My Top 12 Songs of Christmas

Christmas music is beloved by many and is a library of festive songs. So, with two days left until Christmas, I'm ranking my top 12 favorites.

(Note: after due consideration, I have decided not to include any numbers from The Nutcracker on the list. These songs are purely instrumental, and are heard often during the month of December, but aren't really Christmas songs.)

(I have also decided not to include Christmas songs of my own composition, such as "Someone to Bring Me Home", which I wrote for my 2017 holiday screenplay of the same title.)

(I have also decided not to include songs that aren't about Christmas but that I associate with Christmas for various reasons, such as "Together We Can Change The World", which I first heard at a school performance at Christmastime, or "Everlasting Light", which was used in a 2017 Macy's commercial.)

So here's the list, and sorry if I made you wait.

12. "We Three Kings" (????)
This ballad of the Magi is such an old song that no one really knows when it was written. It actually has about seven verses, but even so, I haven't tracked them all down. I have also heard the Spanish version of the song, which is confusing, but the minor-key tune, my favorite element of the song, remains.

11. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1949)
The song for me is just as good as the special, but like the special, there are other songs that rank above it. I relate to the character of Rudolph, only most of the ridicule I have taken in life comes from within. I could really write a whole post about how much mockery and scorn I have gotten from my own self.

10. "Mele Kalikimaka" (1952)
Written before Hawaii even became a state, this song is popularly known as simply "that Hawaiian Christmas song" is simple and catchy. And it manages to use more than just twelve letters. (The Hawaiian language's alphabet has only 12 letters: A E H I K L M N O P U W.)

9. "Here Comes Santa Claus" (1972)
The repetitive verses of this song make it a perennial favorite, but it's the triumphant performance at the end of its original source, the 1972 Rankin-Bass/ABC television classic The Year Without a Santa Claus that really makes it feel...emotional. In the special, Santa is offered a day off by the world, but is much too generous to accept the offer. His generosity is actually somewhat moving in the end.

8. "All I Want for Christmas is You" (2003)
Although this song is popularly attributed to Mariah Carey, her recording is in fact a cover - it was written for the 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually and performed by Olivia Olson there. Carey popularized the song and it is now an animated Amazon Prime original movie about a young Mariah Carey (The Haunted Hathaways' Breanna Yde).

7. "Believe" (2002)
Josh Groban originally recorded this song for the 2002 movie The Polar Express, and it launched his career, although he still sticks mostly to Broadway. The iconic first four notes of the song are suspiciously similar to a musical piece from Elf, and I don't like to think about the same song showing up in the same movie genre within three years, so that's why it's not higher on the list.

6. "Where Are You, Christmas" (2005)
Faith Hill recorded this in 2005. She had done a lot of work for and with Warner Bros., and three Warner Bros. Christmas movies - the live-action Grinch remake with Jim Carrey in 2000, The Polar Express in 2002, and Elf in 2004 - were sold the song for use in their movie, but none of the producers on any of those movies thought it fit with their film. So she just recorded it solo in 2005.

5. "Somewhere In My Memory" (1989)
This is good with words and as an instrumental - John Williams wrote it for Home Alone. It can be played in any way that shows what Kevin is feeling at any point during the movie - it's a very adaptable song that doesn't really have a mood. The scene in the movie gives the tune its mood.

4. "When Christmas Comes to Town" (2002)
Famously sung by an unnamed girl and a lonely boy on the back of a train headed to the North Pole, this is the REAL best holiday duet (sorry, Baby It's Cold Outside) because the kids have excellent vocals on the original recording from Polar Express and the tune is even a bit hallucinating. Megan Moore and Matthew Hall, the original singers, have recorded an instant classic song, but both, strangely, faded into obscurity soon after the release of the movie.

3. "Last Christmas" (1984)
George Michael and Wham! sealed their places as a holiday staple group with this 1984 single, on which Michael played all the instruments (rather well, in fact). An interesting fact about this song that I like to tell people is that immediately after Michael finished filming the music video, he went to help record...

2. "Do They Know It's Christmas"/Band Aid (1984)
Despite dated ethnocentric lyrics - yes, let's all thank God that we're not poor and hungry but these other people are - this song communicates a powerful message, and though the effect is muddled, I still think this song is the ideal way to remind people to think of those less fortunate than them at Christmas. The release of this even predates the more well known "We Are the World", and thus pioneered the idea of getting a bunch of musicians to record a song together.

1. "My Grown Up Christmas List" (1990)
I think I picked this one #1 because it's the Christmas song I relate to the most, being a teenager. Whenever I hear it, I am reminded of Christmas Eve 2014 - the first year I had trouble thinking of Christmas gifts to ask for because I observed I wanted abstract things and/or things that weren't for myself for the first time that year. Though Natalie Cole was the original artist, Kelly Clarkson made the most famous recording of this song. Its one flaw is a bit of a cluttered tune that's hard to remember.

Spotify Playlist of these songs

Finally, a note on Christmas songs I have written - a hoard more are coming in as I resurrect my 2011 original Christmas movie story treatment that you've never seen, "Miracle on Tryon Street" (with a new title, of course - the original title could mislead audiences into thinking it was a parody or whole-plot reference), with original songs. Expect the finished screenplay, which may even surpass the normal hour-long length of most of my scripts, around January 10.


  1. I love this list, Leo! In fact, it may be very close to the top of my personal all-time favorites from your lists. I'll have to re-read your lists before I can assign it a rating. Looking forward to that piece of work though! Merry Christmas!


Post a Comment