Home / Christmas Songs / Top Christmas Songs: Festive Favorites: From Best Selling Singles to the Most Performed Christmas Tunes

Top Christmas Songs: Festive Favorites: From Best Selling Singles to the Most Performed Christmas Tunes

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Whether they are blaring out in a hotel lobby or shopping mall, on the radio, or playing in a restaurant or bar, there are some firm favorites that are rekindled every year to celebrate this special holiday season.

What is The Best Selling Christmas Single?

With its catchy lyrics and international appeal, a good guess would be Jingle Bells, given the fact that this song rears its head every festive season from shops to Santa’s Grottos worldwide.

However, selling over 50 million copies is the 1942 recording of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, sung by Bing Crosby. It has become one of the most recognizable songs in the world. Whether young or old, the lyrics of the song captures everything that is good about Christmas.

Jingle Bells (1857), despite its familiarity from Tokyo to Thailand to New York and London, only sold 6 million, by comparison. According to Carols.org.uk, the song was originally written by James Lord Pierpoint for the children of Boston Sunday School, to celebrate thanksgiving, not Christmas. Since then Jingle Bells has been translated into many languages and over time its lyrics have been modified slightly, to become the song so popular today. Bing Crosby also performed a version of Jingle Bells, released in 1943.

World’s Top Selling Christmas Singles

Yahoo’s Y! Music Playlist blog features a list of the world’s top selling singles, with few surprises. From the 7 songs listed only one, Band Aid’s 12 million selling Do They Know Its Christmas? (Feed the World) falls with the last 40 years. It is the newest song on the list, released in 1984. This does not, however, impact negatively on the Christmas songwriting of today; just that people don’t buy Christmas “singles” anymore.

Three of the 7 top singles are Bing Crosby songs:

  • White Christmas (1942) — Bing Crosby (50 million),
  • Silent Night (1935) — Bing Crosby (30 million)
  • Jingle Bells (1943) — Bing Crosby (6 million).

The remaining songs on the best selling singles list are:

  • Do They Know Its Christmas (1984) — Band Aid (12 million)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1949) — Gene Autry (8 million)
  • The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t be Late) (1958) — The Chipmunks (6 million)
  • The Little Drummer Boy (composed originally as a Czech carol in 1941) — Harry Simeone Chorale (6 million)

The Chipmunk Song deserves a special mention as it is the last Christmas song to make number 1 on any US single record chart. It also managed to chart on the Hot Digital Songs for the first time in 2005, peaking at number 35 in that chart. In 2007 it reentered the billboard chart at number 70, due to the release of the movie Alvin and The Chipmunks.

The Most Performed Christmas Songs

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) mirrors many of the findings on the Yahoo playlist. ASCAP, which represents over 260,000 music creators and copyright owners, named their Top 25 Most Performed Holiday Songs for the past five years. These are based on radio airplay performance data tracked by Mediaguide. Many of songs are cover versions of traditional songs, by modern artists.

According to ASCAP the song that tops the list is The Christmas Song, written by Mel Tormé and performed by Nat King Cole in 1946. In second place is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin and sung by The Pretenders. The Eurythmics’ Winter Wonderland, written by Felix Bernard and Richard B, lies in 3rd place.

ASCAP’s list of the top 25 most performed songs within the last 5 years include 6 out of the 7 best seller titles in Yahoo’s Music blog. Other traditional favorites on the ASCAP list include:

  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town — Bruce Springsteen (written by Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie)
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let it Snow — Andy Williams (written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne)
  • Jingle Bell Rock — Bobby Helms (written by Joseph Carleton Beal and Ross Boothe)
  • Sleigh Ride — The Ronettes (written by Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish)

Christmas Song Banned From London Hotel

One popular christmas classic, however, has just been banned from The Holiday Inn, Kensington, London. According to the Daily Mail’s December 9th, 2008 article, “Hotel Bans Slade Christmas Song as Guests Find It Irritating,” British band Slade’s huge 1973 hit ” Merry Xmas Everybody” which sold over a million copies, has been taken off the hotel’s playlist due to customer complaints. The Mail quotes spokeswoman Eleanor Conroy of the Holiday Inn as saying that the song was not well received by many guests. Other hotels in the chain are considering banning the Christmas song, which has hit the UK charts 4 times since its release, including as recently as 2007.

Christmas Songs Will Stay Alive

Every Christmas spawns the release of Christmas compilation albums and digital download versions, keeping these ever popular songs (from as far back as the 1930s) in the hearts and minds of new generations.

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