Of all the Christmas songs, how could we pick just five? Instead, we’ve come up with five categories for the songs, and five songs for each category, for a total of 25 songs! Five times the number of Thinks we usually have. A ThinkTWENTYFives for you! A little Christmas bonus if you will!
See what you think about our lists. Do you agree? Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
And remember, it’s the most sung-about time of the year.
Traditional Christmas Songs
- Joy to the World (1719)
- Adeste Fidelis (O Come, All Ye Faithful) (1741)
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (1760)
- Silent Night (1818)
- O Holy Night (1847)
We must start with these enduring legends. These are the sacred songs -the ones which keep the holiday’s true meaning. They also happen to be the oldest songs on our list. And the oldest one here, Joy to the World, is based on Psalm 98, written by none other than the original giant-slayer himself, King David of Israel. Guy has quite a resume!
Silent Night was not composed by Bach, as many believe. On Christmas Eve 1818, an Austrian priest asked a local musician to compose music for lyrics he had already written. A few hours later and Silent Night was ready. It debuted that night at Christmas Eve mass at the priest’s small church in Oberndorf, Austria.
“Holiday” Christmas Songs
- Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1934)
- White Christmas (1942)
- I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1943)
- The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting…) (1944)
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1949)
These are the ones you’re most likely to hear in a classroom or at a Christmas party. We all know the words to these holiday workhorses but please leave the singing to Bing Crosby. His White Christmas may be the undisputed champ of this group, but Nat King Cole’s cozy croon about “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” deserves special mention too.
And let’s give a shout-out to Johnny Marks who composed not only Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Holly Jolly Christmas, Silver and Gold, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, and Chuck Berry’s Run Rudolph Run! Talk about resumes!
“Non-Christmas” Christmas Songs
- Jingle Bells (1857)
- Winter Wonderland (1934)
- Let It Snow (1940)
- Sleigh Ride (1949)
- Frosty the Snowman (1950)
These are the songs that never mention angels, mangers, or Santa. They are odes to the joys of winter, but they’ve been lumped in with the Christmas songs, and are unlikely to be heard, or appreciated before November 1st or after December 25th.
One of our favorites is Sleigh Ride, first recorded by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. It’s still a treat to hear a large-band perform this song with the sounds of the clip-clop hooves and the horse’s whinny at the end.
Newer Christmas Songs
- Feliz Navidad (1970)
- Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (1971)
- Do They Know It’s Christmas? (1984)
- Last Christmas (I gave you my heart…) 1984)
- All I Want for Christmas Is You (1994)
There really haven’t been too many enduring Christmas songs written in the last half-century. John and Yoko’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over) turns 51 this year! And Mariah’s newer classic turns 28 this year. All we want for Christmas is a new Christmas song. C’mon Beyonce, Taylor, Ariana? Ed Sheeran? Who’s got the next White Christmas?
Worst Christmas Songs
- All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth (1944)
- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1952)
- I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas (1953)
- The Chipmunk Christmas Song (1958)
- Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer (1979)
We know this will be controversial, but let’s face it, plenty of songs we hear at Christmastime just add to the holiday stress. There’s no denying the high level of irritation some of these songs can create. But at ThinkFives we hope that all can agree during this season of peace on earth, goodwill to man that we never need to hear Alvin ask for a hula-hoop ever again!
One category we didn’t get to is the weirdest or least-typical Christmas song. And I give you two of the weirdest. First is Fairytale of New York by Ireland’s The Pogues, a profane, politically incorrect, not-safe-for-the-holidays carol, that will still bring a lump to your throat while “the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day.” Finally, with the most bizarre Christmas coupling ever we leave you with Bing Crosby and David Bowie. Peace on Earth. Parum pum pum pum.
What is Your Favorite Holiday Song?