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.

40. Kanye West – 'Christmas in Harlem'

This GOOD Music Christmas posse track serves up just about everything you’d expect from Kanye and Ko. Ye raps about unwrapping (removing the knickers from) his Christmas present, Jim Jones proposes we party till dawn and Big Sean says… well, not much at all. But with a slick soul-sampling beat from Hit Boy and bags of braggadocios' charm, this is a head-bobbing holiday treat.

39. Stevie Wonder – 'What Christmas Means to Me'

If you can’t be bothered to listen and find out, it turns out that singing carols, decorating the tree and, of course, being with his baby is what Christmas means to Stevie. Give it a listen anyway, though, because with that irresistible Motown swing and a harmonica solo thrown in this is (ahem) a cracker.

38. Bob Dylan – 'Must Be Santa'

The 2009 release of Bob Dylan’s festive charity album, ‘Christmas In The Heart’, was somewhat puzzling – but the song and accompanying video for ‘It Must Be Santa’ proved that it was all just good fun for a good cause. A rip-roaring, bellows-pumping, call and response number, it’s made all the more entertaining for hearing such gleeful lyrics sung in that trademark 40-a-day snarl.

37. Eartha Kitt – 'Santa Baby'

Leaving generations confused as to what exactly a 'sable' is (it's a fur coat, in case you're still wondering), Eartha sweetly serenades Santa in this 1953 comic Christmas classic.

36. Low – Just Like Christmas

Crammed full of sleigh bells and lyrically sparse it may be, but somehow indie rockers Low managed to do the unthinkable in 1999: create a genuinely cool Christmas song. 'Just Like Christmas' is a wistful, lo-fi, modern Christmas anthem.

35. Best Coast and Wavves – 'Got Something For You'

This collaboration between surf poppers Best Coast and Wavves explains an important lesson about the power delayed gratification. Yes, like that John Lewis kid, you're desperate to give your presents as much as you are receive them, but if you hold out until Christmas morning that tin of Quality Street will taste all the sweeter. Channelling the jangly loved-up folk pop of Sonny and Cher, this song has a certain cutesy, coupley charm that’s difficult to resist.

34. Paul McCartney – 'Wonderful Christmas Time'

Good old Macca. Whereas Lennon could be relied upon to make impressive political statements (when he wasn't laying about in bed all day), McCartney is the master of the charmingly naïve pop opus. This little ditty isn't going to shake up your festive paradigm, but it won't half stick in your head.

33. Bing Crosby and David Bowie – 'The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth'

This surreal encounter on Bing Crosby’s 42nd Christmas Special between The Thin White Duke and the good ol’ boy of American family TV has become the stuff of legend. After Dave mistakes Bing for a butler and Bing jibes at Bowie’s music taste, they launch into a medley of ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ and ‘Peace On Earth’. The results are... astounding.

32. The Sonics – 'Don’t Believe in Christmas'

’60s garage rockers The Sonics have a festive temper tantrum, the cause of which is a serious lack of gifts. Indignant and self-righteous, this one is for all those who revert back to their childish ways come December 25th.

31. Casiotone For The Painfully Alone – 'Cold White Christmas'

The subject of this ballad is a young graduate who decides to go and make it on her own, only to find herself in a dead-end job and a mouldy flat. But with too much pride to face her family, she ends up spending Christmas alone, counting bed bugs. Like ‘Fairytale of New York’, this is Christmas music at its most poignant from the Californian synth balladeer.



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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