93 Best Christmas Songs EVER

Best Christmas Songs Ever

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, a time to celebrate glad tidings with cherished friends and family.

Nothing gets a room in the holiday mood faster than a classic Christmas tune. To help you deck your halls, check out our list of the best Christmas songs ever.


“All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey

Song year: 1994

Mariah Carey became the queen of Christmas after she added this song to the holiday canon with the release of her 1994 album Merry Christmas.

The lead single from the album, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” has become a Christmas standard. The song topped the charts internationally and has become one of the biggest selling singles, holiday or otherwise, of all time.

“Christmas Time Is Here” by Vince Guarladi Trio

Song year: 1965

Composed by Vince Guaraldi for the television special A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Christmas Time Is Here” has become a beloved holiday standard.

With its melancholy jazz composition, the song captures the warm feeling of Christmas while the cold takes hold outside. With its beautiful arrangement and nostalgic ties to Charlie Brown, few songs capture the season better.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid

Song year: 1984

The Boomtown Rats' frontman Bob Geldof wrote “Do They Know It's Christmas?” to help combat famine in Ethiopia. He assembled a supergroup to sing the single, including Bono, Phil Collins, and Sting.

The single would raise millions for charity and spark a trend in philanthropic pop recordings. It has also become a holiday season staple.

“2000 Miles” by The Pretenders

Song year: 1983

Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders wrote “2000 Miles” in tribute to former band member James Honeyman-Scott, who died of a drug overdose.

With such a sad background, it's no wonder the song has a deep strain of melancholy. Not every holiday song is full of cheer, and “2000 Miles” serves as a fitting tune to sing for those you miss on Christmas.

“Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Song year: 1992

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers got into the holiday spirit for the Special Olympics benefitting compilation A Very Special Christmas 2.

With their trusty producer Jimmy Iovine overseeing the project, Petty and his band put their classic rock stamp on the season with “It's Christmas All Over Again.” For those that can't believe it's already Christmas, this is your song.

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee

Song year: 1958

Penned by Johnny Marks, the writer behind “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the rockabilly holiday classic “Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree” has become ingrained in the Christmas tradition.

Singer Brenda Lee was just twelve when she recorded the song, lending a youthful exuberance to the recording that has made it a Christmas standard for generations.

“I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” by Wizzard

Song year: 1973

UK glam rock band Wizzard summed up the wishes of children across the world when they recorded their holiday hit “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.” To that point, they even recorded the song with a children's choir.

The song's wall-of-sound recording approach blends the bells, guitars, and choir together for a sound as warm as a blanket and hot cocoa.

“Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano

Song year: 1970

Jose Feliciano wrote “Feliz Navidad” while dealing with a bout of homesickness over the holidays.

His longing to see friends and family while stuck working in L.A. has become an all-time holiday classic. The song's alternating Spanish and English lyrics made this unlikely bilingual holiday song an international hit.

“Sleigh Ride” by The Ronettes

Song year: 1963

By the time The Ronettes recorded “Sleigh Ride,” the song had already been around for ten years.

As part of the Spector A Christmas Gift for You, The Ronettes spiced up this pop standard with some much-needed doo-wop. Though it had seen popularity the previous decade, the Ronettes' version would become one of the most recognizable holiday songs ever.

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Song year: 1975

Over 200 artists have recorded a version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” What makes Bruce Springsteen's version of this perennial holiday classic special is what makes all of his catalog special – enthusiasm.

This version comes from a live performance. The spirit of Christmas mixes with the energy from the stage and the crowd, resulting in a joyous celebration.

“Merry Xmas Everybody” by Slade

Song year: 1973

Slade, the British rock band that wrote the rollicking “Cum on Feel the Noize,” had one of the biggest hits of their career with “Merry Xmas Everybody.”

Released the same year as Wizzard's “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday,” Slade outmaneuvered their glam peers and took the top spot on the British holiday charts. The song remains a spirited holiday staple.

“Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC

Song year: 1987

Run DMC was initially reluctant to record a song for the A Very Special Christmas compilation. But after they found inspiration in their backyard, “Christmas in Hollis” was born.

The song tells the story of finding Santa's wallet over a sample of Clarence Carter's “Backdoor Santa.” It has become a holiday classic and the gold standard of hip-hop Christmas tracks.

“Happy Xmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Song year: 1971

With “Happy Xmas (War is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono turned their anti-war activism into one of the best Christmas songs ever recorded.

Phil Spector, who recorded A Christmas Gift for You in 1963, helped produce the song. His trademark wall-of-sound production gives the song's beautifully simple sentiment just the right ornamentation.

“Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt

Song year: 1953

Considered so controversial that certain stations banned the song from the airwaves, Earth Kitt's “Santa Baby” took the saccharine out of the holidays and added some va-va-voom.

While many artists, from Madonna to Gwen Stefani, have recorded a version of “Santa Baby,” none have ever captured the playfully coy performance of Kitt.

“Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses

Song year: 1981

The Waitresses' applied a groove-heavy new wave style to their holiday classic, “Christmas Wrapping.”

Written as an afterthought by piecing together several failed song ideas, the band stumbled into holiday gold with their rap adjacent tale of finding love during the holidays. It would prove that the band, previously known for their song “I Know What Boys Like,” weren't one-hit wonders.

“Last Christmas” by Wham!

Song year: 1984

Wham!'s “Last Christmas” might sound like a catchy holiday tune, but the lyrics reveal a sad story of unrequited love during Christmas.

“Last Christmas” remains an enduring example of '80s synth-pop. It has sold millions of copies and become a holiday classic enjoyed by everyone – heartbroken or not.

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love

Song year: 1963

Darlene Love didn't initially score a hit when she released “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” The subsequent six decades would see the song grow in popularity, and it is now considered an all-time Christmas classic.

Love performed the song on every David Letterman Christmas episode from 1986 to 2014, helping solidify its status as a holiday tradition.

“Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley

Song year: 1957

Even before Elvis Presley got his hands on “Blue Christmas,” it was a well-known holiday tune. But in the hands of The King, it became a classic.

This tale of a love-sick holiday season has seen numerous covers, particularly in county and rock circles. But Presley's rendition remains vital due to his expert blend of rock, blues, and country.

“A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives

Song year: 1964

Burl Ives' “A Holly Jolly Christmas” has become one of the most beloved and frequently performed Christmas songs of all time.

The song is featured in the stop motion animated television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Its association with Rudolph ensures this song is one that families share every holiday season.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams

Song year: 1963

Andy Williams' “It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” has become an anthem for those that wait all year for Christmas.

Though it didn't see an official single release, the track has since established itself as a holiday standard half a century later. It lives on every year through covers and placement in film and television.

“Merry Christmas Baby” by Otis Redding

Song year: 1967

There are dozens of covers of the holiday classic, “Merry Christmas Baby,” but none capture the soulful warmth and appreciation of the holiday like Otis Redding's posthumously released version.

While the song celebrates receiving gifts, which many would argue isn't in the true spirit of Christmas, Redding's vocals are so expressive you can't help but feel his warmth and appreciation.

“Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues ft. Kirsty MacColl

Song year: 1987

Many people consider The Pogues' “Fairytale of New York” the best Christmas song ever. The claim is hard to deny.

Singers Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl provide stark vocal contrast in this gritty tale of lost dreams set to the backdrop of New York at Christmas. His gruff voice against her beautiful lilt gives the song character.

“Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms

Song year: 1957

“Jingle Bell Rock” combined the ethos of “Jingle Bells” and “Rock Around the Clock” into a beloved holiday rock and roll classic.

The song became Bobby Helms' most recognizable hit. It continues to hit the charts every holiday season and is a favorite Christmas cover, especially in country music.

“The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” by Alvin and The Chipmunks

Song year: 1958

“The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)” is the third highest-selling Christmas song of all time. The single was Alvin and the Chipmunks' first public appearance, and its popularity would turn the fictional band into a full-fledged brand.

The Chipmunks would perform the song on animated television specials and movies, with their sped-up vocals and catchy melodies capturing children's imagination every holiday.

“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by Ramones

Song year: 1989

Even the punks got into the holiday spirit – albeit in their unique fashion. The Ramones' “Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)” is a fitting ode to a peaceful Christmas from a band famous for its infighting.

Perhaps subconsciously written from this place, Johny Ramone sings about his excitement for Santa's arrival while asking for a truce over Christmas.

“Christmas Will Really Be Christmas” by Lou Rawls

Song year: 1967

Low Rawls sings one of the most socially conscious Christmas songs in the canon with “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas.”

The song's lyrics tackle poverty and peace by using Christmas as a counterpoint against examples of the disadvantaged. The track is a classic slice of soul, with Rawl's passionate vocal performance framed by the aggressive horn section.

“Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney

Song year: 1979

Paul McCartney plays every instrument on his Christmas classic “Wonderful Christmastime.” As holiday songs go, this one displays a unique mixture of sounds with McCartney's synthesizers juxtaposed with the sound of traditional-sounding jingle bells.

Upon its release, the former Beatle was criticized for the pop simplicity of the song. Over time it has become a holiday standard.

“Little Saint Nick” by The Beach Boys

Song year: 1963

The Beach Boys probably aren't the first name you think of when you think of Christmas, which makes their surf approach to the holidays refreshing as catching a big wave.

“Little Saint Nick” was featured on The Beach Boys' Christmas Album, where it would utilize the band's familiar hot-rod imagery to describe Santa's sleigh.

“Run Rudolph Run” by Chuck Berry

Song year: 1958

Chuck Berry's “Run Rudolph Run” is not only a popular Christmas song. This holiday hit is highly influential as a pure rock and roll track due to its combination of Berry's “Johnny B. Good” and “Little Queenie.”

There are dozens of covers of “Run Rudolph Run,” helping this timeless Christmas classic live on through generations of Christmas rock and rollers.

“Father Christmas” by The Kinks

Song year: 1977

The Kinks' “Father Christmas” is one of the more unique Christmas songs to enter the holiday canon.

The song is an aggressive punk number from the former British Invasion band, and it addresses issues of poverty and class during Christmas.

With its aggressive guitar lines and upbeat energy, the song finds its way on rock and alternative holiday playlists every year.

“River” by Joni Mitchell

Song year: 1971

“River” was never released as a single, but this Joni Mitchell classic is a standout on her album Blue.

Through the years, the song has become a Christmas standard. As one of Mitchell's most covered songs, including versions by James Taylor and Sam Smith, the track continues to find new audiences with its melancholy take on the season.

“Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” by Bing Crosby and David Bowie

Song year: 1982

David Bowie and Bing Crosby might make an odd couple, but their duet for Crosby's television special Merrie Old Christmas became a holiday classic.

Crosby applies his traditional crooning approach to “Little Drummer Boy” while Bowie sings a counter-melody near the end with “Peace on Earth,” a song written specifically for the television special.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Frank Sinatra

Song year: 1950

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” originally written for the film Meet Me in St. Louis, is one of the most recorded Christmas songs ever.

While it seems every artist has taken a crack at the song, no one captures the spirit of the composition like The Chairman of the Board. His vocal control and phrasing give the cheerful lyrics depth and heart.

“This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway

Song year: 1970

Donny Hathaway's “This Christmas” has become a modern holiday standard after its inclusion in the re-release of the classic Christmas compilation Soul Christmas.

The song is an essential entry into the holiday canon as an example of the Black holiday experience. It has become a popular cover, with CeeLo Green, Seal, and Train covering the classic.

“What Christmas Means to Me” by Stevie Wonder

Song year: 1967

Though Stevie Wonder's album Someday at Christmas didn't light up the charts upon its 1967 release, the subsequent years have found “What Christmas Means to Me” a staple on every holiday playlist.

The song is classic Stevie Wonder. With its funky pop sensibility, aided by Motown session players the Funk Brothers, the track joyfully captures the spirit of Christmas.

“The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)” by Nat King Cole

Song year: 1946

While some people know it as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” or “Merry Christmas to You,” whatever you call it, “The Christmas Song” is one of the most recognizable of the holiday canon.

Nat King Cole recorded the song four times over his career and is most commonly associated with the track, with the light orchestration beautifully framing his husky voice.

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by The Jackson 5

Song year: 1970

Before Michael Jackson became the King of Pop and dominated the earth with his moonwalk, he fronted a family band. The Jackson 5 became a successful teenybopper group, injecting a little soul into bubble gum pop.

Their performance of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is an age-appropriate rendition of the classic 1952 song. Their innocence and enthusiasm make this the best version of the innocent holiday standard.

“Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Song year: 1996

Trans-Siberian Orchestra's “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” combines “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and the Ukrainian holiday song “Shchedryk” into an epic holiday rock song.

Written as a tribute to a brave cellist that played every night during the Bosnian War, the socially conscious Christmas song has become part of the holiday canon since its release in 1996.

“Please Come Home for Christmas” by Eagles

Song year: 1978

When the Eagles recorded their version of “Please Come Home for Christmas” they slightly altered the lyrics, turning the classic holiday tune into a melancholy tale of loneliness.

The song would be the first Christmas single to crack the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 since 1963. It has become a standard for those missing loved ones during the holidays.

“Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” by James Brown

Song year: 1968

James Brown recorded three Christmas albums during his career, lending his powerfully funky style to a season often buttoned up in its music offerings.

In “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto,” Brown uses his platform to sing a song for disadvantaged kids, pleading with Santa to be sure not to forget about the underprivileged.

“Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’” by Mack Rice

Song year: 1974

Here's one for the adults. A standout track on the Stax Records Christmas compilation, “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'” is a wink and a nod to the adults getting the magic of Christmas ready for their children.

While Albert King's version is most recognizable, the song's writer Mack Rice also cut a version. Rice's funkier version is a holiday highlight.

“White Christmas” by The Drifters

Song year: 1954

While “White Christmas” is most often associated with Bing Crosby, The Drifters version is the best for those hopeful for snow.

The song's bouncing bassline and tight vocal harmonies provide a joyful feeling. Whereas Crosby's version has a slight melancholy, The Drifter's take provides the composition with lightness as beautiful as snow.

“Christmas in Prison” by John Prine

Song year: 1973

John Prine's songs are full of oddball character studies and people living on the margins, so it only makes sense that his Christmas song takes place in prison.

Prine's trademark lyricism and heart are on full display in “Christmas in Prison.” Though it was never a chart-topping hit, country music connoisseurs know there aren't many songs better suited for the holidays

“Step Into Christmas” by Elton John

Song year: 1973

Inspired by the Phil Spector holiday album A Christmas Gift for You, Elton John would employ a wall-of-sound technique to get the unique studio sound on his Christmas single “Step into Christmas.”

The song continues to crack the charts every holiday season, becoming one of the rare examples of a song written after the '60s becoming a Christmas standard.

“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by Thurl Ravenscroft

Song year: 1966

Written for the 1966 special Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, “You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” has served as a rite of passage for children at Christmas for generations.

Thurl Ravenscroft's booming voice gives the song a larger-than-life narrator, helping to hammer home the point of just how diabolical the Grinch truly is.

“Christmas Makes Me Cry” by Kacey Musgraves

Song year: 2016

The jury is still out on the longevity of the originals included in Kacey Musgraves' A Very Kacey Christmas, but if I had to bet, I'd wager my entire stocking that “Christmas Makes Me Cry” is going to last a long while.

The song is a sad tale of not being home for the holidays, delivered with conviction by an artist that has surely spent Christmas on the road.

“Jingle Bells” by Michael Buble & The Puppini Sisters

Song year: 2011

“Jingle Bells” was one of the first songs ever broadcast from space when the crew onboard Gemini 6 performed it with jingle bells and a harmonica.

Michael Buble had his feet firmly on the ground when he recorded this cherished classic. Included in his 2011 album Christmas, the song helped catapult the album to the top of the charts.

“Winter Wonderland” by Johnny Mathis

Song year: 1958

Initially, “Winter Wonderland” was written as a song about a winter romance. In 1947 a new version was printed that changed the lyrics to focus on playing in the snow.

Johnny Mathis' version of “Winter Wonderland” connected the lyrics of both versions of the song. By splitting the difference, Mathis created a definitive version for everyone.

“Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You” by Billy Squier

Song year: 1981

Billy Squier released “Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You” as the b-side to his single “My Kinda Lover.”

Squier was at the peak of his popularity during this time and took the opportunity to perform a version of his holiday hit on the air during the first MTV Christmas special.

“Frosty the Snowman” by Gene Autry

Song year: 1950

Gene Autry's “Frosty the Snowman” was so successful that Jimmy Durante, Nat King Cole, and Guy Lombardo all cut versions of the song the very same year.

Eventually, an animated special featuring the Frosty character of the song would air and become a holiday season tradition.

Regardless of your age or the climate you live in, you know “Frosty the Snowman.”

“Christmastime is Here Again” by The Flirtations

Song year: 1968

The Flirtations were also-rans in the oversaturated girl group '60s, but as time passes since that fertile era of R&B, their Christmas song “Christmas Time is Here Again” has become a favorite amongst soul connoisseurs.

Put this song on to catch the ear of your soul-loving friends, who by now have heard every Stax and Motown Records Christmas song ever cut.

“Christmas Must Be Tonight” by The Band

Song year: 1977

While alluding to the biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Band's “Christmas Must Be Tonight” is inspired by guitarist Robbie Robertson's newborn child.

The Band would break up shortly after releasing the song, capping off their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career with a contribution to the canon of rock and roll Christmas songs.

“What’s This” by Danny Elfman

Song year: 1993

You could argue all day over whether or not The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween or Christmas movie, but you cannot deny the enthusiasm of Jack Skellington as he discovers Christmas in the movie's track “What's This?”

Former Oingo Boingo singer Danny Elfman wrote the music for this holiday classic, ensuring a little goth-flavored new wave would infiltrate the Christmas spirit.

“Pretty Paper” by Willie Nelson

Song year: 1979

Willie Nelson's “Pretty Paper” was first performed by Roy Orbison, cracking the Billboard top 20 in 1963.

Nelson would record his own version shortly after Orbison's, but it wasn't until he re-recorded the song for his 1979 Christmas album that the public would finally associate the holiday classic with Nelson.

“It Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan

Song year: 2009

Fans of Bob Dylan's work might be confused upon first hearing “It Must Be Santa.” The Christmas tune is part of Dylan's album Christmas in the Heart, which is composed entirely of holiday standards.

After the initial shock of hearing Dylan sing Christmas tunes, the joyful reverence that the songwriter approaches the song with shines. “It Must Be Santa” is a childishly joyful track.

“Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande

Song year: 2014

Ariana Grande has added her voice to the Christmas conversation alongside Mariah Carey and Kacey Musgraves with her '10s contributions to holiday cheer.

The irresistibly catchy “Santa Tell Me” has all the makings of a Christmas classic. Asking Santa about her lover's true intentions is all Ariana wants for Christmas, opening the door for love and heartbreak all at once.

“Christmas in Harlem” by Kanye West, Prynce Cy Hi, Teyana Taylor

Song year: 2010

Kanye West added a new track to the hip-hop holiday canon with his 2010 single “Christmas in Harlem.”

With help from a handful of artists from his GOOD Music label, West creates a warm and cheerful holiday for Harlem. The song is a spiritual sequel to Run DMC's '80s hit “Christmas in Hollis.”

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by She & Him

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by She & Him

Song year: 2011

“Baby, It's Cold Outside” has been a classic Christmas tune for decades, but it has come under fire lately for its less than ideal portrayal of a woman that forcibly convinced into staying over by a pushy man.

She & Him were able to turn the tables on the song by flipping the genders in the duet. Regardless of your feelings on the original, M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel's reworking is all charm.

“If We Make It Through December” by Merle Haggard

Song year: 1973

Merle Haggard's brand of country music is firmly in the tear-in-my-beer category. Even when he sat down to write a Christmas song, it was devastating.

“If We Make it Through December” finds Haggard laid off from his factory job and unable to afford Christmas for his family. The most wonderful time of the year is a nightmare in this tear-jerker.

“Christmas Rappin’” by Kurtis Blow

Song year: 1979

Kurtis Blow was the first rapper ever signed to a major record label, and his hip-hop holiday single, “Christmas Rappin'” was one of the first successful rap singles.

It's no surprise that Blow helped bring hip-hop into the mainstream through a Christmas song, considering that he's now an ordained minister. He even served as guest DJ at the premiere of The Hip Hop Nutcracker.

“Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas)” by The Weather Girls

Song year: 1983

The Weather Girls are most famous for their disco hit “It's Raining Men,” but don't overlook their equally fun and sassy Christmas track “Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas).”

Set to another dancefloor storming disco beat, The Weather Girls pen an open letter to the man in red. If you're looking to turn the office party into a discotheque, you've found the right song.

“Christmastime” by Smashing Pumpkins

Song year: 1997

It shouldn't be surprising that the best impulses of the Smashing Pumpkins make for a classic alternative Christmas song. The band's dense shoegaze compositions and lush studio orchestration are hallmarks of Phil Spector's best holiday work.

Lending their talents to charity for A Very Special Christmas 3, they steal the show with the beautiful descending melodies of “Christmastime.”

“Oi to the World” by No Doubt

Song year: 1997

Originally recorded by punk band The Vandals in 1996, No Doubt rerecorded “Oi to the World” a year later for the charity compilation A Very Special Christmas 3.

By the time No Doubt released the song, they had become international pop stars. “Oi to the World” serves as a throwback to their punk roots and is a welcomed addition to any punk's Christmas.

“Silent Night” by Stevie Nicks

Song year: 1987

Stevie Nicks lends her achingly haunting voice to the 19th century Christmas carol “Silent Night.”

Hundreds of artists have recorded the song over the years. It has been in dozens of films and television shows. It is possibly the most recognizable Christmas song ever. In Stevie Nicks' capable hands, all the song's past is brought to the present in reverence.

“Back Door Santa” by Clarence Carter

Song year: 1968

With all of the beautiful and sacred songs we hear around Christmas, it's always refreshing to hear something a little different. Clarence Carter's “Backdoor Santa” is that song.

With its funky groove and humorous lyrics, Carter's song is one of the highlights of the compilation Soul Christmas. Along with “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin',” the song is a rarity in addressing the love life of Santa and not for children.

“We Three Kings” by Patti Smith

Song year: 1997

As a progenitor of punk rock, Patti Smith has challenged musical boundaries since her career began in early '70s New York City.

Fittingly, Smith's version of the 1857 Christmas carol “We Three Kings” is a brooding meditation that returns the song to its pious beginnings. Alternating between singing and spoken word, Smith melts into a collage of guitars and percussion.

“I Want You for Christmas” by Cheap Trick

Song year: 2012

Cheap Trick digs into their bag of tricks and comes up with a familiar sound on their holiday tune “I Want You For Christmas.”

The self-reworking of their song “I Want You to Want Me” fits perfectly into the holiday canon. The song has a catchy, instantly recognizable hook that begs you to sing along. Power-pop fans will be delighted to this song on their holiday playlists.

“Santa Claus Is Coming to My Lonely Town” by Gary Wilson

Song year: 2016

Gary Wilson is an outsider musician that's been writing and recording his unique brand of keyboard-driven, DIY music for decades. Relatively unknown outside of musician's circles, he counts Beck and The Roots among his fans.

His holiday album, It's Christmas Time With Gary Wilson, is predictably odd. But underneath the experimental layers, there's an odd-ball loner that's excited for Christmas.

“Jesus Christ” by Big Star

Song year: 1975

Big Star's Alex Chilton tells the Christmas story with exuberance on the band's only Christmas song, “Jesus Christ.”

By the time Big Star was recording the song, they were on the verge of breaking up. Most of the subsequent album sounds like a band coming apart at the seams. This makes “Jesus Christ” all the more fascinating as one of the last examples of the bands' potential.

“The Christmas Song” by Weezer

Song year: 2000

While Weezer has polarized their fans with confounding covers and forays into pure pop and hair metal, there is no denying when they crank up their crushing alternative bands, no one sounds quite like them.

With their trademark alternative-arena-rock flair, the band bangs through their original Christmas composition, “The Christmas Song.” For '90s fans and Weezer enthusiasts, the song is essential.

“Christmas Bop” by T. Rex

Song year: 1982

T. Rex's Marc Bolan recorded “Christmas Bop” as a one-off single, but the song was never released and became a rare collector's item for fans.

The song is now easier to find thanks to the proliferation of file-sharing. It even found its way onto a Target ad. In the years to come, this glam rock holiday song is sure to become a classic.

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” by Perry Como

Song year: 1951

Though “It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” has been recorded and performed by hundreds of artists, including prolific holiday singer Bing Crosby, the most enduring version comes courtesy of '50s crooner Perry Como.

The song's boy/girl harmonies and playful orchestration immediately conjure up holiday imagery and is a welcomed sentiment as the calendar turns to December.

“O Come O Come Emanuel” by Bad Religion

Song year: 2013

It's hard to tell if the irony of Bad Religion, a punk band, signing Christmas songs is lost on the group. Part of this confusion stems from their faithful rendition of songs such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

Bad Religion made their name playing a uniquely Californian brand of hardcore. They bring this melodic speed to the entirety of their holiday album Christmas Songs.

“Oh Come All Ye Faithful” by Twisted Sister

Song year: 2006

After hearing Twisted Sister perform “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” it's clear that their '80s hair metal hit “We're Not Gonna Take It” was directly inspired by the classic holiday carol.

The band recorded an entire album of holiday songs, A Twisted Christmas, leaning into the absurdity of their style and having fun with holiday classics. The result is head-bangingly refreshing.

“Happy Holiday” by Peggy Lee

Song year: 1965

Peggy Lee's jazzy take on “Happy Holiday” might not always be the version you hear while out shopping, it should be.

The song has seen dozens of performances since it was composed in 1942. Generally, these versions traffic in an easy-going style. Lee's version is unique for its swing and attitude, making it the best of this Christmas standard.

“Donner and Blitzen” by Rob Halford

Song year: 2019

Rob Halford was the leather-clad singer for the heavy metal band Judas Priest, who had a radio hit in the '80s with their single “Breaking the Law.” Halford now records on his own, still wearing leather, and in 2019 recorded the holiday album Celestial.

The epic, plodding song “Donner and Blitzen” is a must-hear for metal fans. Applying metal tropes to the flight of reindeers is fun and will get you pumped for Christmas.

“Christmas With the Devil” by Spinal Tap

Song year: 1984

Some holiday songs go up to ten. But this one goes up to eleven. Spinal Tap is the best fictional band ever, and their holiday song “Christmas With the Devil” will delight metal and comedy fans alike.

While the song is fantastic as a metal parody, the best part of Spinal Tap is how musically proficient they are. It makes their jokes, even the ones about Christmas, a joy to listen to.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by The Crystals

Song year: 1963

The Crystals soulful “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is the best version of the beloved holiday classic, the second-highest selling Christmas song ever.

The maximalist production techniques Spector used to record this song are why many of the standards chosen for his A Christmas Gift for You became the definitive version of the song.

“Don’t Shoot Me Santa” by The Killers

Song year: 2007

The Killers' “Don't Shoot Me Santa” is a Christmas song with an edge. The new wave revivalists' second Christmas single tells the story of Santa Claus at the end of his rope, threatening lead singer Brendan Flowers with a gun.

The proceeds from the single went to AIDS charities, so whether or not you like the dark portrayal of Santa, at least it was for a good cause.

“Just Like Christmas” by Low

Song year: 1999

In underground hipster enclaves, people tend to thumb their noses at holiday music. It makes Low's Christmas EP all the more delightful.

The slowcore heroes have been darlings of the underground rock scene for decades. Their late '90s Christmas offering served as a defiant statement against perceived notions of what is “cool” and offered us the beautiful original composition “Just Like Christmas.”

“Maybe This Christmas” by Ron Sexsmith

Song year: 2002

Ron Sexsmith recorded “Maybe This Christmas” for an eponymous Christmas compilation album. The proceeds from the album benefitted the charity Toys for Tots.

Sexsmith's simple tale of hoping to find the true meaning of the holiday feels beautiful and world-weary. It's a refreshing reminder in the face of some of the more unsavory aspects of commercialization during Christmas.

“12.23.95” by Jimmy Eat World

Song year: 1999

Jimmy Eat World was busy creating their emo and slowcore sound in the underground music scene long before they conquered the pop charts with their album Bleed American.

“12.24.95,” from the band's critically acclaimed album Clarity, is full of chiming guitars and light electronics that slowly build into a simple refrain of a holiday salutation. The song is as patient and light as falling snow.

“It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas” by Pet Shop Boys

Song year: 1997

Long before the days of the internet and streaming services, bands would have exclusive fan clubs. In addition to gossip and news updates, bands would often reward their fan club members with limited edition singles.

The Pet Shop Boys first released “It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas” exclusively to their fan club. It would be rereleased a decade later as part of the band's Christmas EP.

“Thank God It’s Christmas” by Queen

Song year: 1984

Queen's only foray into holiday music came with their 1984 non-album single “Thank God It's Christmas.”

Some Christmas songs tell a story, while others are simply happy about the season. Queen falls in the latter camp, though with a band as technically skilled as theirs, a little holiday cheer goes an awfully long way.

“I Want an Alien for Christmas” by Fountains of Wayne

Song year: 1997

Any parent that's had to help set realistic expectations for their child's Christmas wish list will get a kick out of Fountains of Wayne's power pop holiday single “I Want an Alien for Christmas.”

The song tells the story of a child burned out on the usual Christmas gifts. Over buzzing guitars and bubbling synths, he asks Santa for an alien this year instead. It never hurts to ask.

“Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton

Song year: 1982

Initially featured in the film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Dolly Parton's studio version of “Hard Candy Christmas” has become a staple of holiday country music.

The song's use of hard candy as a metaphor for hard times that can also be sweet is a clever and relatable stroke of lyrical genius. For this reason, the song has become a popular Christmas song for country singers.

“Silver Bells” by The Supremes

Song year: 1965

It doesn't get any more traditional than “Silver Bells.” This song was popularized by Bing Crosby but is performed by hundreds of artists annually.

The Supremes' faithful rendition of the song is one of the best versions of the thousands that exist. Diana Ross' voice is light enough to rest upon the sound of bells and take the listener away to Christmas day.

“The First Noel” by John Fahey

Song year: 1968

John Fahey was a pioneering guitar player credited with spearheading the American primitive guitar style. Though he received little mainstream success during his lifetime, he is considered one of the greatest guitar players ever.

His approach to Christmas music was unique for its time, adding his unique guitar style to the musicality of classic carols. “The First Noel” is a highlight of his holiday album The New Possibility.

“Joy to the World” by Aretha Franklin

Song year: 2002

“Joy to the World” is a Christmas carol that dates back to 1719. It is a classic that has endured centuries' worth of performances in all types of musical styles. However, no one holds a candle to Aretha Franklin.

Simply put, if the Queen of Soul is singing, I'm listening. Her take on this timeless Christmas classic is powerful and definitive.

“Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber

Song year: 2011

Justin Bieber threw his name into the ring of artists that have produced original Christmas songs with his holiday single “Mistletoe.”

The song is a lighthearted tale of love during the holidays. With its laidback R&B beat coupled with a reggae rhythm on acoustic guitar, “Mistletoe” easily cracked the top of the charts globally.

“Christmas Lights” by Coldplay

Song year: 2010

Coldplay's “Christmas Lights” distills everything the band does well into a beautiful, holiday-themed tale of lost love.

The song's plaintive and softly sung intro eventually gives way to a soaring choir-backed final chorus. It's a journey in which Coldplay packs all of their best musical tricks into one concise song. If you're missing someone over the holidays, this is the song for you.

“Not Another Christmas Song” by Blink-182

Song year: 2019

Blink-182, the clown princes of pop-punk, have released several holiday songs during their career. However, 2019's “Not Another Christmas Song” reveal a newfound maturity in the band's songwriting.

The song finds Blink-182 looking back with a tinge of regret at the passing of time. The song serves as a fitting coda for a band that has spent most of its career writing about growing up.

“12 Days of Christmas” by Johnny Cash

Song year: 1970

Though The Johnny Cash Show would only last a few seasons, Johnny Cash continued to host annual Christmas programs well into the '80s.

As an elder statesman of country music, Johnny Cash became a master interpreter of traditional songs. It makes sense then that in his hands, “The 12 Days of Christmas” is performed with reverence and faithfulness to the original.

Top Christmas Songs, Final Thoughts

Whether you're at an office party, a white elephant gift exchange, or unwrapping presents with your family around the tree, Christmas music is the perfect complement to your holiday cheer.

There have been so many classic Christmas songs recorded that it doesn't matter if you're into hip-hop, pop, or punk — there's music to guide your sleigh.

So cozy up to the fire with our best Christmas songs into your playlist!

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