I love Christmas music. I find it relaxing, calming, and nostalgic. Christmas music starts playing way before the 25th and most of us have their favourite Christmas songs that we keep coming back to each year. Personally, I have a special predilection for classic Christmas music. I don’t mind the modern hits but I just get sick of them so quickly.
However, in this post I curated for you 20 of the best and most popular Christmas songs to spice up your Christmas playlist. The list includes both classic as well as modern Christmas songs.
You can also use these songs with students in class and to prompt discussions around Christmas music, its genres, artists, etc(here are more educational Christmas resources to use in your teaching).
You will notice in the list that I added short factual nuggets from Wikipedia to the featured songs to help you understand the context of the song, when it was released and where, etc.
To make it easy for you to access and play the songs, I compiled them into a YouTube playlist which you can check below:
1. All I Want for Christmas Is You (1994), Mariah Carey
All I want for Christmas is a song Maria Carey recorded for her first holiday album, Merry Christmas (1994). “The song was released as the lead single from the album on October 29, 1994…Carey has performed “All I Want for Christmas Is You” during numerous live television appearances and tours throughout her career. In 2010, Carey re-recorded the song for her second holiday album, Merry Christmas II You (2010), known as the “Extra Festive” version”. Source
2. White Christmas (1942), by Bing Crosby
White Christmas “is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. The song was written by Berlin for the musical film Holiday Inn, released in 1942. The composition won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 15th Academy Awards.Since its release, “White Christmas” has been covered by many artists, the version sung by Bing Crosby being the world’s best-selling single (in terms of sales of physical media) with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide”. Source.
3. Big Bulbs, by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
4. Last Christmas (1984). by Wham
Last Christmas “is a song by British pop duo Wham!, originally released in December 1984 on CBS Records internationally and as a double A-side on Epic Records with “Everything She Wants” in the UK. Described as a “high watermark of mid-80s British synthpop songcraft”, it was written and produced by George Michael, and has been covered by many artists since its original release”. Source
5. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, by Jackson 5
6. I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1943), Bing Crosby
I’ll Be Home for Christmas “is a Christmas song written by the lyricist Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent and recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby, who scored a top ten hit with the song. Originally written to honor soldiers overseas who longed to be home at Christmas time, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has since gone on to become a Christmas standard”. Source
7. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), by Darlene Love
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) “is a pop song originally sung by Darlene Love and included on the 1963 seasonal compilation album, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. The song was written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector. Upon release, the song did not find commercial success but in later years, it has gone on to become a Christmas standard”. Source
8. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (1958), by Brenda Lee
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree “is a Christmas song written by Johnny Marks and recorded by Brenda Lee in 1958; it has since been recorded by numerous other music artists. By the song’s 50th anniversary in 2008, Lee’s original version had sold over 25 million copies around the world with the 4th most digital downloads sold of any Christmas single”. Source
9. Jingle Bell Rock, by Bobby Helms
10. Underneath the Tree, by Kelly Clarkson
Underneath the Tree “is a song by American singer Kelly Clarkson from her sixth studio album and first Christmas album, Wrapped in Red (2013). She co-wrote the track with its producer Greg Kurstin. It is a Christmas-themed song that sings of gratitude for companionship during the holidays, in which the loved one is referred to as the only present needed “underneath the tree”. Source
11. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (1971), by John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) “is a Christmas song released in 1971 as a single by John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir. It was the seventh single release by John Lennon outside his work with the Beatles. The song reached number four in the UK, where its release was delayed until November 1972 and has periodically reemerged on the UK Singles Chart, most notably after Lennon’s murder in December 1980, when it peaked at number two”. Source
12. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, by Michael Bublé
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas “is a Christmas song written in 1951 by Meredith Willson. The song was originally titled “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas”. The song has been recorded by many artists, but was a hit for Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters with Mitchell Ayres & His Orchestra on September 18, 1951… Bing Crosby recorded a version on October 1, 1951, which was also widely played”. Source
13. Sleigh Ride, by The Ronettes
Sleigh Ride “is a light orchestra standard composed by Leroy Anderson. The composer had formed the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July 1946, and he finished the work in February 1948. The original recordings were instrumental versions…The Ronettes recorded a cover of “Sleigh Ride” in 1963 for Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, which was commercially successful in the United States and featured in various media.” Source
14. “Pretty Paper” by Willie Nelson
Pretty Paper “is the first Christmas album and 24th studio album by country singer Willie Nelson…The self-composed title track had been a hit Christmas song in 1963, when it was recorded by Roy Orbison. Nelson had previously recorded the song in 1964.” Source
15. Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, by Bruce Springsteen
16. ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ by Paul McCartney
Wonderful Christmastime “is a Christmas song by English musician Paul McCartney. Recorded during the sessions for his solo album McCartney II (1980), it was released in November 1979 following Wings’ final album Back to the Egg earlier that year”. Source
17. “We Need a Little Christmas” by Angela Lansbury
We Need a Little Christmas “is a popular Christmas song originating from Jerry Herman’s Broadway musical Mame, and first performed by Angela Lansbury in that 1966 production. In the musical, the song is performed after Mame has lost her fortune in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and decides that she, her young nephew Patrick, and her two household servants “need a little Christmas now” to cheer them up.” Source
18. “What Christmas Means to Me” by Stevie Wonder
Someday at Christmas “is the eighth studio album by Stevie Wonder, first released on November 27, 1967 by Motown Records under its Tamla imprint… Someday at Christmas consists of twelve tracks, featuring four cover versions of Christmas standards and carols, as well as eight original songs, chiefly penned by Ron Miller along with his wife Aurora as well as Bryan and Deborah Wells, including its title track and “What Christmas Means to Me”. Source
19. Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid
Do They Know It’s Christmas? “is a charity song written in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia. It was first recorded by Band Aid, a supergroup assembled by Geldof and Ure consisting of popular British and Irish musical acts at the time. It was recorded in a single day at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, in November 1984.” Source