Top 10 Sad Christmas Songs

Sad Christmas
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10
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"The Christmas Shoes"

NewSong Christmas Shoes
NewSong - "Christmas Shoes". Courtesy Reunion

Written by Leonard Ahlstrom and Eddie Carswell.

Contemporary Christian group Newsong first released the song "Christmas Shoes" in 2000. It became a crossover hit reaching #31 on the country chart, going all the way to #1 on the adult contemporary chart, and climbing as high as #42 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song's story about a little boy wanting to buy his dying mother the perfect gift touched a chord with many listeners. He wants the shoes so that his mother can be dressed well when she finally meets Jesus. In 2002 the song's story was adapted into a novel and a TV movie starring Rob Lowe and Kimberly Williams.

"The Christmas Shoes" helped Newsong break into the overall US album chart for the first time and earn four consecutive top 10 charting Christian albums. The Canadian pop-punk Christian duo FM Static covered "The Christmas Shoes" in 2008. Their recording was included on the album "X Christmas."

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09
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"Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well You Deserved It!)"

Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas
Sufjan Stevens - Songs for Christmas. Courtesy Asthmatic Kitty

Written by Sufjan Stevens.

Acclaimed alternative rock performer Sufjan Stevens released a collection of Christmas carols and original Christmas songs he had been singing for years for friends and acquaintances in the album "Songs for Christmas" in 2006. This original song depicts simmering anger and sadness during the holidays.

"Songs for Christmas" was a boxed set of five EPs. They were recorded from the years 2001-2006. "Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well You Deserved It!)" is included on the fourth of the EPs and was recorded in 2005. "Songs For Christmas" peaked at #122 on the overall album chart and was released just six months after Sufjan Stevens' first top 100 charting album "The Avalanche."

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08
of 10

"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"

Various Artists A Christmas Gift for You
Various Artists - A Christmas Gift For You. Courtesy Sony

Written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector.

This Christmas classic depicts the sadness of watching everyone else celebrate happily while missing an absent lover. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was first recorded by singer Darlene Love for the classic Phil Spector Christmas collection "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector." It did not receive strong acclaim at first when released in 1963, but its reputation has been building since. Darlene Love began singing the song annually on the "Late Show with David Letterman" in 1986 and continued every year through 2014 — except for one year — even when David Letterman changed networks. The sole exception was 2007 when she was unable to perform due to a writers' strike. In anticipation of her final performance in 2014, before the show came to an end the next year, Darlene Love's performance of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" climbed to #21 on Billboard's Digital Songs chart. U2 recorded a powerful version of the song for the 1987 "A Very Special Christmas" album. Darlene Love provided backing vocals.

Reportedly, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was originally written to be recorded by Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes. Darlene Love says she was brought in, because Ronnie Spector's vocals weren't emotional enough for the song. In 2010 Rolling Stone named "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" as the top rock and roll Christmas song of all time. Mariah Carey reached #59 on the digital songs chart in 2011 with her cover version of the song.

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07
of 10

"Merry Christmas, Darling"

Carpenters Merry Christmas Darling
Carpenters - "Merry Christmas, Darling". Courtesy A&M

Written by Frank Pooler and Richard Carpenter.

The Carpenters' classic song about spending Christmas apart and dreaming about being together was originally released as a single in 1970. Following the wake of the duo's first two smash singles, "Merry Christmas Darling" reached #1 on the Billboard Christmas songs chart. The song topped that chart again in 1971 and 1973. It did not appear on an album until the Carpenters' 1978 Christmas Portrait collection. With the melancholy tones in Karen Carpenter's voice, it is a classic of sadness that can accompany all holiday celebrations spent apart.

Beginning in 2011 the album "Christmas Portrait" found new chart success in the US. That year it peaked at #126 on the album chart. By 2015, it climbed to #93. "Christmas Portrait" is one of the top 25 bestselling Christmas albums of the SoundScan era.

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06
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"Same Old Lang Syne"

Dan Fogelberg Same Old Lang Syne
Dan Fogelberg - "Same Old Lang Syne". Courtesy Epic

Written by Dan Fogelberg.

Dan Fogelberg's song "Same Old Lang Syne" tells the autobiographical story of meeting a former love at the grocery store on a snowy Christmas Eve. The pair reminisce, talk about imperfections in their current lives, and the song ends on a melancholy note as the beautiful snow changes into rain. Dan Fogelberg's recording was released in 1980 and became a top 10 pop hit.

The melody of "Same Old Lang Syne" was influenced by Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture." The recording closes with Michael Brecker playing the melody from "Auld Lang Syne" on the saxophone. Following Dan Fogelberg's death in 2007, the woman Dan Fogelberg met on Christmas Eve in the song came forward and told her version of events confirming the truth in the basic elements of the song's story.

In addition to Dan Fogelberg, the primary musicians on the recording are Russ Kunkel on the drums and Michael Brecker on soprano saxophone. Russ Kunkel was one of the most in-demand session musicians, working with artists from Neil Diamond to Jackson Browne. Michael Brecker was one of the country's top jazz musicians recording with his brother Randy Brecker as the Brecker Brothers.

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05
of 10

"Please Come Home for Christmas"

Eagles Please Come Home for Christmas
Eagles - "Please Come Home for Christmas". Courtesy Elektra

Written by Charles Brown and Gene Redd.

"Please Come Home for Christmas" was first recorded and released by blues singer Charles Brown in 1960. Although it only reached #76 on the Billboard Hot 100, it appeared on the Christmas songs chart for nine years, peaking at #1 in 1972. The song is a plea for a loved one to return and end the feelings of Christmas blues.

In 1978 the band the Eagles recorded their own version, which became a top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and #15 at adult contemporary radio. The song is a lament about spending Christmas alone and a plea for a lover to no longer roam and end all sorrow, grief and pain.

Jon Bon Jovi covered "Please Come Home For Christmas" in 1992 on the holiday charity album "A Very Special Christmas 2." An accompanying music video featured supermodel Cindy Crawford.

In 2013, Kelly Clarkson released a new recording of "Please Come Home for Christmas" on her "Wrapped In Red" Christmas album. It reached #6 on the adult contemporary radio chart.

"Please Come Home For Christmas" is sometimes referred to as "Bells Will Be Ringing," the first four words of the lyrics. 

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04
of 10

"Fairytale of New York"

Pogues Fairytale of New York
The Pogues - "Fairytale of New York". Courtesy The Pogues

Written by Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan.

"Fairytale of New York" is considered by many in the UK and Ireland to be the best Christmas song of all time. The song is about a drunken man thinking back to past Christmas celebrations while incarcerated in a New York City jail. The man remembers a failed relationship and much of the song involves words of bickering and crushed dreams. The recording of the song by the band the Pogues and singer Kirsty MacColl was released in 1987 and has since been embraced in the UK and Ireland as one of the top Christmas songs of all time, returning to the pop singles chart every year. It reached its peak upon the original release climbing to #2. As of 2016 "Fairytale of New York" had reached the top 20 of the UK pop singles chart in 13 different years.

The song has occasionally generated controversy for its use of rough language and the grim subject matter. 

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03
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"I'll Be Home For Christmas"

Josh Groban I'll Be Home For Christmas
Josh Groban - "I'll Be Home For Christmas". Courtesy Reprise

Written by Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, and Buck Ram.

"I'll Be Home for Christmas" was first recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943 while the US was in the middle of fighting World War II. The record reached #3 on the pop chart upon its initial release. It soon became a standard song for expressing the feelings of those who must spend the holidays away from home and their loved ones. The BBC banned the song being played in the UK out of concern that it would lower the morale of troops. In 1965, when astronauts Frank Borman and James Lovell were away from earth during the holiday season, they requested that NASA play the song for them. Josh Groban's 2007 version was picked up to help comfort families whose loved ones were away fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Buck Ram, who wrote both a poem and a different song with the title "I'll Be Home For Christmas" was added to the songwriting credits after his music publisher filed a lawsuit. Buck Ram is best known for his work on multiple hit songs by the group the Platters.

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02
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"Blue Christmas"

Elvis Presley Christmas Album
Elvis Presley - Elvis' Christmas Album. Courtesy RCA

Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson.

"Blue Christmas" is the ultimate holiday tune of unrequited love. It first became a country music classic through a 1948 recording by Ernest Tubb, which reached #1 on the country chart. Orchestra leaders Hugo Winterhalter and Russ Morgan also had pop hits with their versions the same year. However, a 1957 version by Elvis Presley has become known as the standard. Moaning backup singers add to the overall classic feel of gloom while Elvis Presley sings of having a "blue blue blue" Christmas.

"Blue Christmas" was included on Elvis Presley's collection "Elvis' Christmas Album." With a diamond certification for sales, it is considered to be the bestselling Christmas album of all time in the US.

"Blue Christmas" has been recorded frequently by other artists. The Beach Boys took their version of the song to #3 on the US Christmas chart in 1964. Shakin' Stevens went to #2 on the UK pop singles chart with his version in 1982. 

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01
of 10

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Judy Garland Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Judy Garland - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". Courtesy MGM

Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.

The classic Christmas song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was first sung in the film "Meet Me in St. Louis," with Judy Garland. The song plays at a point when the family at the center of the movie is upset about an impending move to New York, away from their life in St. Louis. The song is intended to comfort a sad five-year-old girl in the film, but the atmosphere remains melancholic and downbeat. The original words to the song were considered too depressing by movie director Vincente Minnelli and he had songwriter Hugh Martin change words to make "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" a bit more hopeful. It remains one of the top sad and wistful Christmas songs of all time. The American Film Institute ranked it as one of the top 100 movie songs of all time.

In 2014, Sam Smith released his version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and took it to #9 on the US Christmas chart. Peaking at #90 on the Billboard Hot 100, it was the first version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to reach the Billboard Hot 100.

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