Top 10 Classic Christmas Songs

Script written by Clayton Martino. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! For this list, we are looking at those Christmas songs and carols that have been around for decades! While not all songs on the list explicitly mention Christmas, they are associated with the festive holiday and played over and over again on the radio during this time of year. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Classic Christmas Songs. Special thanks to our users claytonmartino12, Norris Vaughn, Jake Fraser, Godslayer79, mac121mr0, Kevin Lemenager, Shawn Mark, Alysia Victoria Parker, Opst3r, He-Man-She-Ra-777, PercentExpert30, James Englebert, ReaderGamerSinger, ibriers 1, drewcrew87, Jerome Magajes, nickolaz22, aaron_thebarron1, Frank Lansburg, Leo Kennedy, WebRider16, jokulsblack list, deadlybai and Greggory Ohannessian, for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Clayton Martino.

Top 10 Classic Christmas Songs


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Classic Christmas Songs.

For this list, we’re looking at those Christmas songs and carols that have been around for decades! While not all songs on the list explicitly mention Christmas, they are associated with the festive holiday and played over and over again on the radio during this time of year.

#10: “Winter Wonderland” (1934)

Kicking off our list is this cheery song about a snowy day in winter. Written by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith in 1934, “Winter Wonderland” counts as a Christmas tune due to its seasonal theme. Surprisingly, its original bridge about two lovers’ spontaneous decision to get married was considered unsuitable for children. This led to the development of an alternate bridge describing the couple building a snowman only to see other kids destroy it. However, times have changed, and the original bridge found its way back into modern recordings of the classic.

#9: “Frosty the Snowman” (1950)

Thanks to the success of another classic holiday tune that appears later on our list, this seasonal ditty was composed by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson during the mid-20th century. It was then recorded by singing cowboy Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys, with the top 10 pop hit subsequently inspiring a short black-and-white film about the titular snowman. Though it’s been covered by many artists, “Frosty the Snowman” is probably most fondly remembered by the Jimmy Durante version as it appears in the 30-minute 1969 TV special of the same name.

#8: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1949)

When Rudolph is on the radio, you know it must be Christmas time. This jolly song, based on the 1939 story of the same name, was written by famed holiday songwriter Johnny Marks. Its most famous version was recorded by Gene Autry in 1949, and it became the first number 1 song of the 1950s. Autry’s recording has sold over 12.5 million copies and has been covered countless times. Including such cover versions, “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” has sold over 150 million copies worldwide, making it the second-best selling Christmas single of all time behind “White Christmas”.

#7: “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (1951)

Meredith Willson took the classic image of Christmas, with its candy canes and holly, and turned it into a Christmas classic in 1951. Many believe that Willson wrote the song while staying at the Grand Hotel in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, because of the reference to a “tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well…”, with the park being Frost Park, located across from the hotel. But it’s Bing Crosby who recorded what’s arguably the song’s most famous version, also in 1951, and this one is still played today.

#6: “The Little Drummer Boy” (1941)

Originally titled “Carol of the Drum”, this popular Christmas song was written by Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. The song tells the story of a poor young boy who is sent to the nativity where he plays his drum for the newborn Jesus. While the Austrian von Trapp singers’ take was what initially brought “The Little Drummer Boy” to a broader audience, the Harry Simeone Chorale rendition found even greater success and recognition in the U.S. in the late ‘50s. Another notable and popular cover was its recording as a duet by Bing Crosby and David Bowie in 1977 for Crosby’s last holiday TV special. Despite being a song with religious themes rather than commercial ones, it continues to be a favorite come holiday season.

#5: “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1934)

Although it may seem like just a silly kid’s song, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” has become a holiday staple and is one of the most popular Christmas songs ever. Composed by Haven Gillespie and John Frederick Coots, the tune was first sung on Eddie Cantor’s radio show in November 1934. It quickly became a smash and sold over 30,000 records in one day. Many artists have covered the song across several different genres, including, but certainly not limited to, Frank Sinatra, The Jackson 5, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Diamond.

#4: “Jingle Bells” (1857)

Believe it or not, this famous Christmas song was actually meant to be for American Thanksgiving. Written by church organist James Lord Pierpont and published in 1857 under the title “The One Horse Open Sleigh,” it was republished with the name we know and love today two years later. Since then, “Jingle Bells” has become one of the best-known Christmas songs in the world. It was also the first song to be broadcast from space after the crew of Gemini 6 serenaded Mission control with it in 1965.

#3: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1943)

Is there such thing as a sad Christmas song? The original lyrics for this holiday classic, written by Hugh Martin in the early ‘40s, were re-written before its inclusion in “Meet Me in St. Louis” as the film’s star Judy Garland found it to be too depressing. Garland’s version, which she sings to console her younger sister at the end of the musical, combines joyous lyrics with a somber tone that paints a picture of fragile hope and optimism.

#2: “Silent Night” (1818)

One of the most famous Christmas carols in the world comes from Austria, and made its debut at one of the country’s parish churches on Christmas Eve of 1818. This iconic carol focuses on the religious aspect of the holiday, with lines about the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. Soldiers from England, France and Germany actually began the Christmas Truce of World War One by singing “Silent Night” in the legendary ceasefire of December 1914 – which is a testament to its power and endurance. Attend any Christmas Eve mass and there’s a great chance you will hear this hauntingly beautiful melody.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (1963)
- “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (1780)
- “The First Noël” (18th century or earlier)
- “Joy to the World” (1719)
- “Sleigh Ride” (1949/50)

#1: “White Christmas” (1942)

Who doesn’t love a white Christmas? Guinness World Records indicates that Bing Crosby’s iconic rendition of this tune is the best-selling single of all time, with over 50 million copies sold around the globe. That makes it the best-selling song ever, not just the best-selling Christmas song. Crosby first publicly performed the song on Christmas Day in 1941 during his radio show. “White Christmas” also made an appearance in the 1942 musical film “Holiday Inn”, for which it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Thanks to its mix of melancholy and comforting images of home, the song resonates with everyone who celebrates Christmas or just loves the season, and that’s why it’s at the top of our list.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite classic Christmas song? For more festive Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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