When it comes to Christmas, there are so many things we think fondly of. Christmas dinner, presents, time with family — but where would we be without the music? You know the songs I mean, the same classic Christmas hits we hear year in, year out and still somehow don’t seem to get tired of.
It’s true when they say we “don’t make them like we used to” and I’m not entirely sure why that is. In some ways music has massively changed, which is why we still look back fondly on the classics.
In this post, I’m here to compile my top 20 classic Christmas hits and celebrate the songs we always associate with the most wonderful time of the year. Now, I’ll be posting my own personal top 20 in order of preference…..I wonder if you’ll agree?!
Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
Another song that’s been covered by numerous artists, Santa Baby is from 1953 but still stands the test of time today. It’s not as traditional as some of the others, as it’s basically Eartha Kitt outrageously flirting with Santa waiting to see what he’s carrying in his sack.
Don’t worry, the rest of this post won’t be as low brow as that. Good song though.
Lonely This Christmas – Mud
Mud give us something a little sad, but for some reason we totally dig it. It’s high up on the list but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad song, I guess it’s just generally not what we would go for it if we wanted a bit of a festive boost.
This track tells us about heartbreak, tears and bitter loneliness. Merry Christmas folks.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Another one of those we always sing along to every year, but probably don’t take the time to really listen to. Nevertheless, John & Yoko give us this slightly optimistic message that war is over if we want it. The vast majority of us do, but hey that’s sometimes out of our hands.
What we do want however, is to hear this hit year after year.
Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
It’s Beatle-mania! Well, not really….there’s just two in quick succession.
Jingle bells? Check. Catchy riff and festive lyrics? Check. So what’s not to like? Paul churns out some great music and for me, this is no exception.
Last Christmas – Wham!
Now you may feel this is an outrage to be so high up in my list – as much as it’s definitely a classic, it’s not one of my favourites. It’s a bit dreary, but I guess it does remind us that Christmas isn’t always a time of joy when there’s heartbreak in your life.
But hey, at least next year he’ll give it to someone special.
A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris De Burgh
This may not seem like the traditional Christmas hit, so how on earth could I call it a classic?
It’s a little haunting and a little out of this world with not an awful lot to do with Christmas in the traditional sense, but it certainly stands out! Not one to get you up dancing but one to sit back and relax to.
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – The Jackson 5
It’s difficult to find artists that HAVEN’T covered this classic, but it’s perhaps best known for this version from Michael and co. from the early 1970’s. It’s also been tried out by artists ranging from Michael Buble (obviously) to Neil Diamond and Mariah Carey.
Another one for the office party and one for the kids too, I’ve definitely had to include it on my classic Christmas hits list, so long as I’ve checked it twice.
Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid
The reality is that not every Christmas classic is going to be upbeat with a cheery message; this is a classic that definitely has a more poignant message.
Despite this, it’s a hit that has so many of us singing along. There have been other versions since the original but, for me, the Band Aid group from 1984 had it spot on. No matter what you do, you’re always going to be listening out for Bono’s infamous line and we’re going to be singing it for decades to come.
Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
A nice easy-listening hit from Bobby that it’s almost impossible not to move or sing along to. Yet another of the classic Christmas hits laden with a backing of jingle bells, which kind of makes sense as it’s the “Jingle Bell Rock”.
The fact that this was released in 1957 and is still going strong indicates just how much we love this song and how much we love the festive season. I dare you not to dance…..dare you.
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
Staying with the rockin’ theme, Brenda invites us to rock around the Christmas tree….just be careful you don’t knock it over as it took an AGE to get down from the loft and put up.
Another one of those it’s almost impossible not to dance and sing along to, it’s almost effortless and it’s just lovely to listen to. It’s a shame it only made it to number 11 in all honesty, but that’s Christmas songs for you.
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard
In reality, no I DON’T wish it could be Christmas every day; it would be bloody expensive. Be that as it may though, you’ll do well to see this omitted from anyone’s Spotify playlist. From the beginning beat to the choir at the end, it’s one of those you just can’t do without.
Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
Are there many more classic Christmas hits moments than Noddy Holder belting out “IT’S CHRIIIIIISSSTMMMMMMAAAAAAAS!!!” – I think not.
Despite it being released in 1980, the excitement this track brings makes it just as topical today and is definitely a classic that stands the test of time.
Stop the Cavalry – Jona Lewie
This is definitely deemed to be a classic and you’ll find it on pretty much every festive album out there, but the message is a little different. It’s an anti-war song, which Jona says was never intended to be a Christmas hit. Nevertheless, it’s found its way into our ears and into our hearts with its quirky chorus and unmistakeable brass band.
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
Hey, if I’m going to include this one at all, it has to make the top 10. It doesn’t come across as the conventional Christmas song, especially as it talks about missing Christmas because you’re too exhausted….if 2020 is anything to go by I definitely won’t be missing this one! Nevertheless, it’s catchy and I always look out for it so it’s on the list.
All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
Make all the jokes about Mariah Carey coming back to life in November, she’s making an absolute mint of all the royalties and advert deals she’s getting so fair play to her. This track is symbolic with Christmas and always will be; from every office party to every evening sitting in front of the telly feeling festive with your kids.
Cheers Mariah, all we want for Christmas is for this song to never die out.
Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens
It’s one of those classic Christmas hits you can’t not dance around to, unless you’re some sort of Ebenezer of course. This ranks so highly on my list because it’s simply a classic and plays right into what we want from a Christmas song; it tells us to have a Merry Christmas and there’s jingle bells in it.
Genuinely though, it’s what the festive season is all about; except for the fact we don’t always get snow. Merry Christmas to you too, Shakin’.
Fairytale of New York – The Pogues (feat. Kirsty McColl)
Say what you like about this song and the controversy about playing the version on commercial radio, this is definitely one for the festive compilation as it ticks so many classic Christmas hit boxes.
Makes you sing along? Tick. Brings you joy and makes you smile? Tick. Loosely mentions Christmas? Tick.
It may have recently fallen a little foul of the PC brigade, but it’s high on my list for a reason and I bet it’s high on yours too.
Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea
This really could have made it to number 1, it was such a close run thing.
Having never driven, I may not understand the symbolism of being sat in the car on the way home to your family on Christmas Eve, but Chris Rea paints us a lovely picture doesn’t he? It’s my go to on the festive karaoke and there’s just something so warm and fuzzy about it, isn’t there?
Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) – The Darkness
Now, if you’re talking about classic Christmas hits, you might not consider this one of them.
But hey, it’s my list and I wouldn’t have a Christmas compilation without it. In their prime, The Darkness were fabulously glam rock and for the 3 minutes and 38 seconds this song lasts, I am fabulously glam rock too. It’s cheesier than a festive cheddar board but that’s the reason why I love it so much and why it ranks so highly on my list.
Step Into Christmas – Elton John
It was a tough choice, and it didn’t top the charts by a long way, but I love this one and for me it deserves its place at number 1.
It’s upbeat, a little whimsical and a real crowd-pleaser. The sort of reaction that Elton is used to, really.
As I’ve said above, it didn’t outrank the others by much, but what this track does have going for it is how it makes us feel. Elton invites us in to Christmas and we gleefully accept the invitation. What an absolute classic if I do say so myself.
It wasn’t easy, but I’ve managed to bring you my top 20 classic Christmas hits!
There’s probably a couple I’ve left out too….I never knew how many classics there were! What’s your favourite from the bunch?
Let us know in the comments!