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The best Christmas songs of all time: great festive bangers

Great Xmas songs to dance around the Christmas tree.

The best Christmas songs of all time: great festive bangers
Marc Chacksfield
06 December 2022

You may not believe it, but it's crept around again – December is here and so, too, is Christmas and that means we all need to argue about what the best Christmas songs of all time are.

We've been arguing lots at ShortList Towers but we think we have cracked it, offering the 30 best Christmas songs in this guide, all of which need your votes.

A good Christmas song can make the festive season. No amount of presents, advent calendars, Christmas jumpers and, of course, food and drink, will get you in the mood unless they are accompanied by endlessly repeated Christmas songs.

Some of them, we'll admit, are more annoying than others. But that's part of the charm, right? (Unless you work in retail and have to listen to them ten thousand times a day, in which case: we're very sorry).

We've whittled them down to the top 30 – and don't forget you can vote on our lists if you're outraged about where something's been placed.

Enjoy, and merry bloody Christmas to you all.

The best Christmas songs of all time

The best Christmas songs of all time

1. Last Christmas by Wham!

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It's always been part of the Christmas rotation, but Last Christmas has really come into its own over the last few years, and it's now considered to be the best of the bunch across the board. And why? Because it's really bloody good, that's why.

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2. Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

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It's pretty much the definitive Christmas song, isn't it? It's poignant, it's sad, it's moving – and it's a total banger to boot. There's a reason it's a classic, folks.

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Image Credit: Pogue Mahone

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3. Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade

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Alright, you're probably sick of it by now – you've heard it 9,000 times a year every year since before time began. But it wouldn't be Christmas without it, no matter how annoying.

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Image Credit: Polydor

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4. All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey

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When you think of Christmas, you probably think of Mariah Carey. Every year this starts flying up the charts – and every year Mariah becomes more and more the complete embodiment of Christmas. Frankly, the song's so good she deserves it.

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5. Do They Know It's Christmas? by Band Aid

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There have been multiple updates in the years since, but there's not much that can beat the 1984 original by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure of Ultravox. Its star-studded lineup is also great for playing 'guess that singer'.

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6. White Christmas by Bing Crosby

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Irving Berlin's traditional Christmas song is a stunning, sombre tune that evokes Christmas in the most sentimental way. Bing Crosby sings the song best and it is thanks to him that its the world's best-selling single. The song made it on to the movie Holiday Inn, which is a bit confusing as it also turns up in the movie White Christmas some 10 years later, which also stars Crosby.

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7. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday by Wizzard

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Another old favourite, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without this retro classic. Get your mulled wine, wrap yourself up on the sofa and whack on the Top of the Pops Christmas special.

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Image Credit: Harvest / Warner Bros. Records

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8. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee

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With over 25 million copies sold, this is one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time - and for good reason. Johnny Marks wrote the song (he was already Christmas famous thanks to penning Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer) but it's Brenda Lee's singing that elevates this song from good to greatness.

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9. Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth by Bing Crosby and David Bowie

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Bit of a weird combo, we'll allow, but somehow it just... works. You might not have initially seen them as a particularly likely pair, but Bowie and Bing croon and soar with the best of them.

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10. Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms

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We are biased here as any song that appears in both Lethal Weapon and Home Alone is going to get our Christmas song seal of approval, but Jingle Bell Rock is a stunning festive track that adds a bit of rockabilly to the wintry season. From the opening riff to the 'rock around the clock' rhythm, this is just a brilliant song.

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11. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Andy Williams

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Yes, yes it is, Mr Williams, and it is all because of your wonderful song.

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12. Sleigh Ride by the Ronettes

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Heavy on the sleigh bells, as the name suggests, there's nothing better to get you in the mood for Christmas than this cool 1963 Ronettes tune written by composer Leroy Anderson.

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13. Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano

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We're sorry. It's already in your head isn't it? The Mariachi-style jingle, the repeating of Feliz Navidad like a Christmas chant. Look, we apologise, all we wanted to do was... wish you a Merry Christmas, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart. Feliz Navidad...

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Image Credit: RCA Victor Records

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14. Santa Claus is Coming to Town by the Jackson 5

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Christmassy without being too... Christmassy, this is the ultimate bop for the festive season. Much cooler than many other songs of the genre, it's since been covered by a multitude of artists – but the original simply can't be beaten.

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15. Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon

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Given its status as a rock-solid Christmas ear worm, you might be surprised to hear Happy Xmas (War is Over) wasn't a huge hit at its original US release in 1971. There's real charm to the Harlem Community Choir backing vocals. It's pure Xmas spirit syrup, if your ears are game for it.

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16. Step Into Christmas by Elton John

Elton John could have quite easily gone into crooner mode for his Christmas song, but he wanted to put the fun into Christmas, creating this classic toe-tapper. From the catchy guitar intro to the ever-excellent piano, Elton puts his all into getting us all up and dancing over the festive period. First released in 1973, this was written around the same time as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and it shows.

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17. Driving Home For Christmas by Chris Rea

Look, it's a great Christmas song and definitely deserves to be on the list - so stop sighing! Putting the 'car' into 'carol', Chris Rea somehow manages to make the idea of being stuck in traffic a romantic Christmas song. Even though it is a well-played Christmas classic now, it didn't even reach the top 40 when first released in 1988.

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18. Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End) by The Darkness

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The obvious choice for rockers out for something released later than the 70s, Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End) was released in 2003. It narrowly missed out on a Christmas number one, beaten by a cover of Mad World by Gary Jules & Michael Andrew. But for operatic rock Christmas songs, this has to be no. 1.

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19. Stop The Cavalry by Jona Lewie

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This anti-war tune mainly centres on the tragic events of World War I but it also mixes in Nuclear fear, given it was a song that was made in 1980. But enough of all that, it gives us the Christmas feels with its wintry brass and its line "Wish I was at home for Christmas". Chilling stuff.

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20. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love

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Darlene Love features on this list a few times but this is her ultimate song - a perfect Phil Spector produced masterpiece that evokes the holiday season while being catchy as hell. It's such a rousing track that even if you are Scrooge-ing throughout the whole of the season, this one will put a smile on your face.

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21. Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses

If there ever was a Christmas record to get your foot tapping, then Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses would be it. From its funky beat to its double meaning title this is one fun song. Given this one came out in 1981, it was inevitable that it was going to try and capitalise on the explosion of rap in America at that time.

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22. Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bruce Springsteen

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The Jackson 5 version is also in this list, but boy we prefer the Bruce Springsteen version. This is Bruce having a lot of fun, bringing his signature growl to one of the best Christmas songs of all time. Originally recorded in 1975 and made famous for being on a Sesame Street compilation album, this is just a charming rock version of the all-time classic.

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23. I Believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake

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Greg Lake wrote this song as a protest of the commercialisation of Christmas and the song ended up being a product of the commercialisation of Christmas due to its success. Lol. That's what happens, Greg, when you make your anti-Christmas song too damn catchy. At least it didn't get to number one - which would have pleased Lake - as it was blocked from the top spot by Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

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24. Stay Another Day by East 17

East 17 went all out for their unofficial Christmas song. It was released in the festive period - mid November and managed to land the coveted Christmas number one spot - but doesn't actually mention anything Christmassy. Saying that, the white parkas the band wear in the music video have become just as memorable as the song and signify that it's chilly outside, so there is that. Amazingly, the song that Stay Another Day stopped getting the top spot was... All I want For Christmas Is You!

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25. Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney

Some eight years after former band mate John Lennon scored a huge Christmas hit with Merry Xmas (War Is Over), Paul McCartney added to the Christmas spirit with Wonderful Christmastime. It's a jaunty number and was released just after McCartney departed his post Beatles band, Wings. While it doesn't have the message of Lennon's festive opus, it is very hummable.

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26. 2000 Miles by Pretenders

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This song isn't about Christmas but has been adopted as a Chrimbo anthem, thanks to it charting over the Xmas period many a time. That and the fact that singer Chrissie Hynde dresses up as a member of the Salvation Army somewhere where it is snowing heavily in the video. It's a beautiful song, one that quite rightly gets belted out on many a drunken Boxing Day karaoke session.

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Image Credit: Real Records / Sire Records

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27. Christmas In The Hollis by Run DMC

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Sampling Back Door Santa - of course it does - plus a ton more Christmas classics, this is a funk-driven Xmas track that has found itself on many a soundtrack, including Christmas classic Die Hard and, more recently, The Grinch. It's an absolute banger of a tune that is so cool for school, Argos nicked it for an advert a few years back. Argos!

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28. All Alone On Christmas by Darlene Love

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Originally asked to contribute the ace Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) to the second Home Alone movie, Darlene Love declined and wanted to pen something original, which also ended up being one of the Christmas songs of all time. The E-Street Band sax does it for us, but the whole song is just a fantastic, fun Christmas tune.

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29. Lonely this Christmas by Mud

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This song could have been dismissed as an Elvis Presley parody song, but it is earnest enough to stand up on its own and scored Mud their second number one, the first being Tiger Feet. We're happy the Glam Rockers decided to croon this one as, piss-take or not, it's a brilliant Christmas song.

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30. It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas by Pet Shop Boys

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It may be a less obvious choice, but the Pet Shop Boys are one of the most consistent acts out there – and their Christmas offering is no different. Plus, it references Bing Crosby – how much more traditional do you want?

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