Classic Christmas Songs: The Ultimate List
When I was growing up, my school took a half hour each morning, a couple of weeks before Christmas, to have us all gather in the gymnasium to sing Christmas songs. It was a great way to get into the spirit of the holidays (not that I needed it) and also a great way to stop the teaching time. This is no longer a practice where I live, but the memories will always be with me.
Back then the choice of Christmas songs was always the same and yet they are definitely still hits today. Of course, they are now considered Christmas classics, but they have managed to still hold a place in both the older and the younger generations hearts (even though very few have a funky rock beat). Follow me down memory lane to enjoy this list of classic Christmas songs and to take a peek at how they all began.
Frosty the Snowman
The kids love to hear and sing the tale of Frosty the Snowman who was brought to life by a magical hat. This song was written by Steve Edward Nelson and Walter “Jack” Rollins – the same two that brought us Peter Cottontail. The first singer to give a voice to Frosty was Gene Autry in 1950. Even though this song can be heard around the holidays, it actually makes no reference to the Christmas season.
12 Days of Christmas
You either love it or hate it, but one thing is for sure, the repetitive lyrics will be stuck in your head for hours after you hear it. The 12 Days of Christmas was first published in England back in 1780 and didn’t originally have any music to it. The music was later added in 1909 by a composer by the name of Frederic Austin – he was also responsible for the drawing out of the, Five golden rinnnnngs…
The Christmas Song
You may recognize this popular Christmas classic by its more well know name, Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire. This song was written in 1944 by Bob Wells and the Velvet Fog himself, Mel Torme. Interesting enough, the duo wrote this song on a blistering hot day in an attempt to “think cool, stay cool.” It has been performed by many artists and still remains a favorite today.
This catchy song is one of the best known Christmas classics. It was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857 and was never intended to be a Christmas song, but rather a song to celebrate the American Thanksgiving. Today young and old alike enjoy the simple tune and upbeat lyrics….“oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh!”
Joy to the World
Written originally as a hymn in 1719, an English writer by the name of Isaac Watts, probably had no clue at the time that his song would go on to be the most-published Christmas hymn in all of North America (as of the late 20th century). If you have ever heard this song performed with a large choir, then you know the power and impact it can have – breathtaking and simply beautiful.
If you are dreaming of a white Christmas, then this song may be your favorite. White Christmas was written by Irving Berlin in 1940, but it was Bing Crosby’s smooth voice that brought it to the charts. In fact, according to Guinness World Book of Records, White Christmas is the best selling single of all time with an estimated 50 million copies sold.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
What could be a better premise for a Christmas song, than one that reminds kids… “he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake…?” Pop it into your CD player and let this little ditty straighten them right out. Santa Claus is Coming to Town was first played in November of 1934 and sold over 400,000 copies by that Christmas.
Written and composed in 1818 by two Austrian gentlemen, Silent Night is one of the most popular classic Christmas songs today. It has been recorded in many tempos and musical genres by a number of singers and musicians. It was even declared an, intangible cultural heritage in 2011.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. But do you recall… where this cute song all began? The song of Rudolph was written in 1939 by Johnny Marks. He created this cute classic to accompany the book by the same title, published by the Montgomery Ward Company. Today, Rudolph and his red nose have gone on to be a favorite among kids all over the world.
The Little Drummer Boy
“I played by best for Him…” is just one of the touching lines in this classic, 1941 Christmas song, The Little Drummer Boy. Even as a child I was touched by the lyrics and the rum pum pum pum of the little drummer boy’s drum. This song was originally intended to be practice material for a girl’s amateur choir. However, a song with this kind of depth and feeling was destined to be a classic Christmas hit.
Classic Christmas songs have been bringing us joy and the Christmas spirit for years and will continue to do so each holiday season. There are so many wonderful classic carols to choose from, you are sure to find your favorites. Get into the holidays this year with some classic Christmas music and you may just find yourself, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree…