The 10 best, worst Christmas songs
Last updated 1/3/2024 at 10:58am
As soon as the turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes are put away on Thanksgiving, it's officially time to turn the holiday calendar to Christmas.
Notice I didn't mention mashed potatoes in the list of Thanksgiving foods. That's because mashed potatoes are the worst dish served in a classic Thanksgiving meal.
Think that's a controversial opinion? Good. That was just a setup for this column that leans into the Christmas spirit by sharing the 10 best and 10 worst Christmas songs.
You may think I, a true Christmas lover, took this list haphazardly. That couldn't be further from the truth.
Hours of Christmas music was listened to, long text threads and messages were exchanged with friends, loved ones and readers, songs were written down, erased and written down again. Every song on this list was listened to multiple times over the weekend...with one exception. More on that later.
Consideration was given to both "modern-day" songs, which in Christmas-speak, really boils down to the last 50 years. Equal consideration was given to classic carols and hymns. No stone was left unturned in this opinion column that is, fortunately, 100% correct.
So here, officially, is the definitive list of the 10 best and worst Christmas songs, with some honorable mentions included.
The lists are in no particular order. I have free time, but not that much free time.
The 10 best Christmas songs
• Have A Holly, Jolly Christmas-Nothing should get you in the holiday spirit more than the happy bellow of Burl Ives accompanied by a light background choral arrangement.
• Cold December Night-While I can't shake the hunch that Michael Bublé sings every song with a smug and off-putting smirk on his face, this original 2011 hit is the cherry on top of probably the best modern-day Christmas album.
• Blue Christmas-I promised controversy, and here you have it. Elvis's longing croons should put you right in the Christmas mood.
• Silver Bells-Here's one that shouldn't be controversial. This classic carol is in the running for the best Christmas song, period.
• A Mad Russian's Christmas-Any Trans-Siberian Orchestra song could make this list, but I'll go with this epic Nutcracker-inspired arrangement that takes you on a magical ride without speaking a word.
• Sleigh Ride-I prefer instrumental versions, with Arthur Fiedler's Boston Pops Orchestra arrangement being the peak option.
• Silent Night-A quiet carol/hymn that succinctly shares the true meaning of Christmas? Sign me up.
• Christmas in Hollis-No one has combined the gifts of Christmas and hip-hop better than Run DMC did in this 1987 track.
• O Holy Night-Where Silent Night offers quiet reflection, O Holy Night bellows the nativity story in a grand, impactful way. Trans-Siberian Orchestra's medley of this song and O Come All Ye Faithful is spectacular.
• The First Noel-Few nativity-themed carols make me more reflective or in the Christmas spirit.
• Honorable mentions: Angels We Have Heard On High, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Feliz Navidad, White Christmas, Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree .
The 10 worst Christmas songs
• Last Christmas-Starting off with a bang, the WHAM version is unbearable and Taylor Swift has the best cover of this famous, modernish tune. Boom. Controversy.
• Santa Baby-If I must explain to you how creepy and uncomfortable this song is, you should re-evaluate yourself and your life choices. A candidate for the worst Christmas song, period.
• I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus-Gross.
• The Christmas Shoes-This was the lone song that I didn't listen to in preparation for the column. That's because in 2010, my family and I heard this depressing Newsong tune about a boy buying shoes for his dying mother on the radio. We hated it so much, we swore to never listen to it again.
• All I Want For Christmas Is You-All I want for Christmas is to make Mariah Carey's famous song that topped the Billboard charts as recently as Dec. 2021 go away.
• Little Drummer Boy-Imagine, the virgin Mary has just given birth to the Savior of the world. Exhausted and relegated to a dirty barn, she finally gets the baby Jesus to fall asleep...when who should arrive? A boy smacking on a drum while an ox and lamb join in? If I was Mary, I'd be furious.
• Mistletoe-If you didn't go through your teenage years with this cringy Justin Bieber song on the airwaves every Christmas, count yourself lucky.
• Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer-When I was 10, I thought this song was hilarious. Now that my prefrontal cortex is fully developed, I realize that this is one of the worst Christmas songs.
• Mary, Did You Know?-I'll be honest, I don't have a good reason for not liking this song. Just not my favorite. And for that, it lands on the definitive "worst Christmas songs" list.
• Baby, It's Cold Outside-Listen to this song closely, and the lyrics are questionable at best...creepy at worst.
• Honorable mentions: Here Comes Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, The Christmas Song, Wonderful Christmastime, The Chipmunk Song.