The Top 100 Christmas Songs

Christmas and holiday songs are an indispensable part of pop music. These are 100 of the top Christmas songs of all time, including details and links to pop performance videos. The list is an admittedly subjective one. Please enjoy comparing with your own favorites.

Co-written by singer Mel Torme, "The Christmas Song" became one of the defining performances of Nat King Cole's career. He recorded the song at least three times, but the 1961 recording is often considered the best. Sometimes the song is referred to as "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" from the lyrics in the song's first line.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was introduced by Judy Garland in a poignant moment in the 1944 movie musical "Meet Me in St. Louis." The filmmakers complained that in the first version, the song's lyrics were too depressing and commissioned a rewrite that became the most popular interpretation.

One of Beatle John Lennon's dreams in the music industry was to create a classic Christmas song. Undoubtedly, he was successful with the song "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," which is simultaneously a holiday song and plea for world peace.

The first significant recording of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" was Brenda Lee's version released in 1958. It didn't become a hit single until Lee's pop breakthrough in 1960. The song has been a holiday favorite ever since.

"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" was written in 1934 and first performed on Eddie Cantor's radio show. It was an instant hit. Bruce Springsteen has made it a traditional part of his live concerts during the holidays.

Katherine K. Davis composed "Little Drummer Boy" in 1941. It was popularized in an arrangement by the Harry Simeone Chorale. An animated TV special was created based on the song's story in 1968. David Bowie and Bing Crosby collaborated for a version televised on a Bing Crosby Christmas special in 1977.

"All I Want for Christmas Is You" was featured on Mariah Carey's hit 1994 holiday album "Merry Christmas." In the past decade, the song has quickly become a contemporary holiday standard, selling more than 4 million copies around the world, 2 million in the United States alone.

"White Christmas" was introduced in the 1942 movie musical "Holiday Inn." It went on to win an Academy Award for Best Song From a Motion Picture. Bing Crosby's version from the film has sold more than 50 million copies.

Bob Geldof and Midge Ure put together the impromptu "Do They Know It's Christmas?" project to provide aid for victims of a famine that was ravaging the people of Ethiopia. The recording featured a who's who of current British pop stars. It has become a radio Christmas standard.

There seems to be a bit of irony that one of the most popular of all Christmas songs in the United Kingdom would be set in New York. Irish folk-rockers The Pogues released "Fairytale of New York" in 1987, and it has been a favorite ever since.

Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi will forever be identified with the music he wrote for "Peanuts" TV specials. This song written for "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is a classic.

In December 2013, Ariana Grande released a four-song Christmas EP titled "Christmas Kisses." It was well received, and a year later she announced a new Christmas song, "Santa Tell Me." Cowritten with Savan Kotecha and Swedish songwriter-producer Ilya, the record became a new Christmas classic peaking in the top 10 of the adult contemporary chart and topping Billboard's holiday chart.

"Jingle Bell Rock" was first released by Bobby Helms in 1957. It became a hit, peaking as one of the top 10–selling records in the country, and it has since become a Christmas standard. Daryl Hall and John Oates first released a recording of the song in the 1980s and then recorded a new version for their 2006 holiday album "Home For Christmas."

"Winter Wonderland" was originally written and recorded in 1934. It quickly became considered a Christmas classic despite the fact the holiday is never specifically mentioned in the song. Jason Mraz performed the classic live on "The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn" in 2003.

At the peak of his success as one of the top teen pop stars, Justin Bieber released a Christmas album titled "Under the Mistletoe." It debuted at No. 1 on the album chart and became a smash hit. The song "Mistletoe" peaked at No. 2 on the adult contemporary chart, and in a rare occurrence for Christmas music, climbed into the top 40 at mainstream pop radio.

"Jingle Bells" was first copyrighted under the title "One Horse Open Sleigh" in 1857. It became one of the most popular of secular Christmas songs around the world. Jazz singer Diana Krall included "Jingle Bells" in her 2005 album "Christmas Songs."

"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was first recorded by Darlene Love in 1963 for the legendary Phil Spector album "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector." U2 put together their cover of the song for the 1987 Special Olympics benefit album, "A Very Special Christmas."

It is believed that "Silent Night" was first composed in German in 1816. The song was later translated into English and sung by both sides in the World War I Christmas truce due to the fact it was the primary Christmas carol that both German and British soldiers knew. Child operatic singer Jackie Evancho included the carol on her holiday collection "O Holy Night."

 

Comedian Adam Sandler created an instant novelty classic in "The Chanukah Song" that strings together a wide range of celebrities and public figures who are Jewish—and some who are not.

In 2014 a capella group Pentatonix released their first full-length holiday album, "That's Christmas to Me." It included their versions of Christmas classics, except for the title cut, which was a new original holiday song.

Scripture forms the basis for the lyrics of "Joy to the World" written by Isaac Watts. Michael Bolton performed his version at Placido Domingo's 1997 Christmas celebration concert in Vienna.

"O Holy Night," composed in 1847, has become a favorite carol for solo vocal performances. Celine Dion applied the huge sound of her voice to the classic song on the 1998 collection "These Are Special Times."

"River" first made its appearance on Joni Mitchell's album "Blue" in 1971. The song is a reflection on the ending of a relationship near Christmastime. "River" has been rerecorded many times by a wide range of artists. Sarah McLachlan included it on her 2006 collection "Wintersong."

English Christmas carol "The 12 Days of Christmas" was popular in Europe as early as the 16th century. It features an increasingly more grand set of gifts with each successive day of Christmas. The song is cumulative in that each gift is sung with the previous gifts as the song progresses. Rock band Taking Back Sunday recorded their own version of the classic for AOL Sessions in 2006.

Unitarian pastor Edmund Sears wrote the words to "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" in 1849. Josh Groban lent his golden pipes to the song on his six-times platinum (as of 20​17) album "Noel."

The ultimate Christmas rap classic, "Christmas in Hollis" was put together by Run DMC for the Special Olympics fundraising album "A Very Special Christmas," released in 1987.

The story of Rudolph, Santa's ninth reindeer, was created by Montgomery Ward employee Robert L. May in 1939. The story was adapted into song and turned into a hit by Gene Autry in 1949. Singer-songwriter Jewel recorded "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" for her own holiday collection in 1999.

Wham!, the duo featuring George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, were just coming off their worldwide No. 1 smash hits "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" and "Careless Whisper" when they released holiday single "Last Christmas." It failed to reach No. 1 at home in the UK due to Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas."

The Waitresses, a moderately successful punk band, put together the classic Christmas hit "Christmas Wrapping" in 1981. It remains a clever combination of punk attitude and experimentation with the young genre of rap. The "Glee" cast put together their own version in 2011 led by Heather Morris, who played the character Brittany on the show.

Ross Bagdasarian Sr. recorded under the pseudonym David Seville. His first major hit single was "The Witch Doctor" in 1958. It included experiments with speeded-up audio tracks. Those experiments ultimately led to the creation of the Chipmunks, whose voices were speeded up humans. "The Chipmunk Song," released later in 1958, was a No. 1 smash. The Chipmunks have become durable pop culture characters, even performing in their own movies.

Leroy Anderson's classic orchestral piece became something of a signature tune for Arthur Fiedler's Boston Pops Orchestra after they recorded "Sleigh Ride" in 1949. Pop punk band Relient K recorded a version of the classic for their 2007 holiday album "Let It Snow, Baby...Let It Reindeer."

Recorded as a follow-up to the success of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman" gave Gene Autry a top 10 pop hit in 1950. Ultimately the song was adapted into a popular perennial TV special.

Written in 1953 by Joan Javits, niece of politician Jacob Javits, "Santa Baby" was a big hit for singer Eartha Kitt. Pop star Kylie Minogue shows off the sex appeal of the song in her version.

"Merry Christmas Darling" was written for The Carpenters and is usually considered to be their signature holiday tune. Karen Carpenter's voice fits the melancholy nature of the lyrics perfectly.

"Angels We Have Heard on High" originated as a French carol but was translated during the mid-1800s into the English version we know well. As part of their comeback, pop band Sixpence None the Richer released the holiday collection "The Dawn Of Grace" in 2008. It included their version of "Angels We Have Heard on High."

Sixteen years after her first Christmas collection became a smash hit, Mariah Carey released the album "Merry Christmas II You." "Oh Santa!" is the opening single from the project.

 

"Blue Christmas" was best known as a country Christmas song in a version recorded by Ernest Tubbs in 1948 until Elvis Presley made it a rock 'n' roll classic with his 1957 recording. Contemporary technology made possible this duet with country star Martina McBride.

Novelty classic "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" was performed on stage in 1978 and quickly spread in popularity through exposure on pop radio.

"Gabriel's Message" is a folk carol that originated in the Basque region of France and Spain. Sting recorded the song and brought it much wider popularity on the first "A Very Special Christmas" album in 1987.

 

"Carol of the Bells" is a Ukrainian holiday song based around a four-note motif taken from a pagan Ukrainian New Year's chant. Destiny's Child stopped by CBS's "Early Show" to deliver their masterful a capella performance of the song.

MTV was young and rock singer Billy Squier was at his peak of popularity when cheery holiday song "Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You" was filmed as sort of an office party singalong.

Noel Regney and his wife Gloria Shayne Baker wrote "Do You Hear What I Hear?" in 1962 as a plea for peace during the Cuban missile crisis. It quickly became a Christmas classic in recordings by the Harry Simeone Chorale and Bing Crosby. Carrie Underwood's performance was part of a celebration of the 75th lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

John Lennon already had a Christmas classic under his belt. "Wonderful Christmastime" is Paul McCartney's effort and features a distinctive synthesizer riff.

"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" was first written in 1963 and recorded for "The Andy Williams Christmas Album." The album was the No. 1 selling Christmas collection for that year and was certified gold in the holiday season of 1964. This recording has become a perennial top 10 hit at holiday radio.

The inclusion of Frank Loesser song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in the movie "Neptune's Daughter" earned the songwriter an Academy Award for Best Song in 1949. Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson turned in their own sweetly romantic version in 2004.

Traditional English carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" dates to the 15th century or possibly even before. It is mentioned in Charles Dickens' story "A Christmas Carol" from 1843. Canadian band Barenaked Ladies recorded their version in 1997 and included it on the "Barenaked for the Holidays" album in 2004.

"Christmas Song" is a favorite of dedicated fans of the Dave Matthews Band. It was included on the band's independently released album "Remember Two Things."

48
of 100

'We Three Kings': Billy Corgan, Emilie Autumn & Dennis DeYoung (2004)

Billy Corgan
Billy Corgan. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

Reverend John Henry Hopkins Jr. put "We Three Kings" together for a Christmas pageant at New York's General Theological Seminary in the mid-1800s. This performance of the song was put together for WGN-TV in Chicago featuring the leader of the Smashing Pumpkins (Billy Corgan) and the leader of the classic rock group Styx (Dennis DeYoung).

49
of 100

'The Holly and the Ivy': Natalie Cole and Jose Carreras (1995)

Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole. Photo by Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

"The Holly and the Ivy" is a Yuletide carol that has changed little from its pre-Christian roots. R&B legend Natalie Cole performed the song with opera star Jose Carreras in Vienna in 1995.

Puerto Rican guitarist and singer Jose Feliciano wrote and recorded  the Christmas classic "Feliz Navidad" in 1970. It has since become a perennial favorite.

Bob Hope introduced classic holiday song "Silver Bells" in the movie "The Lemon Drop Kid" in 1951. Clay Aiken joined Megan Mulally on her talk show for this performance.

Elton John recorded and released "Step Into Christmas" in 1973, a year in which he released three top 10 pop singles and two No. 1 albums. It has since become a holiday classic.

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" was written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley. The first publication date for the carol was 1739. Mariah Carey recorded the traditional song for her hit 1994 holiday album "Merry Christmas."

"This Christmas" was most often identified with R&B legend Donny Hathaway until Chris Brown recorded it as the title song for the movie "This Christmas."

"Please Come Home for Christmas" first achieved fame in a recording by blues performer Charles Brown in 1960. New Orleans R&B legend Aaron Neville recorded his version of the song in 1993.

56
of 100

'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus': John Mellencamp (1987)

Various Artists - A Very Special Christmas
Various Artists - A Very Special Christmas. Courtesy A&M

The first recording of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" in 1952 by Jimmy Boyd was attacked by the Catholic Church in Boston because it allegedly mixed sex with Christmas. John Mellencamp's version was recorded for the first "A Very Special Christmas" collection, a benefit for Special Olympics.

"Merry Christmas, Baby" was written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore and first recorded in 1947. It has become an R&B Christmas classic. Christina Aguilera turned in a soulful version for David Letterman with Dr. John on the piano in 2000.

"What Child This?" dates back to 1865. It was reportedly inspired by a near-death experience of the author of the lyrics, William Chatterton Dix. Charlotte Church, a 14-year-old operatic singer, included the classic on her Christmas-themed album "Dream a Dream."

The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson wanted his own Christmas classic. "Little Saint Nick" was released in late 1963 and has been a holiday favorite ever since.

Billy Mack is a character in the film "Love, Actually" portrayed by British actor Bill Nighy. His song "Christmas Is All Around" is a holiday variant on the Troggs' classic '60s hit "Love Is All Around." In the movie, Billy Mack refers to the recording as a "festering turd of a record."

In the late 1950s Chuck Berry recorded his own song about Rudolph the reindeer. The Hanson brothers revived the song "Run Rudolph Run" on their 1997 Christmas collection, "Snowed In."

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members the Ramones had moved past their pioneering punk days but remained a force to be reckoned with when holiday tune "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" was included on their "Brain Drain" album.

Although the song ​"Marshmallow World" was first written in 1949, it became a signature song for Dean Martin in the 1960s.

Christmas hymn "O Come All Ye Faithful" dates to the mid-1700s and is often performed in Latin as "Adeste Fidelis." Heavy metal band Twisted Sister, superstars of the mid-1980s, included this decidedly different version of the song on their 2006 Christmas comeback.

"Up on the Housetop," a Christmas song about Santa Claus, dates back to 1860. The Jackson 5 chose to include the child-friendly carol on their 1970 Christmas album.

"Cool Yule," written by comedian and composer Steve Allen, is a jazzy Christmas classic. It is the title cut of Bette Midler's 2006 holiday album.

Episcopal priest Phillips Brooks was inspired to write the words to "O Little Town of Bethlehem" when he visited the historical town in 1865. Singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan included the song on her "Wintersong" album.

"Here Comes Santa Claus" was co-written by country music legend and actor Gene Autry. Elvis Presley's version is one of many treasured recordings of this classic song.

 

Johnny Marks, the songwriter who created "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," also wrote "Holly Jolly Christmas." Academy Award–winning actor Burl Ives' version of the song is often considered the definitive one.

Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne wrote "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" in 1945. It is a winter love song that is associated with Christmas although the lyrics never mention the holiday. Jessica Simpson recorded her version in 2004.

Christmas classic "Mary's Boy Child" was first recorded by Harry Belafonte in 1956. However, this version by the disco-pop group Boney M topped the UK pop singles chart in 1978.

Meredith Wilson, composer of "The Music Man," wrote "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" in 1951. Perry Como released his version of the song that year, and it has become an evergreen classic.

Frank Loesser, the composer of "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" is probably best known for his musical "Guys and Dolls." Rufus Wainwright's performance of the classic song in a Gap commercial brought strong attention to his debut album.

74
of 100

'Good King Wenceslas': Loreena McKennitt (1995)

Loreena McKennitt - A Winter Garden
Loreena McKennitt - A Winter Garden. Courtesy Warner Bros.

Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas" tells the tale of a king, St. Wenceslas of Bohemia, who gives out alms to the poor on St. Stephens Day, the day after Christmas. The legend is more than 1,000 years old, but the lyrics date to the 1800s. Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt recorded her version in 1995.

The Killers released "Don't Shoot Me, Santa" during the 2007 holidays as a benefit for AIDS charities.

It's not a tune that's 50 or 100 years old, but "Grown-Up Christmas List" has become a Christmas classic. It was included on Amy Grant's second holiday album "Home for Christmas."

"Go Tell It on the Mountain" is a rousing spiritual that dates back to at least 1865. It can be found on the "James Taylor at Christmas" album from 2006.

Although there is not specific mention of Christmas in "When a Child Is Born," it has come to be associated strongly with the birth of Jesus. Legendary R&B and pop singer Johnny Mathis earned his only No. 1 pop single in the United Kingdom with a 1976 version of the song.

79
of 100

'I'll Be Home With Bells On': RuPaul (1997)

RuPaul - Ho Ho Ho
RuPaul - Ho Ho Ho. Courtesy Rhino

Drag performer RuPaul put together one of the campiest Christmas specials ever for VH1 in 1997. "I'll Be Home With Bells On" is one of the performances from that event.

"Santa Claus Lane" is the title song for teen pop star Hilary Duff's Christmas album. It was also featured on the soundtrack for the movie "The Santa Clause 2."

Darlene Love, One of Phil Spector's favorite studio singers of the 1960s, recorded "All Alone on Christmas" for the soundtrack to the hit movie "Home Alone 2: Lost In New York."

Originally published in 1954, "(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays" has become a frequently recorded classic. This version is from an Osmond family Christmas special in the late 1970s.

Some believe "The First Noel" dates to as early as the 13th century. Canada's Crash Test Dummies recorded a version of the song for an obscure Australian compilation titled "A Lump of Coal."

85
of 100

'12 Days of Christmas': Bob and Doug McKenzie (1981)

Bob & Doug McKenzie - The Great White North
Bob & Doug McKenzie - The Great White North. Courtesy Sony

Bob and Doug McKenzie are the fictional brothers who hosted the "Great White North" segment of Canadian sketch comedy show "SCTV." The brothers were portrayed by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. At the peak of their popularity, they released this unique take on the classic "12 Days of Christmas" song.

Pat Benatar capped her pop and rock career with her own Christmas classic, "Christmas In America." That's husband Neil Giraldo on guitar.

Glam rockers Slade unleashed "Merry Xmas Everybody" on British pop fans in late 1973, and it promptly became the band's sixth No. 1 single. It is often considered the top British working-class Christmas song.

New York Dolls lead vocalist David Johansen made a big comeback in the late 1980s with his lounge-singing alter ego Buster Poindexter, including the Christmas classic "​'Zat You Santa Claus?"

The title "Mele Kalikimaka" comes from a Hawaiian mispronunciation of the phrase "Merry Christmas." Bette Midler revived this mid-20th century tune in this version from her album "Cool Yule."

91
of 100

'We Need a Little Christmas': Mitzi Gaynor (1967)

Mitzi Gaynor
Mitzi Gaynor. Photo by Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

When Patrick Dennis' comic novel "Auntie Mame" was turned into a musical in 1966, it needed a Christmas tune for a key point in the plot. Mitzi Gaynor performed this version of "We Need a Little Christmas" on a celebrity Christmas TV special in 1967.

Country singer Joe Diffie has had some of his greatest success recording novelty songs. The tale of "Leroy, the Redneck Reindeer" informs everyone of Rudolph's forgotten cousin.

Led by Roy Wood, the pop-rock group Wizzard released "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" at home in the United Kingdom in late 1973. Unfortunately, it was prevented from hitting No. 1 on the pop singles chart by Slade's classic "Merry Xmas Everybody." That's Roy Wood with the white hair and beard in the video.

94
of 100

'Mistletoe and Wine': Cliff Richard (1988)

Cliff Richard - Private Collection 1979-1988
Cliff Richard - Private Collection 1979-1988. Courtesy EMI

Originally written for a TV adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" in 1986, "Mistletoe and Wine" was noticed by the UK's legendary pop star Cliff Richard. He successfully asked the writers to alter the lyrics, and Richard's version became his 12th No. 1 UK hit in late 1988.

95
of 100

'I Saw Three Ships': Jon Anderson (1985)

Jon Anderson - 3 Ships
Jon Anderson - 3 Ships. Courtesy Elektra

The earliest printed version of English carol "I Saw Three Ships" dates back to the 1600s. Jon Anderson of the progressive rock band Yes put together his own version in 1985.

The words of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" are based on the 1864 poem "Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Johnny Marks added the music in the 1950s, and Harry Belafonte recorded his classic version in 1958.

The simple recording of "All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)" remains possibly the most effective Christmas song parody 60 years after it was originally recorded.

The New Kids on the Block were at the peak of their popularity when they put out a Christmas album titled "Merry, Merry Christmas." It was certified double platinum and included the charming sign of the times, "Funky, Funky Xmas."

Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, "Christmas Waltz" was recorded by Frank Sinatra in the 1960s and then, in possibly its most popular version, by The Carpenters in 1978.

100
of 100

'Deck the Halls': Rza (2006)

RZA
RZA. Photo by Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

"Deck the Halls" is a traditional Yuletide carol that was originally sung in Welsh. The earliest records of the song being written down date to the 1700s, but the song is probably older than that. In late 2006, rapper Rza of the Wu Tang Clan showed up on the "Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" to perform his own version of the classic.