This list contains the quintessential and best Christmas songs of all time.
If you are ready to enjoy some Christmas music, then there are some fabulous choices you can add to your playlist. While most Christmas songs help put you in a jolly mood, some of the best Christmas music may cause you to feel other emotions during the holidays. Let’s dive deep into our list of the best Christmas songs of all time:
1. All I Want for Christmas Is You
On October 29, 1994, Columbia Records released All I Want for Chrismas is You. This song, co-written by Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey, has grossed more than $60 million and has topped the charts in at least 26 countries. To capture the spirit of the holidays, Carey decorated her home with winter holiday décor in August 1994 and recorded this song in her home studio.
2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane wrote Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in 1943 for Meet Me in St. Louis that Judy Garland sang after the lyrics were changed to be more uplifting. Frank Sinatra released his version in 1957. In both cases, Garland and Sinatra asked that the song be changed so that the lyrics were more uplifting.
3. There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays
Music for There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays was written by Robert Allen while Al Stillman wrote the words for this 1954 hit. Perry Como released the song twice. Many others have released versions, including The Carpenters on their An Old Fashion Christmas album in 1984 and Garth Brooks on his Garth Brooks & the Magic of Christmas, in 2000.
4. White Christmas
Mark Sandrich initially had White Christmas written for the musical film Holiday Inn in 1942. It won an Academy Award for the best original song at the 15th Academy Awards. That song version remains the number one song released as a single in a physical form. Considering all versions, including those recorded by Michael Bublé, Gwen Stefan, Meghan Trainor and the Glee Cast, people have purchased this song more than 100 million times.
5. Happy Xmas (War is Over)
Happy Xmas (War is Over) culminates two years of peace activism undertaken by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In October 1971, Lennon first recorded the song as an instrumental version while staying at the St, Regis Hotel in New York City. They released the song in 1974.
6. It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas
Meredith Willson wrote It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas in 1954. Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters with Mitchell Ayres & His Orchestra released their version that remains the most popular on September 18, 1961. Some contend the song was written about Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, while others contend Wilson wrote it about Mason City, Iowa.
7. Pretty Paper
Willie Nelson released the most popular version of Pretty Paper on November 6, 1979, on an album by the same name. Roy Orbinson was the first to release the song, and Nelson had released a version in 1964 before releasing the 1979 version. A Fort Worth resident who had atrophied legs and used a skateboard to get around inspired the song. The man used to attract attention to his booth in front of the Leonard’s Department Store by yelling, “pretty paper, pretty paper.”
8. Christmas Time is Here
Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi wrote Christmas Time is Here for the A Charlie Brown Christmas, which first aired in 1965. Vince Guaraldi released an instrumental version of the song while St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in San Rafael, California, released a vocal performance.
Critics instantly fell in love with Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri’s song Believe when they heard Josh Groban perform it in the 2004 film The Polar Express. The songwriters received a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. The song also an Oscar and a Golden Globe nominations.
10. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)
Ross Bagdasarian using the stage name David Seville wrote The Chipmunk Song. The song won Grammys in 1958 for best comedy performance, children’s recording and engineered record (non-classical). The song was the only Christmas song to reach No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 until 2019.
11. Christmas in New Orleans
The Louis Armstrong hit Christmas in New Orleans was written by Richard Sherman and Joseph Van Winkle. Armstrong released the song in 1955.
12. Blue Christmas
While most people associate Blue Christmas with Elvis Presley, Doye O’Dell was the first to record this Christmas song written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson. Ernest Tubb and Russ Morgan also recorded it before Presley released it on his 1957 LP Elvis’ Christmas Album.
13. Do You Hear What I Hear?
Husband and wife team Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne wrote Do You Hear What I Hear? to plea for peace during the Cuban missile crisis. The couple’s emotions tied to the situation were so strong that neither could sing the entire song without breaking down in tears. The first to release the music was Harry Simeone Chorales.
14. The Nutcracker
For many people, it is not Christmas until they watch The Nutcracker performed. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote the musical score to the two-act ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov that dancers first performed in 1892. The initial performance was a flop, but the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky wrote was instantly loved by many. The music is an adaptation of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.
15. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Tommie Connor composed I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, which numerous groups have sung. The first to release the song was Jimmy Boyd, when he was only 15 years old, in 1952. Upon its release, the Roman Catholic Church in Boston condemned the song because it mentioned Christmas and kissing in the same song.
16. Santa Tell Me
Ariana Grande joined forces with Ilya Salmanzadeh and Savan Kotecha to write Santa Tell Me, which she released worldwide on November 24, 2014. The first live performance of the song was at the 2014 A Very Grammy Christmas concert.
17. Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow
Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne wrote Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow during a Los Angeles heatwave in 1945 as they tried to think of cooler conditions. The song, which mentions no specific holiday, was first recorded by Vaughn Monroe. Many singers have released versions, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Carly Simon and Rod Stewart.
18. We Need a Little Christmas
While many groups and characters, including Bugs Bunny, the Muppets, the Morman Tabernacle Choir and the Glee Cast, have sung We Need a Little Christmas, the first time someone performed the song was in Jerry Herman’s Broadway musical Mame in 1966.
19. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
Roy Wood wrote I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday while with the Wizzard. During the original recording, the studio’s air conditioning was turned down to its coldest setting and Wood wore a stocking cap during the August recording.
20. Christmas Wrapping
Chris Butler wrote Christmas Wrapping for The Waitresses, who released it on their A Christmas Record in 1981. Butler, who admits hating Christmas, finished the song in a taxi on the way to the recording studio in August to comply with the band’s ZE Records request that each group that they represent create a Christmas song. While Butler may have hated Christmas, this song introduced many to this new wave bend.
21. Winter Wonderland
Over 200 artists have released Winter Wonderland, but the first to record this song written by Felix Bernard and Richard Bernhard Smith was Richard Himber in 1934. The original lyrics were romantic, but new children’s lyrics were released in 1947. The original song was almost not recorded except that Himber had time remaining in the studio after recording another song. Officials with RCA Victor suggested that he might as well record this song.
22. Jingle Bell Rock
While Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe received the writer’s pay for Jingle Bell Rock, Hank Garland and Bobby Helms swore until they died that they wrote the song because they hated the Jingle Bell Hop created by Beal and Boothe. Helms first released the song that many artists have performed in 1957.
Next: The best classic rock songs of all time
23. All I Want for Christmas Is my Two Front Teeth
Smithtown, New York teacher Donald Yetter Gardner asked his second graders want they wanted for Christmas and noticed that they almost all answered with a lisp because they had at least one missing tooth. He sat down and wrote the Christmas classic All I Want for Christmas Is my Two Front Teeth in under 30 minutes. Spike Jones & His City Slickers was the first to record the song in 1947.
24. The Christmas Song
Often called Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire was written by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé during a July heatwave. Torme had gone to Wells’ apartment and noticed four lines to the song sitting on the musician’s piano desk, and he sat down and wrote the song in under 40 minutes. Nat King Cole and his band recorded the song in July 1946 and, over objections from Capitol Records, rerecorded it in August to add the strings section.
25. Jingle Bells
In 1889, Jingle Bells, written by James Lord Pierpont, may have become the first Christmas song ever recorded. An Edison cylinder was used to record the song initially published under the title One Horse Open Sleigh. This song has a copyright date of September 16, 1857. Blackface minstrel performer Johnny Peil popularized this song.
26. Do They Know Its Christmas
Numerous British musicians came together to sing Do They Know Its Christmas, written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, to react to the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia. The song was recorded to raise money to help the people by some of the biggest names in British music. The song became the biggest-selling single of all time until Elton John released Candle in the Wind. The song was rerecorded in 1989, 2004 and 2014 to aid vato aid various charities.
27. Silent Night
Christmas Eve 1818 in Oberndorf, Austria, may have been a silent night, except for the resourcefulness of residents as a flood had destroyed the church’s organ. Schoolmaster and organist Franz Xaver Gruber took the words of Father Joseph Mohr’s poem and added acoustic guitar music to it. It is doubtful that he realized he was creating the classical Christmas hymn Silent Night. John Freeman Young translated the song into English in 1859. Bing Crosby’s 1935 version sold over 10 million singles.
28. Fairytale of New York
Producers Elvis Costello and Frank Murray disagree on who came up with the idea that the Pogues should create a Christmas song. Still, there is no disagreement that the band’s banjo player Finer wrote the music and initial lyrics for Fairytale of New York. His wife hated the lyrics and played an instrumental role in rewriting them for this Irish ballad released on November 23, 1987.
29. A Holly Jolly Christmas
Burl Ives performed A Holly Jolly Christmas in 1964 in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and released the song on his Have a Holly Jolly Christmas album the same year. The music released on the single has a much slower tempo than that found in the television show. Many singers have done twists on this song, including Jerrod Niemann., Lady Antebellum and Alan Jackson.
30. Frosty the Snowman
Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson wrote Frosty the Snowman. Gene Autry first recorded the song in 1950. The song was adapted as the closing song for Frosty the Snowman television show, which premiered in 1969. Jimmy Durante is the show’s narrator and sings this song in the show.
31. Peace on Earth/ Little Drummer Boy
Originally David Bowie and Bing Crosby were to sing Peace of Earth as a duet, but when David Bowie showed up at Crosby’s apartment to record the song, Bowie refused, saying it was not a good fit for his vocal range. As a result, Ian Fraser, Larry Grossman, and Alan Kohan wrote Little Drummer Boy as a counterpoint to Peach on Earth in under an hour. The song was initially recorded on September 11, 1977, and it first aired on Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas that same year.
32. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
Randy Brooks originally wrote Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer for the husband-and-wife duo of Elmo Shropshire and Patsy Trigg, who started performing it in 1979. After the couple divorced, Elmo re-released the song while doing all the singing. Elmo also released a parody of the song called Grandpa’s Gonna Sue the Pants Off of Santa, and many others have released parodies.
33. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Johnny Marks had already found success with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when he penned Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. He chose 12-year-old Brenda Lee to sing the song in 1958. If you listen to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on television, you can hear an instrumental version of this song played in the background.
34. Santa Baby
Joan Javits and Philip Springer wrote Santa Baby, which Eartha Kitt released with Henri René and His Orchestra in 1953. The song features lyrics about a woman creating an extravagant Christmas list was banned in the Southern United States for a while shortly after its release because it was considered too controversial. Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Taylor Swift, and Trisha Yearwood have released versions of this song.
35. Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Frank Loesser wrote Baby, It’s Cold Outside in 1944. Loesser and his wife Lynn Garland first performed the song at their housewarming party held at the Navarro Hotel in New York City to let guests know it was time to leave. The couple was invited to numerous lavish parties on the promise that they would sing the song. Finally, in 1949, Loesser sold the song’s rights to MGM, who used it in the film Neptune’s Daughter.
36. Step Into Christmas
Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote Step Into Christmas specifically for the singer to release as a Christmas single. Ho, Ho, Ho (Who’d Be a Turkey at Christmas) was the B-side track. Elton John recorded at least two versions of this song, with the second one being recorded live during the Gilbert O’Sullivan Show.
37. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Johnny Marks’ brother created the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer character for the Montgomery Ward Company. Marks saw the book and decided to adapt it to a song. He borrowed heavily from A Visit from Saint Nicholas, which was in the public domain. Gene Autry recorded the song on June 27, 1949, and Columbia Records pushed it out as a children’s song. Harry Brannon first sang the song live on a New York radio station in November 1949.
38. Feliz Navidad
Puerto Rican singer/songwriter José Feliciano wrote Feliz Navidad in 1970. The songwriter says that he wrote the song while in Los Angeles and missing his family in New York and his extended family even further away. In the original recording, Feliciano plays a Puerto Rican cuatro and an acoustic guitar.
39. Silver Bells
Jay Livingston and Ray Evans collaborated to write Silver Bells that William Frawley originally sang. The song became famous after Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell performed it in the Lemon Drop Kid. Originally the song was going to be called Tinkle Bells until Evans’ wife pointed out the alternative use of the word tinkle.
40. Carol of the Bells
Based on the Ukrainian folk chant Shchedryk, Mykola Leontovych and Peter J. Wilhousky created the song Carol of the Bells at the request of the Ukrainian Republic Choir in 1914. The words were later added.
41. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Honoring soldiers who longed to be home with their families was the goal of Kim Gannon and Walter Kent when they wrote I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Bing Crosby recorded the song in 1943. Producer and manager for The Platters, Buck Ram, was given partial writing credit after stating that he had previously written a poem with the same title. If you are a record collector, seek out copies of this record with only Gannon and Kent’s names on them as they are the original.
42. Merry Christmas Baby
In 1947, rhythm and blues singer Johnny Moore had throat cancer and desperately needed surgery. He gave a pouch of music to Charles Brown, who found a song in it called Merry Christmas Blues. While he liked the rhythm and tune, he changed the title to Merry Christmas Baby. Moore never received any money from the song. Chuck Berry and many others have recorded this song.
43. The First Noel
Originally a Cornish hymn called The First Nowell, this song was published in 1823 in Carols Ancient and Modern by Davies Gilbert. It is very likely that Gilbert added lyrics and may have adapted the tune.
44. This Christmas
Donnie Hathaway felt that African American music was underrepresented during the winter holidays, so he co-wrote This Christmas with Nadine McKinnor. The song, released as a single in 1970, initially experiencing little success, but it has grown tremendously in popularity.
45. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and Phil Spector co-wrote the song and presented it to Darlene Love in a phone call. Love released the song twice. In making their declaration, Rolling Stone Magazine said that no one could show the range of voice and emotion that Love exhibited in this song.
46. Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town sold 500,000 copies of its sheet music and 30,000 copies of its recordings within 24 hours after its release on October 24, 1934. J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie wrote this song that Harry Reser and his band first performed. Over 200 artists have recorded this song.
47. Run Rudolph Run
Most sources list Chuck Berry’s music company as the writers of Run Rudolph Run, but some credit Johnny Marks and Marvin Brodie for writing it. Chuck Berry first released this song in 1958.
48. The Little Drummer Boy
While Katherine Kennicott Davis first wrote The Little Drummer Boy in 1941, it would be a decade before Trapp Family Singers would record the song. Davis originally titled this song Carol of the Drum. The “pa-rum-pum-pum” portion of this song comes from a French song called Patapan.
49. O Holy Night
Placide Cappeau first wrote O Holy Night in French in 1845. Adolphe Adam added the music two years later. Opera singer Emily Laure was the first to perform the song in Roquemaure, France, to celebrate the completion of the church organ’s restoration work. Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight translated the song into English in 1855.
50. Deck the Halls
The music for the Welsh carol Deck the Halls was originally written for Nos Galan. The song was translated into English by Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant in 1862. The Pennsylvania School Journal published updated lyrics in 1877, which removed all mentions of Christmas, replacing them with Yule, such as yuletide treasure and yuletide carol.
51. Hard Candy Christmas
Carol Hall wrote the song Hard Candy Christmas for the musical The Best Little Wh**ehouse in Texas. Originally, the women sing a line as they prepare to leave. The song was updated so that the girls join Dolly Parton in singing the song and updated again so that Parton sings the music alone.
52. The Christmas Shoes
St. Louis radio personality DC Chymes saw a story on the internet about a little boy who did not have enough money to buy his dying mother a new pair of shoes. Inspired by the story, he took it to NewSong’s Eddie Carswell and Leonard Ahlstrom. While they wrote the first part of the song within a couple of weeks, no one seemed interested in the idea, and they did not finish it for almost two years. They shared the idea with Donna VanLiere, who wrote the book and got the movie contract.
53. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Andy Williams released It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year on his first Christmas album in 1963. Edward Pola and George Wyle wrote the song that Columbia Records did not release as a single during the first year. Instead, the record label chose to promote Williams’ White Christmas from the same album.
54. Just Like Christmas
Indie band Low released Just Like Christmas on their Kranky. A Christmas album in 1999. The song tells the story of not feeling young before Christmas, but that Christmas makes everyone feel young again.
55. Away in a Manger
While many people would love to believe that Martin Luther penned Away in a Manger, this Christmas hymn was written in America. The first two verses first appeared in Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America in 1885. The third stanza first appeared in Gabriel’s Vineyard Songs in 1892.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.