There are very few objective truths when it comes to art (what an amazing opening clause for this piece of fun Christmas content, I bet you are so excited to read on!), but one thing I know for sure is that the shittest Christmas song of all time is “The Millennium Prayer” by Cliff Richard. This song – which constitutes the words of the “Our Father” put to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” in what remains the world’s driest mashup – was released at the end of 1999, and thankfully it was just beaten to the Christmas number one by Westlife’s cover of ABBA’s “I Have a Dream” (Mark deserved).
The reason why I raise “The Millennium Prayer” is that though it is terrible, it is actually a useful lens through which to consider what makes a good Christmas song. In other words, “The Millennium Prayer” is bad because it lacks the stuff that makes other Christmas songs great. In place of jollity there is an overwhelming “Christian book store” vibe, there aren’t even any jingle bells, and there is no way that anybody has ever yelled along to it in a pub on Christmas Eve while they drink themselves into a hangover which will see them emerging from their room at 3PM the next day, while their mum gives them evils over the turkey for “ruining it”.
You could say that Cliff Richard’s end-of-the long-millennium effort is a dry old Ryvita when Christmas, at its best, is a buffet of all the nicest and fanciest crisps in the shop, with premium range dips at one end in classy bowls with spoons. It is a time of indulgence, of letting loose, of having fun, and of falling asleep in the armchair at 4PM (the most idiotic, ergo most luxurious, of nap times). Its best music, therefore – unbearably catchy and wilfully stupid as it can be – embodies these values. The greatest Christmas songs, I think, are excessive in some way: silly or schmaltzy or effervescent or strange or overtly emotional, in the way that only a time of year which includes sausage wrapped in bacon among its delicacies can elicit.
Christmas songs vary hugely in genre – you’ve got everything from Songs-of-Praise-core to “Mad World” – and as you will see throughout this list, we are not afraid to challenge boundaries and perceptions. (One of the songs included, for example, doesn’t actually exist.) Not all Christmas songs mention Christmas, and not all Christmas songs are even “songs” as you may know them. Your mother screaming at you to get the dog out of the living room while there’s ham out, say, is just as much a Christmas ditty as “Silent Night” herself. You may not be able to play all our choices on your little Spotify, but they are all undoubtedly Christmas songs in that they contribute to the sounds and the mildly deranged mood of the season.
We have tried, therefore, to capture the ambience of the festive period, and have brought forth this list of the 50 Greatest Christmas Songs of All Time into the world in a manner not unlike the virgin birth itself. Behold, our gift to you: unexpected, quite weird, and completely and utterly compelled by God. – Lauren O’Neill
50) ‘Axel F’ – Crazy Frog
Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house… a creature was revving, with no pants, nor a blouse. The stockings were ripped off the chimney - by force! - and downstairs the parents are yelling: “Divorce!” But what could that sound be, ring-dinging away? Perhaps it’s the Crazy Frog – yes, he’s been! Hooray! – Hatti Rex
49) ‘Eastenders’ Theme Tune – Simon May
You’re at your mum’s house, taking back “your seat” on the sofa, feet wrapped in fluffy socks that you will wear precisely three more times before forgetting about them, and your parents are arguing about the long-awaited Eastenders Christmas episode, trying to explain to each other who all the new characters are before the doof doofs kick in. For your part, you may have no idea who the seven extra Beales are, but the time-honoured Eastenders Christmas traditions of a wedding, a murder, and those sweet doof doof doof doofs are all you need. – Nana Baah
48) ‘Bad Sharon’ – Robbie Williams ft. Tyson Fury
I am of course fascinated by Tyson Fury, a world champion athlete with the physical dimensions of a mythological warrior and the personality of a recurring This Morning guest they only ever get on to say something like “stag dos are mint”. Robbie Williams is, of course, Robbie Williams. We talk about the various possibilities of time travel, the opportunities and moments through history we could change or relive – the birth of Adolf Hitler, the building of the pyramids, JFK’s assassination – but if we ever crack the science, I am going to whatever members-only club where a pissed Robbie Williams met a catatonic Tyson Fury and eavesdropping in as they agreed somehow to do this. I want to take a photo of the exact moment Tyson Fury offered Robbie Williams a firm, boxer-ly handshake and pulled him unexpectedly into a big drunken hug and whispered, “Can I bring me dad?”
Is “Bad Sharon” a good song? Mm, no, not really. The lyrics are kind of weak (‘There’s still some crackers left to pull / under the mistletoe, you fools” is proper, “What rhymes with ‘pull’? Come on, Karl! Tyson’s taxi’s here in a minute!”); Tyson Fury’s vocal performance is a curiously cautious faux Rat Pack thing you’d expect to see at a flat-roofed pub’s karaoke before everyone’s really drunk enough to get into it (I feel we would have got a more iconically belting performance if his lines were recorded directly after he sparked someone unconscious).
It’s either about having a dirty scuttle at the office party or sending your children to bed before Santa arrives, the song cannot decide – in his ad-libs, it really does seem like Tyson Fury is semi-threatening to knock Santa out – and occasionally it’s directly insulting to the listener. (In less than three minutes we are called a “sad sack”, a “sleepy dosser”, and a “fool”; Santa is referred to a “big dosser”.)
But that’s sort of what makes it work: The song absolutely seeps Britishness, stinks of it even, and I would argue that it’s more stirringly patriotic to listen to “Bad Sharon” than it is to listen to “God Save The Queen”. The song is built to be played in anodyne call centre offices where all the desks have been pushed to the edge of the room to accommodate two disco balls and a buffet, and in overly tinselled rooms after being served a really meaty-tasting roast, or at 11AM on Christmas Day in a pub full of dads inelegantly wearing Santa hats and going, “This again”. Fuck your little “Jerusalem”. Play “Bad Sharon” in the streets when England wins the Winter World Cup. – Joel Golby
47) ‘Santa Tell Me’ – Ariana Grande
As inevitable as “musicians creating a skincare line” is “musicians attempting to make a Christmas banger”. Rarely do any of them hit the mark, but fortunately Ariana Grande is good at everything. “Santa Tell Me” is Grande at her best, hitting high notes, singing about being in love, and wearing a onesie in the music video. – Nana Baah
46) ‘O Holy Night’ – Sufjan Stevens
Somewhere between Seth Cohen donning a Yamaclaus (twee, heartwarming in its own pubescent way, reminiscent of a specifically Y2K phenomenon in which hipsters and Essex lads were united once a year by their affinity for novelty jumpers) and Bob Dylan’s “Must Be Santa” (chaotic, unhinged, like sitting down for a roast on a full gut of Stella), there is Sufjan Stevens circa 2005, abandoning his renowned 50 States project to release a five-disc album of Christmas songs.
There is much to enjoy about this package, including an original composition called “Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!” that has what can only be described as big “arts and crafts” energy, but his cover of “O Holy Night” hits the feels every time. Adolphe Adam went off when he set this French poem to music in 1847, usually intended for a full choir and/or Orchestra. But Stevens does away with all that guff and heralds baby Jesus with the people’s instruments: a banjo and two harmonising recorders. Nails. – Emma Garland
45) ‘One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas’ – Kermit the Frog
Essentially a winter puppet version of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out For Summer,” this Muppets Christmas Carol anthem hits the second nasty old man Ebenezer Scrooge leaves his shop, and the staff excitedly prepare to close for Christmas, safe in the knowledge that they can spend the next day or so away from their horrible boss. Playing the role of Scrooge’s faithful employee Bob Cratchit is none other than nice guy Kermit the Frog, a casting decision that would leave Dickens himself with no choice but to stan. – Hatti Rex
44) ‘O Chronic Tree’ – Afroman
Afroman’s ode to weed – unfairly overlooked in the Christmas period – in the form of a rework of “O Christmas Tree” is the ideal soundtrack for getting high and eating all the pigs in blankets before lunch has even started. – Nana Baah
43) The Queen’s Speech on TV in the background – The Queen
Is there anything more festive than the Queen's voice – paced, high-pitched but also somehow monotone – coming out your TV while your mum yells “fuck, fuck, fuck” as she pulls the burnt roasties out the oven and your grandad, slumped over with a glass of sherry, snoring and then gasping awake at three-minute intervals like he's having a heart attack? No, I think not. Which is why this big banger belongs firmly on this list. Now drop the drill mix! Wanna hear the Queen go “The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior isn’t a large memorial / but everyone entering Westminster Abbey has to walk around his resting place” over some dirty beats. – Daisy Jones
42) ‘Sweet Caroline’ – Neil Diamond
Is it a Christmas song? No, obviously. But is there a song in the world that more embodies the British festive tradition of Mad Friday, the Friday before Christmas that sees town centres across the country awash with Santa hats falling from heads in the rush for a 3AM kebab like jockeys coming off race horses, and girls in tiny dresses and no jacket twisting their ankles in stilettos and gashing their knees, making the dusting of snow outside Walkabout look like a budget version of the end of Kill Bill: Vol 1? There is not. The things that divide Christmas and “Sweet Caroline”, therefore, are weaker and less important than that which unites them: lager. – Lauren O’Neill
41) ‘Goop On Ya Grinch’ – King PU$$Y Eater
The festive clout contained within this song is astonishing, considering it doesn’t exist. It did eventually become the title of a real track by a group called Husbands, but it’s the fictional version – invoked as a fake Pitchfork review in one of the best tweets of all time (see above) – that we honour and respect here. In my mind’s eye, “Goop On Ya Grinch” would land somewhere between Benni Benassi’s “Satisfaction” and “Get Low” by Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz. All the chaos of a Eurotrash banger combined with all the filth of your dad getting into his disco vinyl after half a bottle of Jim Beam. As such: Christmas gold. 7.6 – Emma Garland
40) ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town’ – Michael Bublé
It wouldn’t be a Christmas roundup without mention of the knicker melter himself, Michael Bublé, because mums everywhere are obsessed with him. If you manage to get through Christmas without catching either a) COVID or b) one of the Bublé Christmas albums blaring out of your parents’ car stereo, you deserve some kind of accolade. His best known Christmas song is probably “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” but I hate that one because it’s been on too many adverts, so “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” makes the list instead. – Lauren O’Neill
39) The opening title to ‘Home Alone’ – John Williams
The way this soundtrack has had me in a chokehold since 1990 is testament to legendary composer John Williams, and the unique combination of magic and mischief he has conjured up here. The first few opening seconds are perfectly sweet – wholesome, even – indicative of nothing untoward. Then: sleigh bells, that sneaky little melody, strings that are the orchestral equivalent to spying on someone out of the corner of your eye. It’s impossible to sit through without a) feeling a terrible urge to fill your mam’s socks with pencil shavings, and then b) remembering that you are 32 and doing it anyway, because if you can’t regress in the family home and gently terrorise your parents while they’re trying to create a memorable day for everyone then what’s even the point. – Emma Garland
38) ‘Santa Baby’ – Eartha Kitt & Henri René and His Orchestra
It's an age-old question really: Is Santa… Daddy? Or is Santa not Daddy? Mainly no because he wears a fluffy hat with a pom pom attached and says things like “ho, ho, ho!” But also yes because he gives you presents for being a very good girl, and wants to take you for a ride on his magic sleigh. This song is the epitome of Santa is Daddy.
It's also one of the most covered Christmas songs of all time. After the 1952 original by Eartha Kitt with Henri René and His Orchestra, the song has been released by Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Kellie Pickler, Taylor Swift, Michael Bublé (who changed the lyrics to “Santa Buddy” – toxic masculinity in action, very sad), Ariana Grande, Trisha Yearwood, Gwen Stefani… You'd think we'd be sick of it. And to be honest, we are. But it still belongs firmly on this list because it manages to make Christmas sound sexy – not an easy feat. – Daisy Jones
37) ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)’ - The Darkness
Standing firmly in the category of “Banter Christmas Songs” is this fairly irritating effort from The Darkness, which was reportedly created because the band thought it’d be funny for there to be a Christmas song with a lyric that almost said “bellend”. And do you know what? It is, fair play. – Lauren O’Neill
36) ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ – John and Yoko and so on
Made myself quite upset by listening to this while arrow-keying through a load of Google Images of John Lennon and just saying “vibe” out loud every time he demonstrated a new vibe, which was with every single photo there was. Yes, he might have opened this song with any incredibly corny whisper of “happychristmasjulian”, followed it with a line accusing me of not really doing anything all year, then got murdered off a lad who took The Catcher in the Rye too seriously, but my goodness. Orange sunglasses and the kind of ego that thinks a Christmas song might finally resolve “war”. Nobody has even got within touching distance since. – Joel Golby
35) ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ – She & Him
I think it’s quite easy to be dismissive of Zooey Deschanel, because it seems like she was formed in a lab by Zach Braff for a Garden State sequel he never got funding for, and she has inspired a lot of people to get fringes they weren’t really ready for. Personally, I just get this strange vibe that if I met her in real life I’d come out of a fugue state a few hours later doing some sort of whimsical arts and craft activity, performing a faux English accent and drinking teapot tea. But if I have any lesson to share from the hard long time I have spent on Earth, it is: You can’t hate someone just because they think it’s possible for a woolly jumper to be “fun”.
This is where the She & Him Christmas album comes in, because it does something no other media on earth really manages to do, which is, “makes me, personally, abandon my highly-curated brand of jaded cynicism entirely”. Sorry, I just like hearing that Pinterest girl sing about Christmas! I like hearing her slightly affected delicate singing voice over an electric ukulele soundscape! I like pouring a big Baileys out and listening to it while bathed in fairy lights! I like getting cosy in some knitwear and wrapping my presents to it!
Christmas music is something that can get quite cloying quite fast – I can hardly bear Mariah Carey in any context beyond “11PM, pissed, at a Christmas party where everyone is shouting”, because that’s the only time it truly hits – but the She & Him album is just a very gentle, warm, genuine Christmas noise that I can only listen to one month a year and makes me very very thirsty for sherry. Sorry for letting the mask slip to reveal the sincerity of the face beneath! I apologise for earnestly loving the most magical time of year! – Joel Golby
34) ‘In Dulce Jubilo’ – Mike Oldfield
A preposterously huge ditty. Exactly what plays in my head when I see a group of lads on their Christmas eve piss-up; Santa hats akimbo, cheeks reddened by cold and local ale, childlike smiles plastered permanently across their faces even as their trousers sag round by their arse cracks, rollicking from one pub to another like a yuletide rat-king. Just really top tier stuff. – Emma Garland
33) ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ – Bright Eyes
Christmas is, at its core, about putting a smile on your face regardless of how deeply fucking miserable you are inside. There are people who thrive on that sort of thing, and they spent most of December listening to Wizzard and putting up little decorations that say “JOY” and “SANTA STOP HERE”. And then there is everyone else, whose idea of seasonal spirit is more in line with Conor Oberst croaking “Make the yuletide gay” like someone just stamped on his foot in the middle of the nativity play but he’s trying not to spoil it for the audience. – Emma Garland
32) ‘Mad World’ – Michael Andrews and Gary Jules
The once fun yuletide tradition of artists racing to be the UK chart’s Christmas number one has recently been totally annihilated by the demon commonly known as Ladbaby, who has won the top spot for three consecutive years. But back in 2003, before the existence of YouTube or “I Love Sausage Rolls”, a relatively unknown American singer by the name of Gary Jules beat the odds with a sombre cover of “Mad World” by Tears For Fears that stayed at number one for three weeks.
Not only is it not at all a Christmas song in any conceivable way, but “Mad World” is also harrowingly sad, which in turn makes its position as the Christmas number one extremely funny. The song’s success, arguably, was a sign of the times: Earlier that year, an estimated two million people marched through Central London to Hyde Park to oppose the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War, which is still the biggest protest in British history to this day. So while it is not exactly the cheeriest Christmas number one in our history, it was consistent with the national mood. Also, “Mad World” knocked The Darkness out of the race, which is hilarious. Pack up your catsuits, boys. – Hatti Rex
31) ‘Sound of the Underground’ – Girls Aloud
If you're wondering what's so Christmassy about five girls with straightened hair and lip gloss gyrating in a cage in a cellar (are they okay?), need I remind you that this was Christmas number one in 2002 and remained so for four consecutive weeks?? Therefore, it's a Christmas song. So is Bob the Builder's “Can We Fix it?” and “Killing in the Name Of” by Rage Against the Machine, FYI.
The difference between this song and the other Christmas number ones, however, is that this is also one of the greatest songs of all time. Psychedelic surf guitar over speed garage beats? The line “Where the baseline jumps in the backstreet lights”? Sarah Harding? The microphone choreography in the video? I'm going to be sick. – Daisy Jones
30) ‘Somethin’ Stupid’ – Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman
A remake of a classic, but also a reminder that Nicole Kidman can sing. Somehow her presence on this duet with Robbie Williams perfectly encapsulates one of the best Christmas vibes: Trekking Back to Where You Grew Up On Christmas Eve and Getting With Someone You Forgot Existed At the Pub. – Nana Baah
29) ‘Last Christmas’ – Wham!
There’s a Facebook game that a lot of people play called Whamageddon!, where they try and spend all of December up until the 24th without hearing Wham!’s “Last Christmas.” To me the whole endeavour stinks of International Talk Like A Pirate Day or collecting beer mats – student-level enforced banter that thinks it’s more subversive than it is by people who, for some reason, still have a lot of DVDs – but fundamentally, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to listen to one of the best songs ever made as many times as possible in the one month of the year you are allowed to.
It is insane that George Michael made a banger on the size and scale of “Last Christmas” but made it Christmas-themed in a way that you can only really listen to it in December. Because if this wasn’t about fucking Christmas – and yes, I know it has sleigh bells shivering through it throughout – it would be one of the first songs on any Spotify playlist you ever made. No wonder he went on a triumphant 30-year sucking-and-fucking rager after making it. Who wouldn’t want a victory lap like that. – Joel Golby
28) ‘I Have a Dream’ – ABBA
Much like Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling”, all ABBA songs are actually really, really depressing. Obvi I haven’t heard every single ABBA song so there’s a chance this theory doesn’t check out, but holding the hand of their upbeat disco melodies are, erm, the actual lyrics. Look:
“I have a dream, a fantasy / To help me through, reality / And my destination, makes it worth the while '/ Pushin' through the darkness, still another mile.”
They’re literally banging on about crossing into the other side and seeing angels. There’s a slight glimmer of hope there, but barely. ABBA are hanging on by a thread, which really is a big Christmas vibe. – Hatti Rex
27) ‘Yule Shoot Your Eye Out’ – Fall Out Boy
Otherwise known as “a song with normal Fall Out Boy lyrics that wish ill on someone, but with jingle bells and acoustic guitar”, “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out” was written around the time that Fall Out Boy also made the songs for their first and best album Take This To Your Grave, and it shares that album’s often destructive energy, sending up the wrapping-paper-‘n’-turkeys of traditional festive fare. “All I want this year,” Patrick Stump croons, “is for you to dedicate your last breath to me, before you bury yourself alive.” And a partridge in a pear tree x – Lauren O’Neill
26) The Dizzee Rascal Bit in ‘Band Aid 20’ – Dizzee Rascal
If you watch back “Band Aid” and “Band Aid 20” back-to-back, you’ll see that they are basically the same thing twice, in that: they both act as crystallised, perfect encapsulations of the exact cultural moment they were a part of. So in “Band Aid” you have Phil Collins being a very famous drummer, Boy George’s gorgeous warble, a brief flash of the electric charisma of Paula Yates, and Bono being annoying: the 80s in a nutshell.
For “Band Aid 20”, you have something similar for “the year 2004”: Chris Martin janking around looking weirdly head-boy-young, Fran Healy from Travis wearing a Breton cap and being very self-serious, Rachel Stevens still trying to make a solo career happen, late-stage Sugababes, short-sleeved T-shirts over long-sleeved T-shirts worn with a big cloth scarf, Jamelia, the dinner lady one out of Keane, the last gasping peaks of the band “The Darkness”, and so on.
Culturally, we only now have enough distance from 2004 to marvel at the sheer 2004-ness of it: a year we allowed to happen to us, more than we controlled. A year that had the following run of number one singles: Natasha Bedingfield – “These Words”; 3 Of A Kind – “Babycakes”; and the theme song for the Thunderbirds movie that Ben Kingsley was in (???), the last significant single Busted ever released. CGI technology had finally caught up to our dreams and the internet was in a boom period of creativity. Wobbl and Bob was on MTV and everyone on planet Earth was friends with MySpace Tom. Look how far we’ve fallen.
We’re tiptoeing around the point, here. Dizzee Rascal sang two lines and stole the whole thing.
I am loathe to even particularly write about Dizzee Rascal’s “Band Aid 20” bars, because to hand-wring and over-intellectualise something like this it to try and put a clever frame around a masterpiece. I cannot steal the glory of the Mona Lisa by writing a caption to go alongside it, so I cannot add anything that Dizzee Rascal didn’t already say, very quickly, on “Band Aid 20” himself. “Spare a thought this yuletide for the deprived” already has quite a lot going on in it before “If the table was turned would you survive?” immediately after it (you get the impression that Dizzee was told to prepare an entire verse, but Busted came through on the day so they cut his time in half and he just decided to do his whole bit anyway, just at three times the speed of sound). “You ain’t gotta feel guilt just selfless / give a little help to the helpless” is simultaneously one of the funniest lines ever put in a song but also the most succinct summary of the efforts of “Band Aid” that I’ve ever heard, and more self-aware at least than Bono insisting for the second time in a row that it is him who thanks God, it’s them instead of you.
We’re three years out from another “Band Aid” anniversary, and it’s probably OK to start speculating how it is going to go: There’s a boyband who haven’t even been formed yet who will be superstars in the middle of the whole thing and break up weeks afterwards, and “Band Aid 40” will be their crowning glory; Stormzy will do a really earnest line about God; I cannot wait to see what nonsense Yungblud yells over the whole thing. But if we care about tradition, and legacy, and art, Dizzee Rascal will be invited back to repeat his lines again, very very quickly. This is more than just a song, now. It’s a moment. – Joel Golby
25) ‘Blue Christmas’ – Elvis
Nothing says bubbles for breakfast more than Elvis lurching into this festive divorce classic like a car that won’t start. Sadly, this song is banned in my household due to family trauma. My grandad – both a drunk and an Elvis fanatic, God rest his soul – had a tendency to skip the bit of the day where you actually eat something in favour of showing up at 1AM in a pink dressing gown with a bottle of vodka in his hand and no fear in his heart, determined to party with The King until sunrise. As a result, we never get past the opening few seconds of “Ah ha hu hough he hu bluueeee” before my mam – able to hear it over all the household chaos and through several walls, somehow – screams at the top of her lungs: “NO. OFF. NOW.” Truly, the most wonderful time of year. – Emma Garland
24) When the Grinch sings ‘BA HOO EEE AAA HA HOOO BAAA ROOO’ – The Grinch
Much like me having a bottle of wine to myself and deciding to attend midnight mass just to feel something, The Grinch really gives this Whoville carol some welly despite not knowing any of the words. The people of Whoville don’t seem to mind, which is more than I can for the congregation at Glyn Street Presbyterian, to whom I unreservedly apologise. – Emma Garland
23) Someone crying – TBA on the day
It’s always going to be you. You’re coming off a present and food high and you know the festive period is over and you have to go back to your normal life. – Nana Baah
22) ‘Stay Another Day’ – East 17
Nah sorry, but Christmas can be depressing as fuck. Just like birthdays after 30, everyone gets extremely maudlin when they're given copious amounts of alcohol and expected to look back on their lives in comparison to last year (it's the same, but you're closer to death). This is why depressing Christmas songs actually slap the most. See: “Last Christmas”, “Another Lonely Christmas” and, of course, the mother of them all, “Stay Another Day” by East 17. It helps that, in the video, they look like four lesbians on their way to a leather night. – Daisy Jones
21) ‘Little Drummer Boy’ – Boney M
“Little Drummer Boy” is a Christmas song, yes, but it also sounds like something Indiana Jones would be ominously walked into a temple to before a Nazi tries to slice his heart out. This, in a way, is good: Even goths celebrate Christmas, and they need something to listen to, too. Play “LDB” at a Christmas party though, and it’s a sort of rhythmic banana-skin: the “bar-rum-pa-par-pum” is always a little bit slower than you’re expecting, the hits always a little bit off, and it never speeds up quite like you’re ever expecting it to. The only other song I’ve ever experienced this with is “Spaceman” by Babylon Zoo, which opens with a squealing, Crazy Frog-esque 30 seconds then slips into a weird, slow, janking, fever-dream type bit about a carousel.
What I am saying is: As with “Spaceman” by Babylon Zoo, “Little Drummer Boy” would ultimately benefit from a really, really good donk remix. There has to be one of you out there – Too Into Cars, sleep with the big light on, every summer you have a big BBQ in a tarmacked-over back garden – who can make this happen for me. – Joel Golby
20) ‘Where Are You Christmas’ – Taylor Momsen
Before she was Little J, or the kohl-linered lead singer of The Pretty Reckless, Taylor Momsen was Cindy-Lou Who, the rabid anti-capitalist at the centre of the best film ever made, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In the middle of the film, the character performs “Where Are You Christmas,” which was written for the movie by Mariah Carey and the film’s composers. To be honest, it’s kind of annoying when the action gets derailed by this song, but it’s on the list because How the Grinch Stole Christmas can never be overrepresented in terms of the impact it has had on culture.
As an addendum to this, I would be remiss if I did not flag another Grinch-themed Christmas song, “Hottest Female Up In Whoville”, by the comedian Matt Rogers, which wonders, “What if Mariah also wrote a song for Martha May Whovier?” to devastating effect. – Lauren O’Neill
19) ‘12 Days of Christmas’ – Frederic Austin
Pure chaos. Who decided there were 12 days of Christmas? And why would anyone want “lords a-leaping”? That just sounds annoying to have around your gaff, though what I will say is that “five gold rings” is the festive season’s biggest belter of a drop. – Lauren O’Neill
18) ‘Eight Days of Christmas’ – Destiny’s Child
Here in the “Christmas with this one x” version of “12 Days of Christmas”, Destiny’s Child extol the virtue of really expensive presents, which in theory I reject (“Christmas is about being with loved ones and eating seven million Quality Street” etc) and in practice I respect, because who wouldn’t want “a pair of Chloé shades and a diamond belly ring”, if such things were offered? Also: What a tune. – Lauren O’Neill
17) ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ – Thin Lizzy
Ultimately, Christmas is about catching up with all the friends and family you’ve neglected to keep up with for the other 11 months of the year, because you were too busy on the grind, down the pub, sat in bed, swiping through Hinge, or hungover. It is the one time of year where it’s almost guaranteed that all your mates are due a visit home, a prophecy once foretold by the ancient oracles Thin Lizzy: the moment when the boys are literally back in town. – Hatti Rex
16) ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ – Shakin’ Stevens
The big coat, the red scarf, “woo, yeah!”, the shooby-doobies, the screaming sax solo, the little double-drum step and the key change: No Christmas song hangs dick like Shakin’ Stevens’s “Merry Christmas Everyone”. – Joel Golby
15) ‘St. Brick Intro’ – Gucci Mane
When Confederate soldier James Lord Pierpont composed “Jingle Bells” as a drinking song in the 1850s, he probably didn’t imagine the melody being repurposed by Gucci Mane over 160 years later; precious lyrics like “Oh! What fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh” replaced with statements such as “Over the hills we go / Got an extendo and an AK (KAH, KAH, KAH)”. Pierpont can go ahead and turn in his grave though, because I know which version I’d rather hear in the club. – Emma Garland
14) ‘My Only Wish (This Year)’ – Britney Spears
Britney Spears, like Christmas itself, is magical, so it makes sense that her Christmas song is amazing. Following the “All I Want For Christmas Is You” formula, it’s about asking Santa to bring the person you fancy as your Christmas gift, which is lovely in theory, though in practice there may potentially be a few issues with an elderly man dragging some unsuspecting but sexy person out of their bed at the dead of night and loading them into a vehicle pulled along by his many pets. Just flagging. – Lauren O’Neill
13) Your Parents Arguing – Your Parents
The real sound of Christmas, because someone has let the dog at the meat / your dad got your mum the wrong Dove gift set / your mum is too pissed by 11AM and the potatoes have gone all on the floor. There’s a lot of pressure to have a nice day and sometimes people go quite radge when they succumb to such pressure, which results in a screaming match in the kitchen while everyone else watches Paddington 2 and pretends not to notice. – Lauren O’Neill
12) ‘2 Become 1’ – Spice Girls
You may not necessarily think of this as Christmas canon (though it was Christmas number one in 1996), but when you see the coats the girlies are wearing in the video, you will come to understand that it is. We have Mel C in a padded gilet, Mel B in a floor length green number, and Baby Spice in maroon velour, against various green screen cityscapes (cities at night: very Christmassy). The song itself is very much about shagging – for which Christmas is a peak time because people are either a) in their best mood all year or b) feeling shit about themselves, but in a wistful way. It pairs well with sighing over about your hometown Christmas crush, who you’ll see down the pub on the 23rd, before you get too drunk to even talk to them and end up being taxi’d home at 10PM. – Lauren O’Neill
11) ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ – Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews
Obviously yes, weird “uncle who won’t stop touching you on the small of your back” aura around this song in general. But: Tom Jones thundering along like the Logan Roy of music (with a French manicure?) and Cerys Matthews, the Welsh proto-Lana Del Rey, cooing back at him from inside a bird cage, is so bizarre that you sort of just have to go, “Yeah, alright”. – Lauren O’Neill
10) ‘Wombling Merry Christmas’ – The Wombles
You don’t get cultural phenomena like the Wombles now, do you? You don’t get grown adults dressed in full size cartoon character outfits which themselves are in costume, performing a Christmas song about said characters, in the style of Status Quo. Just another symptom of our sick and declining culture. – Lauren O’Neill
9) ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ – Boney M
“Mary's Boy Child” by Boney M is pure vibes. I dare you to put this on and not feel like you love Christmas, actually, and all that stuff you said about how it's a money-grabbing scam designed to make you feel bad about yourself and others is a pure lie. Honestly, put it on and try not to sway from side to side to the bit where they're like “Mary's boy child... Jeeesus Christ”, a paper crown on your head and a mince pie in your hand. Hard isn't it? I'm smiling just thinking about it. Need I remind you that Boney M are also responsible for both “Rasputin” and “Daddy Cool”, so two of their Christmas songs were obviously going to make this list. – Daisy Jones
8) ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’ – Wizzard
There’s a misattributed Winston Churchill quote that always does the rounds on local Facebook page comments sections whenever an election is coming up and someone is mad about the bins: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” This is how I feel as I age about Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”, a song that – when I was a child – was the most exciting concept I could possibly imagine (Christmas! Every single day! The buzz of excitement! The little oranges! Presents! A roast dinner! A premium blockbuster on terrestrial TV for free! Snow!) and, now I’m an adult, works more like a threat.
Hold on, Christmas… every day? I have to think of presents for everyone… every day? Enough smalltalk to get through an unnecessarily long meal every single day? Sit in a too-warm room and watch corny Christmas specials of prime time entertainment instead of real telly? Have a relative break the complete silence of a room just to tell me, “Your phone that interesting, is it?” Every single day of my life? Forever? As a kid, the idea of getting a Crash Test Dummies set and a handful of Quality Street every day for the rest of my life sounded like a dream. Now I know more than about eight Christmas Days in a row would make me – very festively, mind you! – go for an afternoon walk to “just get some air!” and never have my body be found. – Joel Golby
7) ‘Stop the Cavalry’ – Jona Lewie
Dub-a-dub-a-dum-dum, dub-a-dub-a-dum, dub-a-dum-dum-dub-a-dum, and, indeed, dub-a-dub-a-dum. Do you need me to go on? Or can we just call a spade a spade and hail this for what it is: the Christmas version of the greatest pint-sloshing, sing-along anthem ever designed for packed pubs and/or football matches. I’m talking, of course, about “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis. Sure, one is written from the point of view of a soldier fantasising about being able to spend Christmas with his family while desperately trying to avoid being blown to bits in the First World War, and the other is about Jon Fratelli’s burlesque dancer wife, but with a chorus this chant-able the sentiment is largely the same after a few pints. – Emma Garland
6) ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ Theme – Simon Goodall
As it turns out, Christmas has something to do with Christianity????? And baby Jesus being born??????? In a barn??????? To a virgin??????? And her carpenter boyfriend?????? The nearest these celebrations ever got to their actual meaning at our house is through watching The Vicar of Dibley Christmas specials, whose divine and transcendent theme tune (a choral rendition of Psalm 23) is the closest any of us would ever get to a church. Thank you, Dawn French, for saving our souls. – Hatti Rex
5) ‘Christmas Wrapping’ – The Waitresses
This one wins the bonus prize for Coolest Christmas Song, purely because Patty Donahue sounds like the American Kirsty MacColl, plus it’s the only Christmas song that has guitars which sound like the Seinfeld bass part. – Lauren O’Neill
4) ‘Little Donkey’ – hymn, artist unknown
A song played in only two scenarios: the big hall of your Catholic primary school, or sung really quietly over the Christmas advert for Eastenders where someone dies horrifically. Nothing but respect for Little Donkey, the unsung hero of the Nativity story. In fact, I would like to see a Netflix Fyre Festival style documentary featuring a tell all from both the donkey and the guy who made Mary and Joseph sleep in a barn. – Nana Baah
3) ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ – Darlene Love
If you will allow me to be serious for one moment of my wretched life, I have to say that this is the most beautiful Christmas song ever committed to record. Darlene Love’s vocals are perfectly yearning and expressive, the Wall of Sound production is so soul-filling it’s like nothing else I’ve ever heard, and whenever I listen to this for the first time every year at Christmas, it reduces me to tears because I believe it is one of the great, transcendent achievements of human art.
This is what I would say to you if you asked me at a festive afters why I like this song, dramatically ruining the vibe as I have done here, now, at number three in this list. – Lauren O’Neill
2) ‘All I Want For Christmas Is Bass’ – The Squire of Gothos
No Christmas is complete without Mariah Carey, whether she is brought into your life by choice or by force through the overhead speakers at Big Asda. She is the queen of the season, smashing into the Top 10 singles chart every damn December like that enormous iron dragon through the Gates of Gondor. There are certain occasions, though, that require something a little more… indecent. And it is for those occasions that Sheffield nutters The Squire of Gothos created “All I Want For Christmas Is Bass”.
Taken from a compilation of festive bangers designed, and I quote, “FOR YOU TO COMPLETELY SWING THE TURKEY AROUND THE ROOM TO”, “All I Want For Christmas Is Bass” is exactly what it says it is: a bassline take on a classic Crimbo belter. It bangs, it breaks, wobbles. It’s the sound of the squalid mash-up you have before the wholesome big day.
If you close your eyes, you can picture the venue now: underground, probably. The floors are sticky, the toilets are blocked. A girl you recognise is cheating on her boyfriend with someone “from home”. A lad you know only as “Pies” is cutting onto the dancefloor with a bottle of VK wedged between each finger. You begin to peacefully acknowledge that, yes, you will chain smoke twelve B&H before the night is over. And just at that moment, your mates bound over and grab your shoulders, sloshing half a pint down your top and saying things like “wheyyy” and “oiiii”. This is the real celebration, right here. This is Christmas. This is bass. – Emma Garland
1) ‘Mr Blobby’ – Mr Blobby
There is only one person whose very being brings together the many disparate aspects of a British Christmas – pain and pleasure, heaven and hell, turkey and Tofurkey – and that is he who has come to symbolise, more than anything or anyone, our national psyche: Mr. Blobby.
Mr Blobby’s Christmas song – titled “Mr. Blobby” – was 1993’s Christmas number one. It comes in hot from the beginning, with a frankly haunting horn solo, before transitioning into the vocal stylings of Blobby over a children’s choir (again, haunting), who sing: “Blobby, Mr. Blobby, if only you could make us understand / Blobby, Mr Blobby, your influence that’s spread throughout the land,” resulting in what can only sound like a call to arms on behalf of a dangerous cult leader.
No Christmas number one has ever touched this in terms of sheer levels of both disturbed and disturbing, or, somehow, closeness to the actual uncanny of Christmas. This is a song for Dads in reindeer antlers getting raging about those plastic twirly things they fasten up kids’ toys with; it is a song for watching your mother playing Just Dance. It says: there is something wrong here. It says: look the undercurrent of insanity square in the face. It is, therefore, not the greatest Christmas song of all time that we necessarily want or embrace. But it is the greatest Christmas song of all time that we deserve. – Lauren O’Neill