103 Of The Best Christmas Songs For Merry Holidays
Once you start hearing Christmas songs in the malls, on the radio, and even in the privacy of your own head, you know that the festive season has begun. And though it feels like it begins earlier and earlier each year, it’s actually right after Thanksgiving that merchants and disc jockeys flip through their record collection, blow off the dust from the ones that had been sitting on the highest shelf all year, and joyfully bring back the earworms to create a merry atmosphere to your day. As you’re about to see, it isn’t just the last millennia whose holiday seasons were marked by carols and cheerful ditties. One of the oldest specimens of Christmas songs on our list has its roots hidden somewhere in the 16th century, with the newest addition being that of the sweet-voiced Mariah in 1994. From jazzy arrangement to prog-rock and even metal, there’s truly a festive song for anyone’s taste.
Still not sure about our last statement? Well, then grab a mug of hot toddy, curl up in front of a merrily crackling fireplace (or play a video of a fireplace on your screen), open up a music streaming platform of your preference, and check each mirthful submission on our list! Some of these festive songs will remind you of your childhood Christmases, others will be new to your ears, but they are all guaranteed to make you feel that festive spirit stronger than ever. Don’t forget to tell us which of these carols pluck at your heartstrings the strongest, and don’t forget to share this article with your friends. Even the Grinch himself would have a change of heart after listening to these joyous Christmas songs.
"Carol Of The Bells" By Mannheim Steamroller
Carol Of The Bells isn’t an original Mannheim Steamroller composition. In fact, it was composed by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1914, who based the melody on the Ukrainian folk chant ‘Shchedryk.’ In 1936, Peter J. Wilhousky, an American composer also of Ukrainian descent, wrote the English lyrics for this song, and it soon became a widely popular Christmas carol. Decades later, in 1988, Mannheim Steamroller, an American neoclassical new-age group, released their album Fresh Aire Christmas that included a prog-rock version of Carol Of The Bells. And it’s their version that graces our list and is the most popular rendition by far. A song that we can no longer envision a Christmas celebration without.
"O Holy Night" By Josh Groban
Plenty of Christmas songs share their roots in the olden times, and O Holy Night is no exception to the rule. This time it was a French composer, Adolphe Adam, who in 1847 took Placide Cappeau’s poem and put it to music. By the way, it’s one of those carols that has quite a stern message, as it talks about the birth of Jesus as humanity’s redemption. Plenty of well-known musicians have had their go at making this song their own, but it’s Josh Groban’s version that has been favorited the most - it has even reached a number one position in 2002 Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts.
"It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" By Michael Bublé
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas was written by Robert R. M. Wilson in 1951. Its first appearance on the charts was made possible because of the beautiful rendition by Perry Como and The Fontaine Sisters, which gained both the performers and the song great success. Then, after a solid half-century, it was picked up again by Canadian-Italian crooner Michael Buble and once again gained a place under the spotlight. Now, it’s one of the staple Christmas songs that we hear from early December to mid-January.
"A Holly Jolly Christmas" By Burl Ives
A Holly Jolly Christmas was written by Johnny Marks (who’s also guilty of having written Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree and I Don’t Want A Lot For Christmas) in 1962. And although Burl Ives wasn’t the first to perform A Holly Jolly Christmas, it is his version that’s enjoying enduring popularity even almost sixty years later. His smooth voice, a slowed-down tempo, and an acoustic guitar intro made it into an iconic Christmas song, forever spreading the cheer that’s so natural for the season.
"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" By Judy Garland
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was written in 1943 by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane for the then-upcoming movie Meet Me In St. Louis. It was first introduced to the public when Judy Garland’s character sang it to her five-year-old sister in the same musical. And the rest is history! Now, it’s one of the most-played Christmas songs ever, and musicians from John Legend to Ella Fitzgerald took a shot at making this beautiful song their own. And there’s no wonder that each rendition gained a worthy spot in the charts, as it is truly an undying classic.
"Do You Hear What I Hear?" By Whitney Houston
Do You Hear What I Hear? is a song written by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne in 1962. And although it is definitely a Christmas song, it also has a deeper meaning and was written to serve as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The song tells a story that’s loosely based on the Nativity of Jesus story as told in the Gospel of Matthew. Do You Hear What I Hear? has sold tens of millions of copies throughout the decades and has been performed by many well-known artists. This time, it’s Whitney Houston’s re-imagining of the song that has gained a spot on our all-time best Christmas songs.
"Jingle Bells" By Frank Sinatra
This pretty little ditty is probably the best-known and most-sung American song globally. It was written by James Lord Pierpont in the autumn of 1857 and was originally meant to be sung by a Sunday school choir or as a drinking song. However, because of its cheerful nature and mention of the most Christmassy things, such as whizzing by snowbanks with the borrowed power of your trusty steed, it soon became a staple of the holidays. And though there are myriad renditions of Jingle Bells (one of them being a broadcast from space by Gemini 6 astronauts), the one performed by Frank Sinatra is by far the most popular. Who could ever resist a mash-up of Christmas cheer and the soft, swooning voice of Frank!
"The Little Drummer Boy" By Bing Crosby
The Little Drummer Boy was written in 1942 by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis. Davis’s main interest was producing music for girls' and amateur choirs, so her Little Drummer Boy was set as a chorale, which is a fairly easy style to sing. Though it has many recorded versions, we decided to put the Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet on our list. This rendition first appeared on Crosby’s final holiday TV special and was released as a single in 1982.
"Carol Of The Bells" By Trans-Siberian Orchestra
This is the second time that you have met Carol Of The Bells on our list, and we’re dedicating it to those with a heavier taste in music. This Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s version takes the classy Christmas carol and turns it into a glorious piece of Symphonic Metal. Something that’s fittingly gothic and slightly ominous; just the perfect mood for holidays.
"You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" By Small Town Titans
You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch was written in 1966 by Theodor ‘Dr. Seuss’ Geisel and Albert Hague. Originally, this song played part of a cartoon’s soundtrack, where it was performed by Thurl Ravenscroft with all its mean-spiritedness shining through the musical-performance style. The same callous callouts to Mr.Grinch and the very same burlesque tone allowed this song to become a Christmas carol to those with a heavier taste in music. Most notably, the version by Small Town Titans - a rare heavy, yet absolutely brilliant, take on the Christmas cheer. Of sorts.
"I’ll Be Home For Christmas" By Frank Sinatra
I’ll Be Home For Christmas was written in 1943, and its first public appearance was with the voice of Bing Crosby. The song is sung from the point of view of a soldier who’s far away from home and wishes to come back by Christmas. A bittersweet song with a blue ending, and while not a tear-jerker, it might make you appreciate your own Christmas merriments a bit more. It soon became a standard and has been performed by plenty of artists since. Though to us, it’s Sinatra’s version that plucks on the heartstrings the most.
"Jingle Bell Rock" By Bobby Helms
Jingle Bell Rock, as almost all of the songs on our list, has had many versions and covers throughout its existence, but it’s still the 1957 original by Bobby Helms that’s the most enjoyable. Though Helm’s, as a country/rockabilly musician, career spanned several decades, none of his other songs topped the success of Jingle Bell Rock. But, if you were to ask us who supplied the best visual for this song, our answer would be The Plastics from Mean Girls. A staple dance for an iconic song!
"Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree" By Brenda Lee
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree was written by the same festive music magician, Johnny Marks, who also gave us Holly Jolly Christmas and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. It was originally released in 1958 and sung by a then-thirteen-year-old Brenda Lee, despite her sounding much more mature than that. It was only after a couple of years, in 1960, when Brenda herself became well-known, that Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree was first recognized and entered the world of charts. There, it enjoyed enduring success and made it one of the top best-selling Christmas songs.
"All I Want For Christmas Is You" By Mariah Carey
Now there’s a song that Christmas wouldn’t be as it should be without. An original composition by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff, it’s a superbly fun, retro-inspired love song that represents the season's cheer and joyfulness in its full glory. Just like the snow, All I Want For Christmas Is You resurges each year during the season, and because of its eternal relevancy, the song has gained a Christmas standard status. In addition, the merry carol is supplied by several music video versions, in one of which Mariah is dressed in a Santa Claus suit and is videoed frolicking on a snowy mountainside.
"Silent Night" By Bing Crosby
Silent Night (Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht) is a carol composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to the lyrics by Joseph Mohr in a small Austrian town called Oberndorf bei Salzburg. The song became such a vital part of Christmas traditions that it even was declared as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. And though there’s no doubt that the rendition of Silent Night that you love the most was the one sung by you in your kindergarten years, it is actually Bing Crosby’s 1935 version that has sold over 10 million copies as a single.
"Winter Wonderland" By Ella Fitzgerald
Winter Wonderland came to existence in 1934 when it was composed by Felix Bernard and lyricist Richard Bernhard Smith. Since its original recording by Richard Himber, it has been covered by well over 200 musicians. The most popular (or at least the one that we like the most) is the version by miss Ella Fitzgerald - a jazz arrangement that was released in 1960. You might not know this, but there are two versions of Winter Wonderland lyrics. The original lyrics are about a couple’s romance, and the kid-friendly version is about frolicking in the snow. Some artists, like Johnny Mathis, merged the two versions together, adding in a whole additional verse and a chorus to the song’s format.
"Blue Christmas" By Elvis Presley
Blue Christmas is a song written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson, first recorded and released in 1948 by Doye O’Dell. What made this song truly famous was the 1957 cover done by the rock’n’roll god himself, Elvis Presley. Although Blue Christmas talks about a love-turned-sour, when you hear the words and melody in Elvis’ hypnotic voice, you can’t help but feel a soft touch of love. His version of Blue Christmas was (and still is) a real chart-topper, which made this song into a rock’n’roll holiday classic.
"White Christmas" By Bing Crosby
White Christmas was written by the legendary composer Irving Berlin for the musical Holiday Inn, released in 1942. Although the first public performance by Bing Crosby of the song was a year earlier, it was officially released as a soundtrack together with the aforementioned movie. At first, Bing wasn’t all too excited about this song, only noting that ‘there’s no problem with it.’ Despite the singer’s lukewarm feelings, it soon became a worldwide hit. So much so that White Christmas is to this day the world’s best-selling single, and when combined with physical records and other media, it exceeds the 100 million sales mark.
"Deck The Halls" By George Strait
Deck the Halls is probably one of the oldest Christmas carols on our list - its Welsh melody dates back to somewhere in the 16th century. The English lyrics are a couple of hundred years younger, as they were written in 1862 by a Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant. This traditional song is by far the most prominent among Christmas carolers. Not only because it is a joyful reminder of the season’s festivities but also because of its easy-to-follow melody and memorable lyrics. The version that we’ve enjoyed the most and decided to put on our list is that by an American country singer George Strait. Because country and Christmas traditions (even if of Welsh origins) absolutely go hand in hand.
"Joy To The World" By Pentatonix
Joy To The World, a traditional Christmas carol, was written in 1719 by the English minister and hymn writer Isaac Watts. Its lyrics are an interpretation of several Christian Psalms, and the carol is most often sung to an 1848 arrangement by the American composer Lowell Mason. As of the late 20th century, Joy To The World was the most-published festive hymn in North America. Its noble tone and mirthful lyrics made it a popular choice to be sung by choirs, yet it’s the Pentatonix acapella version that sounds the most Christmassy to us.
"Last Christmas" By Wham!
Last Christmas is, as you know, a song by the British duo Wham! that was released in December 1984. What you might not know is that George Michael (he and Andrew Ridgley formed the band) wrote, produced, and played every single instrument on this showstopper hit. Although this song represents every single detail of the '80s songwriting and culture, it truly has everlasting relevancy - a sweet and cheerful melody, tainted by the bitterness of unrequited love, is always something that we can relate to; Christmas or not.
"Rudoph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" By Gene Autry
Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, as a character, was created in 1939 by Robert L. May. It was a part of an assignment for Montgomery Ward - a pioneering mail-order business. The song about the same jolly reindeer was released a decade later in 1949, and though Gene Autry’s performance of this song wasn’t the first, it was his recording that hit the number 1 spot on US pop charts during Christmas of the same year. The frolicky nature of this song made it into an ever-popular chant among kids of various ages, and even popular musicians couldn’t resist covering this song. Besides Gene Autry’s version, the most notable renditions would be those of Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Burl Ives, and The Temptations.
"Feliz Navidad" By José Feliciano
Feliz Navidad was written, performed, and released by Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano in the 1970s. As he has stated himself, he wrote this song missing his family and their traditional way of celebrating Christmas together. Out of his blues came one of the most cheerful, quite simplistic yet memorable Christmas pop songs. Feliz Navidad’s catchy melody made it a tempting piece to cover in various styles, so if you’re not really into pop, there’s a ska version, a Euro-Caribbean, and even a symphonic metal one, too.
"Christmas Time Is Here" By Vince Guaraldi Trio
Christmas Time Is Here, a jazz standard written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson, first aired in 1965 as a part of an animated TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Although it was originally written as an instrumental piece, Lee Mendelson decided to write lyrics for it and got the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s children’s choir to sing it. The beautiful, heartwarming jazz melody soon became one of the most popular Christmas jazz compositions - a mesmerizingly soft and kinda blue tune to watch gracefully falling snow to.
"The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)" By Nat King Cole
The Christmas Song was written by Robert Wells and Mel Torme during a blistering hot summer of 1945. Creating a Christmas song during a heatwave was the composers’ idea of staying cool, and that mindset made the way more than cool. Once Nat King Cole Trio's record hit the shelves, The Christmas Song became an instant hit and a staple tune of the holidays. In the decades to come, this joyous composition was covered by stars such as Ariana Grande, Celine Dion, John Legend, and even Mary J. Blige.
"Baby It's Cold Outside" By She & Him
Baby, It’s Cold Outside was written by Frank Loesser in 1944, and although there’s no mention of Christmas throughout the song, its winter theme made it perfect for the holidays. The piece was written to be sung by Loesser and his wife, Lynn Garland, during their housewarming party in New York, as was expected of socially apt Hollywoodites of the time. Their original duet made them into instant parlor room entertainment stars and granted them plenty of invitations to perform in various house parties of the rich and the famous. Although it’s probably the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan version that you’re best acquainted with, try She & Him’s cover this year. We promise you, it’s good!
"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" By Dean Martin
Nearing the end of our list, there’s a conclusion that can be drawn - it’s either ancient carols that make the best Christmas tunes or songs written during a scorcher of a summer. Let It Snow! proves the point once more, as it was also written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne dreaming of cooler conditions during an unbearably hot 1945 July. Of course, this merry tune became an instant success with various covers; it’s Dean Martin’s version that’s the dearest to our ears.
"Frosty The Snowman" By Jimmy Durante
1950 Frosty The Snowman was written by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson, first recorded by Gene Autry in the same year. Just a short while later, Jimmy Durante made his version of the song, and his vaudeville spirit-filled rendition jumped right onto our list. Frosty was created because of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’s success a year before, and same as Rudolph, Frosty The Snowman soon got his own place in various media and an appearance on a TV special.
"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" By Jackson 5
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town was written by J. Fred Coots and the legendary Haven Gillespie, who supplied songs to such icons as Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Bruce Springsteen. Surprisingly, the earliest known recording of this song was by banjoist Harry Reser and his band in 1934. And though such fast popularity in such a year sounds far-fetched, it is known that 500,000 copies of sheet music were ordered, and 30,000 records were sold in the first 24 hours of this mega hit’s release. It’s a cold hard fact stated in a 2010 book by Ace Collins called Stories Behind The Greatest Hits Of Christmas - might that be a gift idea for holiday music fanatics? Anyhow, along the decades, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town was covered by well over 200 famous artists. And though there’s plenty to choose from, The Jackson 5’s version is by far our favorite one.
"It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" By Andy Williams
It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year was written by Edward Pola and George Wyle in 1963. The song employs an unusual feat compared to other songs on our list - a triple time. Ever heard a waltz? Well, it’s the same three-beat rhythm, just with a fancier name. So, the next time you hear It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, ask your sweetheart for a waltz under the mistletoe, and who knows - the combo of Andy William’s soft voice, your dance moves, and the spirit of generosity might turn your risky move into a Christmas miracle.