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Christmas music

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merry-christmasA Christmas song is a song which is normally sung during the time period leading up to, and sometimes shortly past, Christmas day, and usually has lyrical content addressing the holiday, the winter season, or both. These songs recognizably fall into several different groupings, depending on both the content and age of the songs.

Songs which are traditional, even some without a specific religious context, are often called Christmas carols. Songs with religious reference are also called Christmas hymns. For example, the Christian-centered “O Come All Ye Faithful” and the totally secular “Deck the Hall(s)” could easily both be found on Christmas-based record albums by choirs and other church-sounding artists.

Some songs of more recent vintage, often introduced in films, are specifically about Christmas, but are typically not overtly religious, and are not typically classified as Christmas carols. The archetypal example is 1942’s “White Christmas”, although many other holiday songs have become perennial favorites, such as Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.

A significant subset of the secular songs are regarded as “Christmas” songs due to the time of year they are most often sung, despite never mentioning anything about Christmas or even about Santa Claus. These songs include traditional favorites such as “Winter Wonderland”. These songs fall into the generic “winter holiday” classification, as they carry no religious connotation at all.

Another subset of the popular holiday songs, apart from the more sincere ones, are the many parodies or twists on existing songs, which are usually classified as “Novelty songs”. They range from the cuteness of “The Chipmunk Song”, by Alvin and the Chipmunks, to the Cold War gallows humor of “Christmas at Ground Zero” and the morbid humor of “The Night Santa Went Crazy”, both by “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Some songs have little relationship to Christmas, but are hyped up over the period. Each year, record companies compete for the Christmas number one single spot, usually, but not always, with a Christmas-related song. This is parodied in the film Love Actually, whereby an artist records a cover version of a song and adds a Christmas twist to it, all the time admitting that it is “rubbish”.

In the UK Cliff Richard is famed for his many attempts, with some success, to get the Christmas number one single.

List of Christmas songs

General Christmas songs

The following songs are well known for being performed by more than one different artists:

  • “Blue Christmas” – Introduced by Ernest Tubb in 1949, though most famously recorded by Elvis Presley.
    “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” (1946) (composed by Mel Torme and first performed by Nat King Cole)
    “The First Noel”
    “Frosty the Snowman” (1950) – popularized by Gene Autry. Countless artists have recorded it in the years since, perhaps the most famous likely being being Jimmy Durante, who recorded the version for the television special of the same name.
    “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – introduced by Judy Garland in the film Meet Me In St. Louis; covered by many, including Luther Vandross, James Taylor and Vince Gill.
    “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”
    “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” covered by many including Daryl Hall & John Oates
    “Jingle Bells”
    “Jingle Bell Rock” – best-known version is by Bobby Helms, released in 1957. Hall and Oates also did a version.
    “Joy to the World” – covered by various artists which include Mariah Carey.
    “Let it Snow”
    “Little Drummer Boy” – The 1958 version by the Harry Simeone Chorale is the standard.
    “Mary’s Boy Child” – Harry Belafonte in 1957, Boney M in 1978 and re-released in 2005 by G4/Robin Gibb as “Mary’s Boy Child/First of May”.
    “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – introduced by Andy Williams in 1963
    “Merry Christmas Darling” – Introduced by The Carpenters in 1978 (on their album, A Christmas Portrait).
    “Mistletoe and Holly” – co-written and popularised by Frank Sinatra
    “O Holy Night” – covered by several artists including Kelly Clarkson and Christina Aguilera
    “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1949).
    “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy” – Introduced by Buck Owens in 1965; re-popularized by Garth Brooks in 1992.
    “Silent Night” – popularised by Frank Sinatra
    “Twelve Days of Christmas”
    “Up On the House Top” by Benjamin Hanby and Kimberley Locke
    “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”
    “White Christmas” (first performed by Bing Crosby in the 1942 musical Holiday Inn)

Best known by one particular artist

Below is an incomplete list of songs that are best known for being created and/or performed by one particular artist:

  • “2000 Miles” – The Pretenders
    “25th December” – Everything But The Girl (1994)
    “8 Days of Christmas” – Destiny’s Child 2001
    “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” – Spike Jones and the City Slickers (1948)
    “All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey (1994)
    “All Alone On Christmas” – Darlene Love (1963, 1992 and 1994)
    “Alone on Christmas Day” – Travis
    “A Minnesota Snowfall” – Christmas Around the World – Bradley Joseph (2000)
    “Another Lonely Christmas” – Prince (1984)
    “Another Rock And Roll Christmas” – Gary Glitter (1984)
    “Candy Cane Children” – The White Stripes (2002)
    “Cashing In on Christmas” – Bad News (1992)
    “The Chanukah Song (Parts I and II)” – Adam Sandler (1994-2002)
    “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” – Alvin and the Chipmunks (1958)
    “Christmas” – King Diamond (2003)
    “Christmas” – The Who (1969)
    “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love
    “Christmas Blues” – Dean Martin
    “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” (aka “Carol of the Bells”) – Trans-Siberian Orchestra (1996)
    “A Christmas Kiss” – Daniel O’Donnell (1999)
    “Christmas in Dixie” – Alabama, introduced in 1982. Lead singer Randy Owen re-recorded the song with Kenny Chesney in 2003
    “Christmas in Hollis” – Run-DMC
    “Christmas in My Hometown” – Charley Pride, issued in 1970. A different song of the same name was recorded by Sonny James in the late-1960s, and covered by Travis Tritt in 1992
    “Christmas is All Around” – Bill Nighy (2003)
    “Christmas Is Now Drawing Near” – Coil (1998)
    “Christmas Must be Tonight” – The Band (1977)
    “Christmas on 45” – Holly and the Ivys (1981)
    “Christmas Round At Ours” – Girls Aloud (2005)
    “Christmas Shoes” – NewSong (2002)
    “Christmas Time” – Bryan Adams (1985)
    “Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)” – The Darkness (2003)
    “Christmas with the Devil” – Spinal Tap (1992)
    “Christmas Wrapping” – The Waitresses (1981)
    “Christmastime” – Billy Corgan
    “Cruise into Christmas Medley” – Jane McDonald (1998)
    “December Will Be Magic Again” – Kate Bush
    “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – released three times by Band Aid (1984), Band Aid II (1989) and Band Aid 20 (2004)
    “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Bing Crosby (1963) – Whitney Houston
    “Driving Home For Christmas (EP)” – Chris Rea
    “Fairytale of New York” – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl (1987)
    “Far Away on Christmas Day” – Christmas Around the World – Bradley Joseph (2000)
    “Father Christmas” – The Kinks (1977)
    “Feliz Navidad” – Jose Feliciano (1968)
    “Fifty Grand for Christmas” – Paul Holt (2004)
    “Give Love On Christmas Day” – Jackson 5 and Solid Harmonie
    “Give U One 4 Christmas” – Hot Pantz (2005)
    “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” Elmo and Patsy (1983)
    “Grown-Up Christmas List” Amy Grant in 1992, Monica in 2000, and Kelly Clarkson in 2002
    “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” – John Lennon & Yoko Ono (1972), later covered by Melissa Etheridge, and most recently by The Idols in 2003
    “Hard Candy Christmas” – Dolly Parton (1982)
    “Have a Cheeky Christmas” – The Cheeky Girls (2003)
    “Have a Funky, Funky Christmas” – New Kids On the Block
    “A Heart To Hold You” – Keane (2004)
    “Here Comes Santa Claus” – Gene Autry (1947) (famously remade by Elvis Presley)
    “Hey Santa” – Carnie Wilson & Wendy Wilson
    “Holly Jolly Christmas” – Burl Ives (1964)
    “Home For Christmas” – Daryl Hall & John Oates (2006)
    “(There’s No Place Like) Home For the Holidays” – Perry Como (1954)
    “I Believe in Father Christmas” – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
    “I Celebrate the Day” – Relient K (2003)
    “I Hate Christmas Parties” – Matthew Thiessen and the Earthquakes (2003)
    “I Hate Fuckin’ Christmas” The Rugburns (1995)
    “I Hope I Sell a Lot of Records at Christmastime” – Princess Superstar (2000)
    “I Only Want You For Christmas” – Alan Jackson (1991)
    “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – Jimmy Boyd (1952)
    “I Wish It Could Be A Wombling Merry Christmas Everyday” – The Wombles with Roy Wood (2000)
    “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” – Blink-182 (2001)
    “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” – Wizzard (1973), A*Teens & Girls Aloud
    “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Bing Crosby (1943)
    “It doesn’t often snow at Christmas” – Pet Shop Boys (1997)
    “It’s Christmas All Over the World” – Sheena Easton (1987)
    “It’s Christmas Time All Over the World” Sammy Davis Jr.(1963)
    “Itz The Holidaze” Westside Connection
    “Kentucky Homemade Christmas” – Kenny Rogers (1981)
    “Last Christmas” – Wham! (1984), later covered by Whigfield in 1995 and Jimmy Eat World in 2003.
    “Leroy the Redneck Reindeer” – Joe Diffie
    “Let it Snow” – Vaughn Monroe (1945), Dean Martin
    “Let’s Light the Christmas Tree” – Ruby Wright (1957)
    “Light of the Stable” – Emmylou Harris, introduced in 1976; includes backing vocals by Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt
    “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” – David Bowie & Bing Crosby
    “Little Saint Nick” – The Beach Boys (covered by Sugar Ray)
    “Lonely Christmas” Bobby Vee (1963)
    “Lonely This Christmas” – Mud (1974)
    “Marshmellow World” Brenda Lee(1964); later popularized by Dean Martin (1966)
    “Merry Merry Christmas Baby” Dodie Stevens (1960)
    “Merry Christmas Baby” Chuck Berry(1958), Bruce Springsteen also has a popular version.
    “Merry Christmas Darling” – Carpenters (1978)
    “Merry Christmas Everyone” – Shakin’ Stevens (1985)
    “Merry Christmas Santa Claus (You’re a Lovely Guy)” – Max Headroom (1986)
    “Merry Fucking Christmas” – Denis Leary
    “Merry Mothafuckin’ Christmas” – Eazy E
    “Merry Twistmas” Marcels (1961)
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” – Slade (1973), Dexy’s Midnight Runners in (1982), Steps and then Tony Christie in (2005)
    “Mistletoe and Holly” – co-written and popularised by Frank Sinatra
    “Mistletoe & Wine” – Cliff Richard (1988)
    “Mistress For Christmas” AC/DC
    “Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo” – South Park (1999)
    “My Only Wish (This Year)” – Britney Spears (2000)
    “Naughty Christmas (Goblin in the Office)” – Fat Les (1998)
    “New Kids Got Run Over By A Reindeer” – Z100 Portland (Oregon) (1990)
    “Nuttin’ For Christmas” – Art Mooney & His Orchestra (1955)
    “No Child Should Ever Cry on Christmas” – Daryl Hall & John Oates (2006)
    “No Presents for Christmas” – King Diamond (1986)
    “Oi to the World” – The Vandals (1996) and No Doubt
    “An Old Christmas Card” – Jim Reeves (1963)
    “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” – David Bowie And Bing Crosby
    “Perfect Christmas” – S Club 7
    “Please Come Home for Christmas” – Jon Bon Jovi (1994)
    “Pretty Paper” – Roy Orbison (1963)
    “Proper Crimbo” – Bo’ Selecta! (2003)
    “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Brenda Lee (1958)
    “Rudi the Red Nose Reindeer” – Musical Youth
    “Run Run Rudolph” – Chuck Berry (1958)
    “Santa Baby” – Eartha Kitt (1953), later covered by Kylie Minogue and Madonna, among others
    “Santa Claus and Popcorn” – Merle Haggard, introduced in 1973
    “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, Perry Como and later by Jackson 5 (1970), Bruce Springsteen
    “Santa Claus is Thumbing to Town” – Relient K (2001)
    “Saviour’s Day” – Cliff Richard (1990)
    “Senor Santa Claus” – Jim Reeves(1964)
    “Silver Bells” Bing Crosby & Carole Richards (1950)
    “Six White Boomers” – Rolf Harris
    “Sleigh Ride” – written & popularized by Leroy Anderson & His Orchestra (1948), Johnny Mathis w/ Percy Faith & His Orchestra (1958), S Club Juniors & Hilary Duff
    “The Sound Of Christmas” Ramsey Lewis Trio
    “Step Into Christmas” – Elton John (1973)
    “Snoopy’s Christmas” – The Royal Guardsmen (1967)
    “Someday at Christmas” – Stevie Wonder
    “Thank God For Kids” – The Oak Ridge Boys (1982)
    “Thank God It’s Christmas” – Queen
    “Thanks For Christmas” – Three Wise Men (AKA XTC)
    “That Holiday Feeling” – Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme
    “The Greatest Gift Of All” – Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton (1984)
    “The Lights And Buzz” – Jack’s Mannequin (2005)
    “The Man Who Would Be Santa” – Matt Scannell, Vertical Horizon
    “The Night Before Christmas” – Carly Simon (1994)
    “The Old Man’s Back In Town” – Garth Brooks (1992)
    “‘Til Santa’s Gone (Milk and Cookies)” – Clint Black (1991)
    “Twistin’ Bells” Santo & Johnny (1959)
    “Under the Tree” – The Waterbabies (2005)
    “Upon a Christmas Night” – Michael Learns To Rock
    “What Christmas Means to Me” – Stevie Wonder
    “White Christmas” – Bing Crosby(1942)
    “Who Would Imagine A King” – Whitney Houston (1996)
    “Winter Wonderland” – Perry Como (1946), The Andrews Sisters (1946), Johnny Mathis (1958)
    “Winter Wonderland/Sleigh Ride” – a medley of the two Christmas favorites by Dolly Parton (1984)
    “Wombling Merry Christmas” – The Wombles (1974)
    “Wonderful Christmas Time” – Paul McCartney (1982)
    “Xmas At K-Mart” – Root Boy Slim And The Sex Change Band With The Rootettes
    “Xmas Ketchup Song” – Las Ketchup
    “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out” –Fall Out Boy
    Radio personality Bob Rivers has written countless Christmas parodies, most notably The Chimney Song and The Twelve Pains of Christmas, for his line of albums entitled Twisted Christmas.

Not intended as a Christmas song

Some songs are frequently associated with Christmas because of the time they were released rather than explicit references to the holiday. They are sometimes given a Christmas feel by adding sleigh bells or by recording a Christmas video.

  • “Can we Fix it?” – Bob the Builder (2000)
  • “Dear Mr. Jesus” – PowerSource from their Shelter From The Storm album. It is sung by a 9 year old girl named Sharon Batts. Richard Klender wrote it in 1985. The song is about child abuse awareness and it has nothing to do with Christmas. Connie Bradley, Director, ASCAP, on April 11, 1988 said that this song was one of the, “most requested songs in the history of radio,” (it is still highly requested every holiday season).
  • “If We Make it Through December,” Merle Haggard (1973). The song is a lament of a father who loses his job at the factory just as the holidays are approaching. Depressed over his predicament during what normally should be a “happy time of year,” he observes that his little girl “don’t understand why Daddy can’t afford no Christmas cheer.” The song reached No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s Hot Country Singles chart on December 22, 1973 … just in time for Christmas.
  • “Last Christmas” – Wham! (1984) (reached no. 2 in the UK christmas charts, beaten by Band Aid- Feed the World) George Michael originally wrote the song “Last Easter”, the record company asked him to change it to Christmas as it would catch a larger audience
  • “Mad World” – Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules (2003) (this Tears for Fears cover is included on several Christmas compilation albums. It was Christmas Number One in the UK in 2003, ahead of the livelier “Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)” by British rock band The Darkness.)
  • “My Favorite Things” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein The Sound of Music. US radio stations that played Christmas music played various versions of this show tune, relating “favorite things” to Christmas gifts.
  • “The Power of Love” – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984) (was released close to Christmas 1984, and was thus given a Nativity themed video and album cover. The song could be argued to be more suited to Halloween, with its references to vampires.)
  • “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” by Annie Lennox with Al Green was on the soundtrack for the movie Scrooged, a modernized retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The promotional video for the song featured scenes from the movie and Christmas-related visuals.
  • “Somethin’ Stupid” – Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman (2001) (reached no. 1 in the UK christmas charts, therefore commonly associated with christmas)
  • “Sound of the Underground” – Girls Aloud (2002) (reached no. 1 in the UK christmas charts, therefore commonly associated with christmas)
  • “Stay Another Day” – East 17 (1994) (added sleigh bells)
  • “Stop The Cavalry” – Jona Lewie (1980) (released in late November when the record company spotted the line “Wish I was at home for Christmas”)

Christmas albums

Some artists record albums dedicated to Christmas or winter. These collections often contain covers of well-known Christmas songs or carols.

  • Christmas Favorites – Nat King Cole
    8 Days of Christmas – Destiny’s Child
    A Christmas Gift To You From Phil Spector
    A Very Special Christmas compilation series – Various Artists
    A Toolbox Christmas-Woody Phillips Your favorite carols performed on your favorite hand and power tools.
    A Victorian Christmas-Robin Petrie Instrumental carols for harp, hammered dulcimer and strings.
    A Victorian No�l-Robin Petrie European arranged for dulcimer, harp, piano and strings.
    Ashanti’s Christmas – Ashanti
    Barenaked for the Holidays – Barenaked Ladies
    The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album – The Beach Boys
    A Charlie Brown Christmas – soundtrack album of the classic TV special.
    Chemistry – Girls Aloud (An special limited edition version of the album released contained a Xmas album)
    Chicago 25: The Christmas Album – Chicago
    Christmas Around the World – Bradley Joseph
    Christmas Eve and Other Stories, The Christmas Attic, and The Lost Christmas Eve – Trans-Siberian Orchestra (containing traditional and original Christmas songs)
    Christmas Is Almost Here Again – Carly Simon (2003)
    Christmas Island (album) – Jimmy Buffett (1996)
    Christmas Lullaby-Kim Robertson Solo celtic harp
    Christmas Peace (along with other variations) – Elvis Presley
    Cliff at Christmas – Cliff Richard
    Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand – Relient K
    Ding! Dong! Songs for Christmas – Vol. III – Sufjan Stevens
    Hark! Songs for Christmas – Vol. II – Sufjan Stevens
    Ho, Ho, Ho – RuPaul
    Holy Night – Kevin Max
    Iceland – All About Eve
    The Jethro Tull Christmas Album – Jethro Tull
    The John Legend Collection – John Legend
    Jingle All The Way – Crash Test Dummies
    Joy – A Holiday Collection – Jewel
    Merry Christmas – Mariah Carey
    My Kind of Christmas – Christina Aguilera
    “Naughty Or Nice” – 3LW
    Noel! Songs for Christmas – Vol. I – Sufjan Stevens
    One Wish: The Holiday Album – Whitney Houston
    Rejoyce: The Christmas Album – Jessica Simpson
    Strings of Christmas – Russell Shead
    Taste Of Christmas – Various Artists
    When My Heart Finds Christmas – Harry Connick, Jr.

Some bands produce Christmas albums exclusively for their fan clubs, including The Beatles who first released such an album in 1963 [1]. Also popular are the Various Artists collections such as The Best Christmas Album in the World…Ever! & Now That’s What I Call Christmas!.

Christmas songs introduced in movies and other popular media

  • “Star of Bethlehem” and “Somewhere in My Memory” – John Williams from the Home Alone soundtrack.
    “White Christmas” – Irving Berlin from Holiday Inn
    “Happy Holidays” – also from Holiday Inn
    “We Need a Little Christmas” – by Jerry Herman, from the Broadway play, Mame
    “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – from Meet Me in St. Louis
    “What’s This?”- Danny Elfman, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
    “Where Are You, Christmas?”- Faith Hill, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
    James Brown’s Funky Christmas

French language Christmas songs

  • “Entre le bœuf et l’âne gris”
    “Douce nuit, sainte nuit” (Silent Night)
    “Il est né le divin enfant”
    “La Marche des rois”
    “Les Anges dans nos campagnes”
    “Minuit chrétien”
    “Noël nouvelet”
    “Venez divin Messie”
    “Peuple fidèle” (Adeste fideles)
    “Dans une étable obscure”
    “C’est le jour de la Noël”
    “Bergers, l’enfant sommeille”
    “Noël de la paix” (Ô divin enfançon)

German language Christmas songs

German language Christmas carols tend to be less blitheful and more ceremonious than English ones:

  • “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” (Lo How a Rose ‘Ere Blooming)
    “Heiligste Nacht” (Dutch song!)
    “Ihr Kinderlein kommet”
    “Menschen, die ihr wart verloren”
    “O du fröhliche”
    “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht” (Silent Night)
    “Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her”
    “Zu Bethlehem geboren”
    “Alle Jahre wieder”
    “Kling Glöckchen”
    “Lasst uns froh und munter sein”
    “Leise rieselt der Schnee”
    “Morgen, Kinder, wird’s was geben”
    “O Tannenbaum” (O Christmas Tree)
    “Süßer die Glocken nie klingen”
    “Wir sagen euch an”
    “Es wird scho glei dumper”
    “Es hat sich heut’ eröffnet”

Occitan language Christmas songs

  • La Cambo mi fa mau
    Guihaume, Tòni, Pèire (William, Tony, Peter), tune attributed to Nicolas Saboly. Frédéric Mistral composed the provençal anthem Coupo santo (The Holy Cup) according to this Christmas carol. Lyrics, Midi file and music sheet.
    Nouvé dòu pastre (Christmas carol for the shepherd). Lyrics, Midi file and music sheet.
    L’Ouferta de Calèna (The Christmas’ offering). Lyrics, Midi file and music sheet.
    Pastre dei mountagno (Shepherd from the mountains).

Swedish language Christmas songs

December is the darkest month of the year in Sweden, so candles are often the theme in Swedish Christmas songs. Ljus is the Swedish word for candle.

  • “Nu tändas tusen juleljus”
    “När ljusen tändas därhemma”
    “Ser du stjärnan i det blå”

Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses materials from the Wikipedia.

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