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.

20. Julian Casablancas – 'I Wish it Was Christmas Today'

Who knew The Strokes’ front man was such a big kid when it came to Christmas? So much som in fact that he – like many impatient young ‘uns – can’t even bear to wait for the 25th to roll around. This is a garage rock anthem about wishing it was Christmas Day, already.

19. James Brown – 'Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto'

The godfather of funk gives Father Christmas his marching orders, insisting he head straight to the ghetto and ‘tell ‘em James Brown sent ya’. It may raise a smile, there’s something serious at the heart of this all-horns-blazing tune: JB wants the kids on the wrong side of the tracks to enjoy the sort of Christmas he never did.

18. Elvis Presley – 'Blue Christmas'

The King adds some characteristic swagger to this cover of the 1948 country original. Spawning plenty of tributes of its own, Presley sealed the deal for ‘Blue Christmas’ – it’s now a festive staple.

17. Run-DMC – 'Christmas in Hollis'

In this hip hop Christmas classic, Run raps about finding Santa’s wallet while DMC lets us in on the traditional festivities in Hollis, Queens. Pop it on during the Christmas Day wind-down when you too feel like ‘coolin’ and chillin’ just like a snowman’.

16. Ike and Tina Turner – 'Merry Christmas Baby'

Tina howls and growls her way through Christmas, R&B style, and tops it all off with a spirited freestyle nod to ‘Jingle Bells’.

15. Tom Waits – 'Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis'

We should always take time during the festive season to think of those less fortunate, and they don’t get much more unfortunate than the subject of this growled piano ballad. It may lower the mood at Christmas lunch, but come on – it’s Tom Waits, he doesn’t do jolly.

14. Jackson 5 – 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'

There are versions of this song by everyone from Bieber to Bublé, but Michael and the gang’s effort is the grooviest and the most fun. And since the song is mainly used as a bargaining tool by parents, it does make sense to have kids on the mic.

13. Chris Rea – Driving Home for Christmas

This loungey number about being stuck in Christmas traffic from husky-voiced housewives’ favourite Chris Rea has had surprisingly lasting appeal. Not only has it charted twice in the UK (reaching 53 in 1988 and 33 in 2007) but it even cracked Norway’s Top Three a few years ago. Clearly people of all generations and nationalities are able to enjoy this harmless slice of Christmas cheese.

12. Dean Martin – 'Baby, It’s Cold Outside'

Rat Pack star Martin recorded this version in 1959, fifteen years after it was originally sung by Frank Loesser and his wife at the end of a party – as a gentle suggestion that their guests should probably get going. The lyrics have caused some controversy (does the female companion really want to stay or is she being held against her will?) and this version offers little enlightenment, but by replacing the female part with a choir Dean gets himself out of some potentially hot water.

11. Brenda Lee – 'Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree'

Being Jewish, songwriter Johnny Marks didn’t celebrate Christmas, but in the ’40s and ’50s he wrote some of the greatest Christmas songs of all time. Among them are ‘Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer’, ‘I Heard The Bells of Christmas Day’, and this – an easy-on-the-ear rock ’n’ roll tune sung by a 13-year-old Brenda Lee, which really needs no introduction.



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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