June 20, 2024

Countdown to Christmas with holiday’s most beloved tunes

As the last bit of turkey is savored and grandma’s sweet potatoes are put into an empty butter bowl for safe keeping in the fridge, thoughts of dressing and stuffing will quickly turn to jingle bells, mistletoe and Santa Claus. To help get into the holiday spirit here is a list of some of the most beloved songs of the Christmas season.

1 White Christmas

Bing Crosby, 1942

Written by master composer and lyricist Irving Berling, the iconic lyrics hark to a Christmas of simpler times and beams with nostalgia. While many equate the song with the 1954 movie of the same name, the song debuted in the movie “Holiday Inn” which starred Crosby. For more than 70 years the song has been a perennial favorite and been recorded by hundreds of artists including Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, The Drifters, Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Beach boys, The Supremes, Tony Bennett, Willie Nelson, and yes, even the New Kids on the Block. “White Christmas” is indisputably the best Christmas song as Crosby’s version is the best-selling single (of any song) of all time with more than 100 million copies, according to Guinness World Record. If that weren’t enough, the song won an Academy Award for Best Song from a Motion Picture

2 The Christmas Song

Nat King Cole, 1961

First recorded by Mel Torme, “The Christmas Song” – often referred to as “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” - was made famous by Nat King Cole. While Cole first recorded the song in 1946, according to Grammy.org, the most popular version is from his 1961 recording. Today, the holidays are ushered in with a simple message from the famed baritone voice: “And so I’m offering you this simple phrase, to kids from 1 to 92, although it’s been said many times many ways, Merry Christmas to you.

3 Jingle Bells

James Lord Pierpont, 1857

“Jingle Bells,” which was originally published as “One Horse Open Sleigh,” has become an American standard sung by school children and some of the world’s most famous recording artists. The song was written in Medford, Mass., in 1850, but not published til 1857, according to Wikipedia.com The song also has the distinction of being the first song broadcast from space as it was performed by Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra on Dec. 16, 1965. The song also popular on the playground has been parodied for decades. Does the lyrics “Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg” ring any bells?

4 Blue Christmas

Elvis Presley, 1957

One of the most solemn of Christmas songs, Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” has become a rock’n’roll holiday classic. For more than decades, Presley’s Graceland has been decorated with hundreds of blue lights as an homage to the King’s iconic Christmas tune. The only known video recording of Elvis singing a Christmas song is from his 1968 comeback special, according to songfacts.com

5 Little Drummer Boy

Harry Simeone Chorale, 1958

Based on a traditional Czech carol, K.K. Davis wrote the song was originally released as “Carol of the Drum” in 1941. In 1958, Harry Simeone made additional changes to the song and released it as “Little Drummer Boy.” The version most widely recognized today is the Harry Simeone Chorale recording.

6 I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Bing Crosby, 1943

The song was released in the midst of World War II and is written from the perspective of a soldier longing to be home with family and friends at Christmas time. First recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, the song became instantly popular and spent 11 weeks on the charts. In 1944, Crosby performed the song once again and it was released by the U.S. War Department. It too holds the distinction of being part of NASA history. Gemini 7 astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell requested the song be played for them by the NASA ground crew in December 1965, according to the Library of Congress. In 1974, lyricist Kim Gannon left the royalty rights to the song to the American Heart Association.

7 Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Brenda Lee, 1958

At just 13 years old, Brenda Lee was given a Christmas gift, the chart topping “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.” The song was written by Johnny Marks who also penned “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Run Rudolph Run” and other popular Christmas tunes, according to The Hymns and Carols of Christmas. “You will get a sentimental feeling when you hear” Lee sing her holiday hit as she still tours during the holiday season singing the famous tune, according to Brendalee.com.

8 Rudolph The
Red-Nosed Reindeer

Gene Autry, 1949/Burl Ives, 1964

Ask any child to name Santa’s reindeer and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is likely to be the answer. But many don’t realize that Rudy was created in 1939 as part of a holiday promotion for the store Montgomery Ward, according to History.com.  The story was adapted into a song by songwriter Johnny Marks. Rudolph became part of mainstream Christmas culture when country crooner Gene Autry recorded the song in 1949. Autry’s version hit No. 1 on the charts and sold 1.75 million copies its first year. In 1964, the song regained popularity with the Burl Ives recording was part of the CBS special’s soundtrack. Fifty-two years later, Rudolph has become a part of holiday traditions as the special is still shown annually.

9 It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Andy Williams, 1963

The song is synonymous with crooner Andy Williams. He first recorded the song in 1963 and it was popularized by its performance on “The Andy Williams Show,” which aired until 1971. Williams, a native of Wall Lake, Iowa, continued to perform the song in concerts and on TV specials until his death in 2012.

10 O Little Town of Bethlehem

Phillips Brooks, 1868

Written by Phillips Brooks, an Episcopal priest, in 1868 for his Sunday school choir, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is a touching and loving tribute to the town of Jesus’ birth. The song has become a perennial favorite for choirs and recording artists.

11 The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)

The Chipmunks, 1958

Alvin, Simon, Theodore are perhaps the three best known chipmunks in the world, due, in large part to their hit “The Christmas Song” recorded in 1958. The Chipmunks sing the wish of every child that Christmas will soon arrive saying “we can hardly stand the wait, please Christmas don’t be late.” The high-pitched hit reached No. 1 on Billboard charts and went on to win the highest musical honor. According to grammy.com, the song won three Grammy Awards in spring of 1959 at the inaugural award show for Best Comedy Performance, Best Children’s Recording and Best Engineered Recording. To put that into perspective, Elvis Presley did not win a Grammy until 1967, according to Graceland.com

12 Twelve Days of Christmas


“Twelve Days of Christmas” has the distinction of being the second oldest song on the countdown. According to Wikipedia, the song was first published in England in 1780 as a change. The tune that is known and loved today was written in 1909 by Frederic Austin. If looking for a special gift this holiday season know that to buy everything from the partridge in a pear tree to hiring 12 drummers drumming, it would cost more than $34,000. Some highlights: three French hens, $182; five gold rings, $750; 12 drummers drumming, $2,855.

13 Santa Baby

Eartha Kitt, 1953

A decade before Eartha Kitt donned the claws and tight black Catwoman costume on TV’s “Batman,” she was a successful singer who recorded the tongue-in-cheek “Santa Baby.” Released in 1953, the song shares a very grown up Christmas list of yachts, a sable, a ’54 convertible, jewelry from Tiffany’s, and yes, even a platinum mine. According to Eartha Kitt’s web site, the singer and actress said “Santa Baby” was one of her all-time favorite songs to record.

14 Last Christmas

Wham!, 1984

Nothing says Christmas like synthesizers and George Michaels delivered when he wrote and produced “Last Christmas” for his group Wham! Released on Dec. 10, 1984, the song has become a modern hit and has been covered by dozens of artists including from Carole King and Coldplay to AXS and the cast of “Glee,” according to Wikipedia.com.

15 All I Want For Christmas Is You

Mariah Carey, 1994

Mariah Carey was atop the charts in the 1990s with songs like “Always Be My Baby.” “Dreamlover” and “Emotions” but today Carey may be best known for her holiday hit “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” A modern day classic, the song was co-written by Carey, and as become a staple on radio during the holidays and on many Christmas soundtracks including “Love Actually.”

16 You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Thurl Ravenscroft, 1966

“You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was featured in the cartoon classic “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” The lyrics describe the Grinch as “a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce” while warning people not to go near the furry green fun-hater with a “thirty-nine and a half foot pole.” Today, the term Grinch is used to describe anyone who does not enjoy the holiday or is caught up in the Christmas spirit. While no credit is given in the special, the song was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, who was also the voice of Tony The Tiger and many Disney characters. Despite being a non-traditional Christmas tune the song has become a staple on the radio during the holidays.

17 Feliz Navidad

Jose Felician, 1970

The catchy and lyrically simplistic tune “Feliz Navidad” was written and performed by Puerto Rican singer Jose Feliciano. According to American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the song is one of the Top 25 most played and recorded Christmas songs around the world.

18 It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Perry Como, 1951

“It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” was written by Meredith Wilson, composer of “The Music Man” and native of Mason City, Iowa. The song has been recorded by hundreds of artists becoming a Christmas standard but became famous with the first release of the song by Perry Como in 1951.

19 Joy To The World

Isaac Watts, 1719

The song “Joy to the World” is the oldest song on the Top 20 list. Written by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, the song was first published in 1719. The song also is the most-published Christmas hymn in North America, according to Wikipedia.

20 Jingle Bell Rock

Bobby Helms, 1957

One of the earliest rocking holiday hits was recorded in 1957 by Bobby Helms for Decca Records. Helms, a country singer, took the holiday rock’n’roll song to No. 6 on the charts even though it was released just two days before Christmas in 1957, according to songfacts.com.

Honorable Mentions:

A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives, 1965

Little Saint Nick – Beach Boys, 1963

This Christmas – Donny Hathaway, 1970

A Marshmallow World – Dean Martin, 1966

Run Rudolph Run – Chuck Berry, 1958

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland, 1944

Merry Christmas Darling – The Carpenters, 1978

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town –1934

Silver Bells – Bing Crosby, 1950

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Jimmy Boyd, 1952

Silent Night – Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr, 1818

Deck the Halls - 1877

Frosty the Snow Man – Gene Autry, 1950