As I was driving this evening, quite literally, through the holiday bustle, listening to the holiday music channel on my satellite radio, I started to daydream. Don’t worry – I stayed in my lane. But I got to thinking about all the Christmas songs I love, and, conversely, the songs for which I do not have as much cheer.

So, without further ado, my Top 10 Christmas Songs of All-Time (and, ahem, my Bottom 10 Christmas Songs of All-Time):

 

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee) – This song is like popcorn for your brain. You hear it in the car? You’re bouncing. You hear it at home, you can’t help but dance. It’s fun. And no one can turn the word ‘couple’ into a three-syllable word quite like Brenda Lee. I challenge you not to get a sentimental feeling.

Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley) – I’ll admit it. I was never an Elvis fan. Not young Elvis, not old Elvis, not Elvis-on-a-Stamp. I just never liked the guy. I couldn’t trust anyone whose lip curled so unnaturally. That said, I love this song because it sounds like he’s singing on top of an overloaded washing machine during the spin cycle. And who hasn’t knocked a few back at a Christmas party and channeled Vibrating Elvis?

All I Want for Christmas is You (Mariah Carey) – This is a sentimental value song. I’ve written about it a few times now. Long story short, my family ‘rings in’ the Christmas season to it every year. The season simply cannot begin without this song. That’s just a rule. And, honestly, there’s nothing quite as intoxicating as the first few notes.

The 12 Days of Christmas (Really, anyone. Who cares?) Why do I love this song? Because it’s so damned long. You can wander off, get a drink from the water fountain, snag a few sugar cookies, and use the restroom, all before jumping in on the next verse. And it has a way of becoming pretty funny after, say, nine, when nobody’s quite sure whether the lords are supposed to be leaping, or the pipers piping, or something should be laying eggs. And then there are the people who get winded trying to sing all the way through. It’s a good time.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Burl Ives) – I love all songs – all media, actually – in which I can interject unsolicited commentary. Like a lightbulb!

Frosty the Snowman (Gene Autry) – Personally, I enjoy Frosty’s fast-paced life, the drama, the suspense. Will he melt away or won’t he? And it is a little magical to think about a pile of snow coming to life and cavorting with children. Let’s face it: We like snowmen. We just can’t get enough. (Author’s Note: The real reason Frosty was put on this list is because that’s the first record I ever owned. Once I got to this item, I realized that I would date myself by talking about the records I owned, so I decided not to discuss it.)

Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms) – What’s not to love about this song? The bells? The guitar riffs? And it’s got a hop in it, just like Rockin’ Around the Christmas TreeHow come no one ever invited me to a hop? Or bought me a pop in a glass bottle? Or let me wear his Letterman jacket? This curdles my cold cream and gets my rollers all in a bunch. You know what? Never mind. I’m going to stay home and wash my hair.

Little Drummer Boy (Harry Simeone Chorale) – This one is simple. It’s my grandmother’s favorite Christmas song. She used to get all misty when it came on, and say, “Steph, ooh, Little Drummer Boy!” and she’d continue, “Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum!” with a far-off look in her eye. It does, and always will, remind me of her.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town (anyone BUT Bruce Springsteen) – This is one of the songs that we all learn as kids. In fact, I’ve started teaching it to my son. Because nothing, and I mean nothing, beats threats from and old man you don’t know, who has total control over whether or not you receive anything for Christmas. Nothing.

Silver Bells (Johnny Mathis) – I love it. I do. And it’s so melodic. Just fun to sing. There’s not much to say beyond that. Except that it’s about precious metals and shopping. How could any woman not love it?

 

My Bottom 10 (If I never heard these again, it would be too soon.)

1961 reissue, utilizing the animated makeovers...
1961 reissue, utilizing the animated makeovers for The Alvin Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Christmas Song (Alvin & The Chipmunks) – I don’t quite know how we came to love the Chipmunk voice. I’d like to think it was carryover from the ’70’s, maybe a little residue left over there, but I’m not feeling these fuzzy little freaks. And Theodore, with that godforsaken hula hoop.  Get a real job, Dave.

Feliz Navidad (José Feliciano) – Okay, fine. I’ll admit it. The first five times, it’s not so bad. We don’t know the words. We make noises that resemble the words. We sound like complete fools. And once you hit the tenth or eleventh time, the madness begins to set in. Especially in a store. And you can’t turn it off in a store…

Last Christmas (Wham!) – Christmas heartbreak, as extolled so geniusly by George Michael. Though I was also given a Wham! record, I can’t say I was ever a fan. I was always more confused by him than anything else. I remember standing in a record store, in the mall, just staring at the cover of his Faith album. I was about nine. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.  Hey, George! Quit your bitching! The future shall bring many conquests.

Do They Know It’s Christmas (Band Aid) – Another gem from 1984, where the mega rich come together to beg for money to feed the poor. You know what else you could have done? Wrote them a check. Would have saved us twenty-eight years of grief. (Love you, Bono! Call me!)

Happy Christmas (John Lennon & Yoko Ono) – Never a Beatles fan. I know, I know. Sacrilege. And never, ever a Yoko fan. I’m glad Vietnam ended. I truly am. It was a long and miserable time for this country. But I don’t need (or want) to commemorate it every December. I just don’t. We should leave this one to the history books.

Merry Christmas Darling (The Carpenters) I just never got into The Carpenters. And a big, fat NO to every version henceforth. This song just – How you say? – sucks.

Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey (Lou Monte) – Never heard this song? It’s a treat. Do look it up. In the meantime, I will try my level best not to launch into a rant. This song is pretty popular around these parts, since a lot of Italians literally dropped anchor here, and count this little gem as part of their Christmas tradition. This song is about a loud, annoying donkey who enjoys kicking. And the guy swings in and out of Italian during the song. It’s a marscapone-covered train wreck. Stare at it for a little while, and then move along.

The Christmas Song (Nat ‘King’ Cole) – ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’ is a phrase I have no interest in hearing. Ever. Again.

Silent Night (Doesn’t Matter!) – Let me qualify this one. I like this song. A lot, actually. Despite my having been forced to sing it hundreds of times in fourth-grade Glee Club. I’ve forgiven that. What I hate about it is that it’s one of those songs, you know, like I Will Always Love You or The Star-Spangled Banner, that everyone knows the words to, everyone sings, and most people butcher. Some songs are best left to the pros. This is one of them. Let’s let Celine sing it. That’s why she makes the big bucks.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (John Cougar Mellencamp) – This is another song I actually like. Kind of. I don’t like sexual undertones in any of my Christmas songs, as we’ve recently seen, so I’m really all set with anyone smooching Santa. My issue with this song, though, is a guy, in tight jeans, bopping his head and licking his lips, sweatily belting out the lyrics. I find it slightly revolting.

Santa Baby (Madonna) – When I hear Madonna attempting to purr and pout the lyrics to this song, I get an overwhelming urge to grab her lips and twist them until she cries ‘uncle’. Think she’s still into that sort of thing?

 

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197 Comments »

  1. I think they made us sing the Chipmunks song in 4th grade glee club also. Otherwise why would I know all the words to that terrible terrible song?

  2. My kids love “Last Christmas,” and when I said I couldn’t stand it, they demanded an explanation. I told them that it’s a break-up song, but not a Christmas song. You can substitute the word “Thursday” for “Christmas” and it would make the same amount of sense. So now, whenever we hear it, we immediately start singing our new version, and I am *much* happier.

    And any version of “Santa Baby” creeps me out.

  3. Great list! I never did understand “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause.” So the kid thinks mommy’s cheating on daddy, and he’s supposed to keep that a secret on Christmas morning? No wonder our kids are in therapy. 🙂

  4. Bruce has a great version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town! I agree with you about Do They Know It’s Christmas – I’ve already heard it on our local Xmas radio station at least 17 times. But I do love Feliz Navidad – could be because I speak and love Spanish, thought! 🙂

  5. I read an article in one of the Toronto papers last year that stated “Santa Claus is coming to Town” is the creepiest Christmas song ever. “He knows when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake”. Sounds more like a stalker than someone you’d willingly invite into your home. The columnist called it a Yuletide version of “Every Breath You Take”.

  6. LOL @ “All I Want for Christmas Is You” — I am convinced that it is impossible NOT to dance to that song when it comes on. In the car, at home, even in a store (find an empty-ish aisle and bust a move).

    I am always torn about whether I like or hate “Baby It’s Cold Outside” — such lovely sounding voices, and yet the undertones are definitely disturbing. This is a Christmas song??

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  7. Hah–Some of the songs I like are in your bottom list! :D…. I love the Wham song! I never get tired of it. :0…..Have you heard a song called, “Coming Home For Christmas” by Chris Rhea….it is a really pretty song and has a nice beat to it–you should check it out. And there’s this classic song by an orchestra (can’t remember their name). It has no words, just instrumental and I think it’s from the 50’s–but every time I hear it I have to turn the radio up! It’s one of those classic tunes.

    Congrats on being FP!

  8. I cannot STAND “Santa Baby”!!! …or “The Little Drummer Boy,” believe it or not. (I don’t know why on that one – it just annoys me.)

  9. I honestly said dislike Christmas songs. they all sound way too commercial to me. I am from those people, who prefer to spend Christmas with their family even if that means having no presents at all, instead of actually having a lot of presents but missing the most important people in my life.
    Christmas songs ruin the whole celebration for me-they kind of depress me since all of them in my opinion were created to be sold, not to bring joy to the people on a huge celebration like this (that used to be meaningful)

  10. Madonna’s “Santa Baby” is wretched mainly because it is such a ridiculous travesty of Eartha Kitt’s gorgeous original, which is a truly heartfelt meditation on the true meaning of Christmas. At least, that’s what Christmas would have been all about if Eartha Kitt had been purring to me.

  11. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is the creepiest. Ew.
    Also, I think we have the same hatred for Silent Night. It’s not the melody itself, which is quite lovely, it’s the butchery. People get so serious and sing the beginning so. very. slowly. Ugh.

  12. We are sisters from another mother: Elvis? Meh. Bruce? Nay. Madonna? Oy vey!!! (I was just telling a Facebook friend yesterday: That song makes me phlegmy…)

    Great lists, my long lost Santa song soul sista!

    🙂

  13. I am with you on Silent Night — when done right, it brings tears to the eyes, it can be so achingly beautiful. When done by a group of kindergarteners or tone-deaf adults, please, put me out of my misery. Great post — glad Freshly Pressed brough it to my attention (congrats)! ~ Kat

  14. Fun post and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! We seem to have completely different musical tastes – I actually adore Feliz Navidad (maybe because it has so few words to learn and if you butcher them nobody knows the difference) and Last Christmas (probably because it was playing endlessly the December I met my husband). I am with you, however, on distaste for Do They Know It’s Christmas, although when I blogged a couple of years about the worst Christmas songs (http://asuburbanlife.com/2010/11/29/is-it-a-carol-if-its-awful/) I voted it #1 worst!

  15. I firmly believe there will never be anything worse than that socially tone-deaf, shit sandwich of a song – “Do they know it’s Christmas”. I mean, how condescending could you possibly be? Awful. Just awful. I also hate Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.” Wham is total dreck for sure, and Happy Christmas is not even a cliche anymore it’s so over played.

    On a happier note, I will never not love Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Most of my fave songs are all East Coast Canadians stuff – they never fail to bring a smile to my face.

    Great post! x

  16. I like the donkey song! Agree on the chipmunks though, horrific voices, especially if you’re nursing one of those middle-of-the-day hangovers that result from those festive days…

  17. My kids are trained to get up and change the station if that song ever comes on. My middle son keeps threatening to buy me the movie starring Rob Lowe. I don’t know what I have ever done to that kid to deserve such a threat.

  18. I am ready to stick forks in my ears because the song being played most often by our local holiday stations is “Merry Christmas, Darling.” And if I hear Karen Carpenter claim that logs on the fire fill her with desire one more time..well…I might throw myself on top of one.

    Great lists, my friend.
    I’d like to add “Christmas Shoes” to the bad side…no song celebrating the holidays should be built around a mom’s death.

    Just no.

  19. Aww, what’s your beef with Bruce? His version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town is tied for my favorite with the Pointer Sisters’ version.

    One of my favorite Christmas songs of all time is probably Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. We used to play it in high school band every year at the end of the Christmas concert, and when you were a senior, you got to wear a Santa hat during the song. It also has a really jazzy piccolo part that was super fun to play.

    Ah, memories.

  20. Ugh, Christmas Shoes is the WORST. And I like just about every song on the Carpenters’ Christmas CD except Merry Christmas Darling and the creepy one about an altar boy…

  21. Madonna, yeah not good.

    Once a season I have to hear one of my all time favorites “another white Christmas”‘

  22. Agree with many of your selections – however – I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus? It was Daddy, get it; “Oh what a laugh it would have been if Daddy had have only seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night”. When you look at it that way – a young child stealing downstairs to find parents kissing, well, c’mon, have a heart. I wish I’d have seen my mom and dad smooching under the mistletoe.

  23. I love the Hall & Oats version of “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” and my fave version of “Little Drummer Boy” is definately the one by David Bowie and Bing Crosby!

  24. Although I personally dislike most things Xmas, and actually can’t stand most carols and plain cringe at the so-called Christmas songs, I found this post quite inspiring. And Christmassy. I will send the link to a couple of friends, one of whom actually posted a live Mariah Carey rendition of All I Want (etc.) this very afternoon on FB.
    Congrats on being PF, stranger! anyways 🙂

  25. I like to envision someone keeping Johnny Mathis put away in a closet most of the year, and then they take him out during December, just like they do Christmas decorations. While away in a closet, they keep him wrapped up in a plastic bag. When they take him out, they unwrap him and press a button in the back. Then he starts singing “Winter Wonderland”.

  26. What a cute post!!! One of my favorite Christmas songs is “The Bell That Could’nt Jingle” on my Tijuana Brass Christmas album. Don ‘ t hear it often actually but great tune! May your holiday season be as Merry as your fun post! Thanks!

  27. After reading a few of your “least favourites,” I’ve gotta say I was surprised not to see the date rape song on there (Baby it’s cold outside)… *shiver* “say, what’s in this drink?”

  28. What about Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby?” Cute? No?
    “White Christmas” is not among your favorites? I guess not.
    Love your comment about Elvis’ unnaturally cured lip. So true And wasn’t he just too “pretty?”

  29. Christmas aside, I just appreciate you’ve provided a platform for people, like me to say they can’t stand Bruce Springsteen. And like you, I’ve always wanted to to, but was always like….really???

    I’m with you on Mariah Carey for sure. But, the Wham song, Do They Know It’s Xmas (I’m from the ’80s) and So This is Xmas always bring a tear to my eye, even if I’m hear it while buying a bra at Victorias Secret. And yes, the who Live Aid celebrity thing was a giant PR stunt, but it was the 80s and there was Bono, Sting, Bob Gelddof and I was 16, so I thought it was the .

    THe only song I would add to my favorite list are The Waitresses. That’s how I feel this year, which is twisted because I have a family.

    Glad I found your site and congrats on being FP’d.

    Becca

  30. I also don’t like Santa Baby, but was the original song actually sung by Madonna? I could have sworn somebody else sang it.

    Also the awful country song Christmas Time’s a Comin. I don’t even know who sang the original version, there are so many covers of this song by different country music artists on Youtube. I didn’t even know this song existed until I moved to Spain for two years. I taught English in a school to elementary Spanish-speaking kids and the school participated in an English Christmas concert. The song picked by the teacher was this song (how he found this song, I have no idea). I had to repeat this song day in and day out for 4 months straight… I never want to hear it again (also not a huge country fan).

  31. I totally love some Christmas music, and other songs make me want to throw tantrums. This list really nicely summed up how I felt about what’s being pumped through every mall speaker right now!

  32. I’m fascinated about how discripted you are about every song, very good, I couldn’t remember that many songs……I’m impressed.

  33. Great list! The one song I can not stand is “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” it is the most red-necky, lame, not funny, etc. but speaking of red-necky that I do like is Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family” . Merry Christmas to you!

  34. I LOVE All I Want For Christmas is You! Another one of my Christmas radio station favorites is the Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie.

  35. Great post and congrats on getting FP!

    I agree with you on many of the songs you’ve listed. Particularly “Happy Christmas”. I don’t know what it is with that Lennon song and “Imagine”. Two hugely worshiped songs that are simply over appreciated, overplayed and have simply been reduced to the level of “old chestnut” over time. Long past time to put both of them to bed.

    I generally don’t care for Christmas carols and such. I don’t expect every song to carry a heavy message, but I find Christmas related music to be more superficial and vapid than most.

  36. Though I can’t say I completely agree with your choices for best and worst Christmas songs, I do appreciate the seasonal post. Christmas music plays 24/7 at my job for the month of December so I am definitely getting to hear some of the best and worst over and over again. Congrats on FP!

  37. Apologies to all who came before me, I ran out of time to read the responses, but felt I had to have my two-cents-worth.

    I work in a supermarket and have had Christmas music/muzak since the 4th November!!! And have had enough of most versions of the classical Christmas carols – in 10+ years you can only take so much of these.

    I feel obliged to make the following observation, which may offend some.
    Bing Crosby is SATAN!! How many Christmas songs did this guy do? and why do they have to be converted into muzak – is someone on $100K per year that bored?
    I do agree with Feliz Navidad (José Feliciano) being on the worst list, an absolute shocker!!
    2 cents completed………. remember, Bing Crosby is SATAN!!

  38. Nice list. I would have put Holly Jolly Christmas as the Burl Ives song in your Top 10. Same with It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams. Add to the Bottom 10 – Jingle Bells by the Singing Dogs.

  39. You know what made me insane about Do They Know It’s Christmas? Here’s news asshats, they don’t know it’s Christmas because they are Muslim, so do some homework and then write your check.
    Congrats on the FP!

  40. I absolutely love Christmas music, actually listen to it all year but I do agree with your lists. There are certain people who just should not sing Christmas songs. Springsteen is one of them, Madonna is another. The only version of Happy Christmas I can stand to listen to is by Neil Diamond.
    Congratulations on being Fresh Pressed.

  41. I had a blast reading this. Only recently have I learned the amazingness of All I Want for Christmas is You – the beginning is killer. Santa Baby has always creeped me out – no matter who sings it. I feel like I’ve been lucky by not hearing or knowing of a good part of your 10 worst. I’m with you on Silent Night too – stop trying to make it new. Just let it be what we all know as Silent Night – and have someone good sing it!

  42. Even though I do not celebrate Christmas( I am not a Christian) I love this time of the year. I really like Jingle Bells Rock and All I want For Christmas is you. Enjoyed reading your post.Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  43. Great post! You have most of my favorites on there (luckily in your top 10 list). I also love a good rendition of “Oh Holy Night.” And yeah, if I never hear Wham’s song again, it will be too soon.

  44. I am reading this in school and everyone is looking at me because I am literally on the floor laughing. You’re soooo funny!!!

  45. My favorite Christmas tune is “What Child is This” (by Vanessa Whiliams, or most versions) and my least favorite song is any of the songs they play a zillion times throughout December on one of those 24/7 Christmas music radio
    stations.

  46. I agree with you on many of your choices. WHAM? hell no. Band Aid? Just rub it in to those poor little starving Africans. I am so glad I found your blog. You are hilarious.

  47. The Christmas Shoes song is the worst in my book. Seriously, what kind of dad lets their little child go out on Christmas Eve to purchase shoes for his dead wife?

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