: 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.

7: 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.

6: 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.

5: 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.

4: 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.

3: 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.

2: 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.

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

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