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Share to PinterestEvery Holiday Soundtrack Needs These Christmas Songs

Every Holiday Soundtrack Needs These Christmas Songs

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestEvery Holiday Soundtrack Needs These Christmas Songs

Christmas carollers have serenaded folks on street corners since the 19th century, though the concept of carols goes back even further. That means lots of time for favorites to develop and nostalgia to be born.

This list of Christmas songs we adore is full of wonderful classics that should definitely be interspersed throughout any holiday party or Christmas dinner playlist you put together this season.


Santa Claus is Coming to Town

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James "Haven" Gillespie wrote this secular carol for Eddie Cantor's radio show shortly after his brother died. Gillespie's childhood memories with his sibling and mom inspired the lyrics about naughty children, and John Fred Coots's music brought them to life.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town was first performed on air in 1934 and sold tens of thousands of records within a day. It's been a perennial favorite ever since. The Queen of Christmas, pop star Mariah Carey, covered the song in 1994 and other legends like Michael Bublé, Neil Diamond, Bruce Springsteen, and The Temptations have too.


Deck the Halls

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Deck the Halls has a long history, originating from a 16th-century Welsh winter song called Nos Galan. Early versions had some bawdy lyrics, such as "Oh! how soft my fair one's bosom/ Fa la la la la la la la la." These were made more PG by a Scot named Thomas Oliphant, who included the enduring phrase "Tis the season" in his 1862 rendition.


Jingle Bells

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Jingle Bells is one of the most widely recognized Yuletide tunes. It was written by the American songwriter and composer James Lord Pierpont in Massachusetts, circa 1857. There are question marks around whether this non-religious ditty was meant to be a song for Noel, but by the late 1860s, it was well-established as a Christmas tune.

Critics call Jingle Bells a derivative money-grab that borrows from sleigh-riding and racing songs. Either way, it's now the most famous sleigh song of all time and the first song to be performed by astronauts in space.


Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

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Hugh Martin penned this Christmas classic for the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis. Initial versions were too depressing, so Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli urged the stubborn Martin to lighten up. Garland's character sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to lift her sister's mood when they move away from the home they've known.

Eventually, Martin gave in, made the lyrics more hopeful, and made further adjustments for Frank Sinatra's version of the song.


The Twelve Days of Christmas

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As it goes on, this cumulative carol lists more and more gifts presented by the narrator's true love. The Twelve Days of Christmas dates back to 18th-century England when it was a traditional folk melody—many signs point to this song coming from the North of England, specifically Newcastle.

Small lyrical variations crop up over subsequent decades, but what hasn't changed is the song's popularity.


Silent Night

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Silent Night is another instantly recognizable carol for secular and religious families alike. It hails from Austria and was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber; UNESCO declared the song an intangible cultural heritage piece in 2011.

The beautiful, low-key carol has been featured in many Christmas movies and is a December staple.


Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

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With music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Sammy Cahn, the 1945 song Let it Snow was written in Hollywood amid a heatwave. You can imagine the songwriters wiping their sweaty brows and sipping on cold beverages while coming up with this winter classic.

In the Southern Hemisphere, you'll also hear this winter song during June, July, and August.


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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Johnny Marks created this cheerful song about a character written by his brother-in-law Robert L. May for the company Montgomery Ward. Gene Autry's recording went on to become No. 1 on the charts in 1949 and sold millions of copies.

These days, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer remains a classic and is one of the first to come to mind, even if we can't always remember the order of the reindeer.


Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

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Also known simply as The Christmas Song, this tune represents all things warm and cozy, yet it's another example of a winter song composed during the height of summer.

Written by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé, BMI has referred to Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire as the most-performed Christmas song. It's certainly beloved by carolers.


It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

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Bing Crosby perfected two of the world's most precious Christmas songs. White Christmas is actually an Academy Award-winning Irving Berlin song from 1942, but Crosby's version is the world's best-selling single. Then Crosby put out a version of Meredith Willson's 1951 song, It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. It, too, was a runaway hit.



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