Christmas decorations have been in the stores since the end of September, but Santa rolled through Herald Square last Thursday and officially brought the holiday season along with him. Shoppers crowded malls, lights were strung on houses, trees went up and several radio stations began playing non-stop Christmas music.
After listening to Christmas music for almost a month, it’s easy to get sick of it, especially since there are endless covers of just about every song. If frenzied yelling at the radio occurs after hearing another pop star’s lackluster rendition of a holiday favorite, perhaps a break is needed. This is a wonderful opportunity to brush up on some of the greatest Christmas classics of all time.
Trying to rank Christmas songs is a tricky business, because it all comes down to personal preference. A Google search will pull up a bunch of lists (popculturemadness.com has a good one, and worldofchristmas.net boils it down to the basics), and they are all just as different as the next. While everyone has their own favorites as far as holiday music goes, there are a handful of quintessential Christmas songs that no cookie baker, gift wrapper, or tree trimmer should be without.
- Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
Written by Joe Beal and Jim Boothe, this classic example of an upbeat Christmas tune was actually considered to be one of the first Rock and Roll Christmas songs. Sure to put a smile on everyone’s face, this song is great for running errands or throwing a Christmas party.
- Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
Elvis recorded several Christmas albums, but out of all of his holiday tunes Blue Christmas still sees the most airtime. Originally written by Billy Hayes, Blue Christmas features all the melancholy Christmas song staples, but there is something about the way Elvis sings it that makes this song stand apart from the rest. Even cozied up with that special someone by the fire, chances are if this song comes on, crooning along with the King will likely occur.
- Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
Like its cousin Jingle Bell Rock, there are few songs better suited for Christmas parties. Written by Johnny Marks, Brenda Lee—who was thirteen at the time it was recorded, according to songfacts.com—knocked the vocals out of the park with this Christmas classic, and the saxophone solo is sure to get everyone dancing, especially if the guests have been provided with enough eggnog.
- Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Dean Martin
In today’s society, snow is frowned upon in general since it can make traveling much more difficult than usual, but hearing Dean sing this Christmas classic (that really has nothing to do with the holidays) makes even the most weather-weary want to throw another log on the fire and watch snow drift past the window all day. Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, this holiday standard has been covered many times, but Martin’s version remains the most popular.
- It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Johnny Mathis
This aptly named song written by George Wyle describes the season perfectly. It’s just the motivation needed for mistletoeing, jingle-belling or whatever other holiday tasks that need to be accomplished.
- Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives
Burl Ives is considered one of the Christmas greats, and this song, which appears in the TV special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, is as well. Written by Johnny Marks, who also penned Rudolph, Holly Jolly Christmas is a fun holiday tune that is great for caroling.
- Here Comes Santa Claus – Gene Autry
Written by Autry after hearing children yelling “Here comes Santa Claus!” from the crowd at a Christmas parade he participated in, this song is sure to make children all the more eager for St. Nick’s arrival on Christmas Eve.
- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry
The story of Rudolph, written by Robert L. May, preceded the song which was written by May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks. Rudolph is the second biggest-selling Christmas song of all time, and with good reason; kids love it, adults love it, and no holiday compilation should be without it.
- The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
While most people may have trouble putting music to the name of this song, once Cole starts singing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is one of the greatest Christmas songs of all time. Written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells, this song is listed as number one on many Christmas song countdowns because it captures the feeling of the season perfectly.
- White Christmas – Bing Crosby
In what is probably Irving Berlin’s most famous composition, White Christmas is the number one biggest selling Christmas song of all time, and with good reason. First premiering in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, this song about an east coast man stuck in California during the holidays instantly fills the room with holiday nostalgia. As soon as Crosby starts singing in that velvet voice, it is hard not to start wishing for a white Christmas as well.
While everyone has a different opinion of their favorite Christmas songs, there is no denying that these are some of the greatest and best-selling songs of all time. These holiday hits can be found on nearly every top twenty-five Christmas song countdown, and usually on every top ten. While everyone might not agree with the order of this list, these songs are sure to improve any party, shopping trip, or night spent in front of the fireplace.
All songwriter credits courtesy of www.songfacts.com except It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, courtesy of www.amazon.com.