The 50 best Christmas songs

Not all Christmas songs are totally naff. Forget the turkeys, here's our pick of the festive pops

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As Noddy Holder once screeched dementedly: it's Christmas! That means mince pies, marathon TV-watching sessions and, yes, Christmas songs. Although you might have heard some of the anthems below so many times before that you'll want to want to perforate your eardrums with a candy cane – don't! You'll regret it later, and many festive pop songs are great works of art. If you really, properly listen to our countdown of the Top 50 festive tunes, you might just find your heart filling up with Christmas joy. Feel free to pilfer our playlist for your Christmas shindig too: it should break the ice. And that's snow joke (sorry).

Did we miss out your festive favourite? Let us know in the comments box below or tweet us at @TimeOutMusic.

Written by Rachel Aroesti, Jonny Ensall, Danielle Goldstein, Sophie Harris, Oliver Keens, James Manning and Tom Slater.

  1. 50-41
  2. 40-31
  3. 30-21
  4. 20-11
  5. The top 10

50. Slade – 'Merry Xmas Everybody'

Noddy Holder and his troupe of platform-wearers continue to blight our television screens each December with their frightening fashion sense. There’s a reason for that, of course. It’s the joyful simplicity of 1973’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, which is guaranteed to inject that euphoric, slightly drunken, Christmas-love vibe into the festive season.

49. Gruff Rhys – 'Post Apocalypse Christmas'

Believe it or not, this is the most upbeat number on Gruff Rhys’s ‘Atheist Xmas’ EP – and all the better for it. The jaunty bass line and glam guitar solo serve as perfect foils to the song’s less-than-jovial content, allowing Rhys to attack cheesy Christmas sentiment with a smile rather than a sneer.

48. Vince Guaraldi Trio – 'Christmas Time is Here'

The world first fell in love with this jazzy, choral ditty in 1965 when it featured in the Peanuts TV special ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’. As well as being the perfect soundtrack to a small boy’s incurable miserablism, it’s also pretty darn lovely with friends, family and a glass of wine on Christmas night.

47. The Ramones – 'Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)'

Joey Ramone’s plea to his lover to put their scrapping aside for the holidays is undoubtedly the punk Christmas anthem. Beneath its acquiescent lyrics, mind, is a typically fiery Ramones riff that’s more likely to fuel high tensions rather than ease them around a warring Christmas dinner table.

46. Soul-Saints Orchestra – 'Santa’s Got A Bag Of Soul'

This funky-as-you-like number might sound like rare groove from ’60s America, but is actually the product of mid-’90s German band The Poets of Rhythm, playing under a different name. Who cares about the provenance, however, when the beats are this big?

45. Shonen Knife – 'Space Christmas'

This track from everyone’s favourite all-gal, Japanese punk-pop band may not make one jot of sense, but it’s positively dripping in youthful Christmas cheer. Anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa, who apparently travels by ‘bison sleigh’, the girls hope for a spaceship so they can fly to Pluto and eat ice cream. Makes dry turkey and lumpy gravy round Auntie Jeane’s look rather unexciting, doesn’t it?

44. The Flaming Lips – 'Christmas at the Zoo'

With this typically oddball festive Flaming Lips track, Wayne Coyne seems to mount a Band Aid-like soapbox. Difference is, where Geldof had his charitable gaze placed firmly on humans, Wayne wants to know if zoo animals know it’s Christmas time. Unfortunately, when he goes to let them out, they’re unhappy but too sheepish to escape. Never mind, Wayne – at least you got a fun song out of it.

43. Greg Lake – 'I Believe in Father Christmas'

This is Christmas cynicism at its most tuneful. Intended as a denouncement of the increasing commercialisation of the festive season, Greg Lake inadvertently crafted a folk-prog Christmas classic. Ironically, it’s now one of the go-to songs for cash-cow Christmas compilations.

42. Aidan Moffat – 'Plastic Mistletoe'

This downbeat ballad bemoaning phony Christmases and festive abandonment appears on a 2011 Ep by Arab Strap alumnus Aiden Moffat. Don’t let the whinging put you off: Moffat’s lovely Scottish drawl and twanging guitar will soothe you after the trials of late-night shopping on Oxford Street.

41. Ryuichi Sakamoto – 'Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence'

The theme from the 1983 Japanese WWII film of the same name (in which Sakamoto starred alongside David Bowie and Tom Conti), was the beginning of the electro-pioneer’s incredibly successful career as a film-score composer. What’s that you say – World War II’s not very Christmassy? Who cares when the music’s this warm and nostalgic?


  1. 50-41
  2. 40-31
  3. 30-21
  4. 20-11
  5. The top 10

Users say

43 comments
Izzy Miles
Izzy Miles

Bit annoying that you haven't included any modern ones, but hey-ho.

Laura
Laura

No love for Tim Minchin's 'White Wine In The Sun'? I appreciate that the concept of a warm Christmas seems somewhat alien (unless you're an Aussie/Kiwi expat) but the sentiment of it - that Christmas isn't about spending silly money on stuff you don't need, but about spending time with the people that you love and care about - is surely one that all of us can agree on...

Tracey
Tracey

Pants chart dreamt up by some twit with no sense of a real christmas where's mud shakin Stevens wizard and good ole cliff? No dean Martin or nat king cole for depth of feeling hope these idiots never ask me for christmas dinner.

Cass
Cass

Really?! This is the least swinging list of tunes ever! It's like you've missed off all the jazz and swing songs that really started the christmas pop music traditions! I agree that Mariah's all I want for Christmas is the best modern Christmas song, but it just doesn't compare to the old classics.... Better than white Christmas and have yourself a merry little Christmas?! Madness! How hard was whoever complied this list trying to be original, rather than choosing good Christmas music?! No Ella Fitzgerald singing 'sleigh Ride', No Nat King Cole doing ' The christmas song'?! This list should have removed the handful of hits and been called 'Alternative Christmas songs'.

Shyla
Shyla

These are horrible.

Nathan
Nathan

No Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas? Really? The idiots who compiled this abortion of a list should be publicly disembowelled!

melissa
melissa

Mariah Carey? You have to be kidding me?

Jenny Campbell
Jenny Campbell

Home for the holidays - emmy the great and tim wheeler i think it is

Alan Millen
Alan Millen

2000 Miles by The Pretenders would rank above many of these in my opinion. But as the co-writer of Christmas With The Beatles by Newcastle Road (CD Blue Suburban Skies), I reckon our tune would give most of these a run for their money. Roll over Bing Crosby and tell Old Blue Eyes the news.

ANDRE
ANDRE

Those are the worst christmas songs, you should be ashame, there is nothing like the classics that were sung by the greats such as Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Burl Ives, Nat King Cole, etc., then i should be so hard on people like you, because you don't know better.

nunya
nunya

ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww no mam

bigsands
bigsands

We had to learn The 12 Days of Christmas to perform it at a wedding, it was so hilarious as the guests did something different at each table and nearly knocked over everything with excitement. By the 12th day everyone was out of breath and went to the bar.

livvv
livvv

yo hazza harry hamburger fattttiieee

alisha
alisha

listen to this song last christmas. copy and paste this into your search bar.Wham! - Last Christmas - YouTube

sophie bux
sophie bux

i love christmas it is fucking awesome!!!

Harry
Harry

you alright pal need a chat????

kaisha
kaisha

time out is class

k.
k.

k.~cumereden

k.
k.

k.~cumereden

kaisha
kaisha

are u being cheeky g?

geosmith
geosmith

na pal i ate yu dont speak tu me brav

kaisha
kaisha

nothin much pallll you happy today g?

geo
geo

na m8 yu doin now bruv

kaisha
kaisha

you enjoying media?

geo
geo

hey kaisha its shite

MANDY
MANDY

JAI TELANGANA !

Rosemarie Harrison
Rosemarie Harrison

Erm, hello? I can forgive you missing off BB King's Merry Christmas Baby, but where the frick is Donny Hathaway's This Christmas? Tsk, tsk.....

Fom
Fom

Fairytale of New York is 100000000000000000 times better than ANY of those. this is crap and must be just one nerds opinion.

newp
newp

Prince - Another Lonely Christmas: Every Christmas night for 7 years now I drink banana daiquiris till I'm blind As long as I can hear you smilin', baby You won't hear my tears Another lonely Christmas is mine

Mike D
Mike D

where`s the Kinks - Father Christmas ?

Rob
Rob

Excellent list with the exception of Fairytale of New York - WORST SONG EVER!

Ray Jones
Ray Jones

What ! No Bruce singing Santa Clause is Coming to Town ?

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