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

Our top 10 Christmas songs

  • Slow Club – 'Christmas TV'

    It’s a lesser-known festive favourite, but this ballad of December love is the definitive indie Christmas track. Slow Club’s boy/girl vocals tell a story of lovers desperately holding on to a moment of Christmas togetherness before they’re separated by life. It’s pretty and heartwrenching – and gives meaning to the phrase ‘Christmas twee’.

  • Band Aid – 'Do They Know It’s Christmas?'

    Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s 1984 reaction to the Ethiopian famine, with contributions from Phil Collins, Sting, Bowie, Macca and Bono, was a publicity machine of epic proportions. It worked: ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ stayed at the top spot for five weeks, and was the biggest UK chart success of the decade. Put that all aside, and it’s also just a great (and surprisingly unconventional) pop song.

  • Kurtis Blow – 'Christmas Rappin’'

    At the beginning of this somewhat unlikely 1979 Christmas smash, you can hear the moment at which hip hop arrived. Interrupting a starchy recital of ’A Visit from St Nicholas’, Kurtis Blow launches into his own inner city yarn about Santa showing up to a Harlem Christmas party, producing a Yuletide classic – and rap’s first major label hit.

  • The Waitresses – 'Christmas Wrapping'

    As we get older Christmas begins to feel like little more than an inconvenience, but this bouncy new wave gem reminds us to resist the impulse to scream ‘bah, humbug’ and simply go with it. It may be the end of a tiring year, you may even be facing the possibility of a Christmas dinner for one, but, one way or another, the festive spirit will see you through. And if this song’s stomping disco rhythm section doesn’t pep you up, nothing will.

  • John Lennon & Yoko Ono – 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)'

    Euphoric and scathing, as hopeful as it is resigned, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s definitive festive peace-on-earth song has transcended its original anti-Vietnam War purpose to become a Christmas stalwart.

  • Bing Crosby – 'White Christmas'

    It can be easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas. But, when you’re nogged out of your mind this year, try and picture a stable, with animals, shepherds, Santa, Cliff Richard. Look, here’s Jimmy Stewart from ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, Twiggy from the M&S adverts and, er… Mr Blobby. The truth is the power of Christmas nostalgia itself is greater than the real memories. Hence, all of us can hark back with Bing on this Irving Berlin-penned ’40s number to a white Christmas just like the ones we used to know, even if our true past is full of crushing disappointments (December 25, 1993 – no Hornby train set). It’s a feeling that is tenuous and transient, yes, but also entirely wonderful.

  • Darlene Love – 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)'

    This song is cursed. It entered the world in 1963 (as part of ‘A Christmas Gift for You’) the same day that President Kennedy left it, and was withdrawn soon after. Years later, its producer Phil Spector was convicted of murder. Still feeling festive? Despite the horrific associations, it’s impossible to keep your cockles cool once this galloping soulful sleigh ride gets going. In typical Spector style, ‘Christmas’ is the sound of a huge group of people singing and playing their hearts out in one take. It radiates fellowship, community and togetherness and still manages to shine brighter than the star of Bethlehem.

  • Photo: Getty Images

    The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – 'Fairytale of New York'

    Yes, you will hear it on repeat in the shops. Yes, the band are scraping the barrel a bit putting on an entire annual Christmas show, mainly for the purpose of playing this song live. But when was the last time you properly listened to Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues’ epic Big Apple-set fable? Shut your eyes and give it a go, and if you aren’t a nervous wreck by the fade-out, your heart (like that jumper from your nan) is two sizes too small. ‘Fairytale…’ is a perfect four-minute narrative of hope, despair and heartbreak – and, despite the profanity, it ends with love. It’s also 25 years old this year: high time it was Christmas Number One.

  • Wham! – 'Last Christmas'

    There are so many winning elements to Wham!’s 1984 smash that its status as a solid gold Christmas staple – covered by such diverse talents as Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Crazy Frog – is forever guaranteed. A ballad of doomed romance, it features sleighbells and synths, plus some truly memorable knitwear in the video. But what really sets ‘Last Christmas’ apart is George Michael’s heart-on-sleeve delivery: his genuine heartbreak horror (‘My God! I thought you were someone to rely on’) and wistful, sexy whispers. The words ‘Merry Christmas’ never sounded so sultry. And that’s what makes this song so very special (special).

  • Mariah Carey – 'All I Want For Christmas Is You'

    It’s not the best-selling Christmas anthem (that’s Bing at number five) and heck, it didn’t even make it to Number One in the UK, but Mariah tops our list of the greatest ever festive songs for one good reason – it’s catchier than a Christmas cold. Originally released in 1994, this selfless plea to be with a loved one has everything: sleigh bells, pop hooks, the right balance of schmaltz and soul, and uplifting vibes strong enough to launch a jump-jet. Sure, Wham! know their way around a chart-topper, but who wants to think about being jilted by an ex in the holidays? Darlene Love’s classic at number four shares a similar sentiment, but her bluesy howl can’t replicate the gaiety of Mariah’s falsetto. Nor can The Pogues’ rasping Shane MacGowan for that matter. The acid test of a great Christmas song is whether you get bored of it, and this one, we’re sure, is for life.

Slow Club – 'Christmas TV'

It’s a lesser-known festive favourite, but this ballad of December love is the definitive indie Christmas track. Slow Club’s boy/girl vocals tell a story of lovers desperately holding on to a moment of Christmas togetherness before they’re separated by life. It’s pretty and heartwrenching – and gives meaning to the phrase ‘Christmas twee’.

  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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