Top Five/Bottom Five: Christmas Song Edition

It is less than one month until Christmas.

Let me repeat that.

It is less than one month until Christmas!

Wow.

As of yesterday, aside from our main tree – which we’ll collect from a local tree lot later this week/early next – all our holiday decor is up! It looks festive and cheery and I’m happy!


About today’s topic: I thought it simply wouldn’t do to make it to the end of NaBloPoMo without a single post about Christmas and decided to shamelessly borrow an idea.

Before I share my picks, let’s remember we’re all friends here. Just because other people think Last Christmas is a wonderful Christmas song, doesn’t mean we can’t all stay friends, right?! So let’s proceed with a mutual understanding we might have to agree to disagree…

my Top Five Christmas songs

This is hard. There are so many songs I enjoy at Christmas; I’m generally enamored with songs written in a minor key (think: I Wonder As I Wander or O Come, O Come Emmanuel). My mother always disliked minor songs and said they felt sad, but I absolutely love them.

While it’s hard to narrow down a Top Five, I think the following list is fairly accurate.

  • Silent Night. Aside from the fact I love the simple tune, it is definitely a sentimental fave. We used to sing this song in harmony as a family around the piano at Christmas. Well, not my Dad – he can’t hold a tune to save his life. Fun fact: when he started dating my mother, he went to great lengths to impress her. She happens to love music – singing + playing the piano – so he enrolled in a voice class at university. The instructor eventually told him he needed to drop out. He was that bad. More recently, Silent Night was a favourite “lullaby” I would sing to the kids at bedtime around Christmas.
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem. Like Silent Night, this one feels like a lullaby. It’s calm, it’s peaceful. I love it.
  • White Christmas. Need I say more?
  • Good King Wenceslas. This is probably the most unlikely entry in my Top Five. I have always loved this song, mostly for the message of reaching out and helping others. There is such rich imagery in this song and the line “In his master’s steps he trod. Where the snow lay dinted” always gives me chills.
  • Silver Bells. Cue all the neon lights for another Sentimental Alert. My husband references my childhood Christmases as being of the “Norman Rockwell” variety. And, for the most part, they were – with a few big caveats (maybe a future blog post?). Of all the special traditions and memories growing up, Christmas Eve was my favourite night of the year. We would sit around the tree and shake each gift and try to guess the contents. Then we’d sing songs together (my Dad would sit on the couch and listen) and we’d always, always, always finish with Silver Bells.

I consider the majority of Christmas songs to be quite pleasant and/or neutral. While I don’t go out of my way to listen to It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year or Jingle Bell Rock, they’re perfectly fine. I’ll sing along and consider them quite festive. But there are a few songs that I truly dread listening to.

My Bottom five Christmas songs

  • Santa Baby. Don’t like it.
  • Last Christmas. Sad. Depressing. And, like my wise friend Jenny astutely noted, you could easily substitute the word “Friday” for “Christmas” and no one would be any wiser.
  • All I Want for Christmas Is You. Nope. Not a fan.
  • Mary, Did You Know? I know I said I enjoy minor songs, but this one I cannot stand. The message is lovely, but the tune grates on my nerves to an extreme degree.
  • The 12 Days of Christmas. I know there are funny versions out there, but I am not up for listening to this much repetition. Thankfully I feel very loved by my husband WITHOUT the need for partridges or drummers or ladies dancing or lords a-leaping.

Your turn. What are your top five/bottom five Christmas songs? Of my top/bottom picks, do you vehemently disapprove of any of my selections?

I’m currently drafting a top/bottom holiday food edition; spoiler alert: cranberry sauce is a shoo-in for the bottom 5!

Here are a few bonus songs I enjoy:

  • Go Tell It On the Mountain – so versatile; there are so many great arrangements!
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
  • The First Noel/Mary Mary by Sarah McLachlan. (The Crash Test Dummies do a great version of The First Noel, too).

Header photo by little plant on Unsplash

45 thoughts on “Top Five/Bottom Five: Christmas Song Edition”

  1. Well, I like all the songs that you like, and three of your disliked songs are top of my list. I love a very wide range of music generally and Christmas music is no exception. There is only one song that I actively dislike that I can think of, and that is Do They Know It’s Christmas.

    1. I had never heard of that song until this year, and my husband showed me the lyrics. I can’t believe that is still being played, so offensive and colonialist!

    2. The message of Do They Know It’s Christmas is absolutely awful. Full stop. Thankfully I haven’t heard it this year at all.

      On a happier note, it’s so fun you’re such a Christmas music enthusiast and (a one horrible song aside) basically enjoy them all!

  2. Like you, I have my favorites and un-favorites, and am pretty neutral about the rest. Like, most Christmas songs that randomly come on the radio, I’ll listen to happily. Of your least favorites, I think we know which one I agree with! I’m also not a fan of All I Want for Christmas is You.
    You have some nice traditional songs on your top five list! To those I would add God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen- I love that one. I love the story of your dad being such a bad singer- and I DEFINITELY want a future blog post about your childhood Christmases!

    1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman is great; I love the Pentatonix version and how things are choreographed to it in the animated The Grinch movie. So fun!
      He is such a bad singer; there are many other stories on that one. He owns it fully and it’s actually very endearing, especially since all his kids love music (my brother is an excellent pianist, and we all sing) and my Mom is very musical.

  3. I love Silent Night, Oh Holy Night, I’ll be Home for Christmas, and Low How a Rose Err Blooming, the last of which is more of an advent song than a Christmas song. I am so burned out on Jingle Bells – it gets sung a lot since it’s one of the few songs Paul knows. I don’t have any other songs that I really strongly dislike that come to mind. I don’t mind Last Christmas!

    1. I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a classic!

      Jingle Bells is another one of those songs that feels like it is best relegated to the younger crowd!

  4. How about the Bare Naked Ladies/Sarah McLachlan medley of We Three Kings/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen? That’s a great song, which is not too saccharine. My favorite hymn is “Adestes Fideles” and “Good King W” – the latter is so fun to sing.

  5. I spent Christmas in London and fell in love with The Holly and the Ivy. I’d never heard it (I live in the US) and it was unique and different than all of the songs that get replayed constantly here.

    1. The Holly and the Ivy is great; I grew up listening to that one, but agree that I don’t really hear it much these days?! I wonder why?

    1. Maybe it was too much of a good thing for me? I’ve heard this song…about 500 times too many at this point? But Mariah Carey has got one of the most incredible singing voices out there, so it has everything to do with the tune/lyrics and nothing to do with her vocal performance!

  6. I wrote about a Christmas song today, too! What a coincidence.
    I’m areligious (grew up in a non-religious household and religion is basically just something I rarely think about except when I’m complaining about the church bells behind my house going off every fifteen minutes) and a lot of secular songs are my favorites because I don’t have any connection with the religious aspects of the holiday. So I’m down for All I Want for Christmas Is You and Jingle Bell Rock. But my husband was raised Catholic and he’s in charge of music 95% of the time, so I have a strange fondness for God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen because my husband has a choir Christmas album where the singers enunciate that “comFORT and joy” lyric so much that it’s become an ongoing theme in our household.

    1. My personal faith is deeply important to me, but having church bells chiming EVERY fifteen minutes AROUND THE CLOCK would make me very, very grumpy. Maybe, by God’s grace, I wouldn’t hire a wrecking ball to knock over the bell tower? Maybe?! Every time you mention those church bells I feel upset on your behalf!

      God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman IS a great song. There are so many different fun versions, too.

  7. Because I don’t consider myself a huge Christmas music fan, this was surprisingly delightful to contemplate! (And yes, Elisabeth, we can stay friends.)

    O Holy Night – A beautiful belter!
    Winter Wonderland – My a cappella group used to go around to local elementary schools and sing Christmas songs, and this was one of them.
    All I Want For Christmas Is You — WE’RE STILL FRIENDS, ELISABETH.
    The Hallelujah Chorus — I have memories of Christmas concerts where we all stood up to sing this and it gives me chills!
    You Make It Feel Like Christmas — This is a bop, plain and simple.

    Bottom picks? Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer and All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth. No thank you.

    You may have performed a Christmas miracle, because I have an urge to listen to Christmas music right this second, when usually I hold out until December!

    1. Yay!
      1) I’m glad we’re still friends.
      2) I’m glad you’re in a festive spirit

      I have to admit that I feel like I’m a bit Christmas music-ed out (this IS not good news because I’m only in my 30s and hope to live for another 50+ years…).

      For at least a decade I sang an O Holy Night song in church. Of all the Christmas songs I hear over the season, this one is the one that makes me think of my Mom the most (she has a specific arrangement of O Holy Night she would always play for me).
      Winter Wonderland. Awesome!
      We’ll skip All I Want for Christmas and keep our friendship intact.
      I don’t think I know You Make It Feel Like Christmas?

      I’m not a fan of your bottom two; to be fair, they always have felt like songs geared ONLY toward children (though adults sing them and they play them on the radio). Kinda like a Christmas version of The Wheels on the Bus. Every parent knows the song and tolerates it, but never goes out of their way to actually sing it!

      1. Went and listened to You Make It Feel Like Christmas (I hadn’t heard it before!), and…SO FUN! Bop indeed, and it is wonderful. I can see dancing around the kitchen to this prepping supper tomorrow night!

  8. As I’ve moved into the Spotify phase of my life, I’ve found that I have very very strong associations to specific Christmas albums I heard in my youth, and nothing else will do. I can listen to the Christmas playlists, but I VERY much prefer my top faves, which are:
    Amy Grant Home for Christmas
    Morman Tabernacle Choir Silent Night Greatest Hits
    The Nutcracker, specifically the soundtrack to the movie version featuring Macauley Culkin
    Other than that, I DO love me some Mariah, and I also love the song “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” (it was featured in The Crown and I fell in love, I’m certain I’ve heard it before but that was when I took the time to figure out what song it was) and generally chorale music.

    1. Yes! I love how I’ve been able to source my two favourite albums from my childhood on Spotify.

      I had no idea Culkin was in a movie version of The Nutcracker. I love the music, but have to admit I’ve never been a huge fan of the story. That said, I’ve gone to see local productions of the ballet multiple times!

      Mariah IS a crowdpleaser for sure, and I’m happy to be an anomaly on this one 🙂

  9. I sort of like “Carol of the Bells”, but that’s it. I avoid Christmas music like the plague and I dread going into stores during the season. It’s something to do with all the bells and background tracks, and sometimes the warbling. I do remember liking it as a kid though, and I will play something if my kids ask. I’m sure this ties into my not being a nostalgic person in general!

    1. Christmas music is…everywhere. I do feel like it’s oversaturated and, even personally, I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to as a kid. The season started so much later, then. We had a hard rule about not getting Christmas cassettes out until…it must have been almost mid-December? I think that helped it feel more “magical” and special.
      So I wonder if it has less to do with lack of nostalgia and more to do with the fact that the Christmas season has expanded into this 3-month long event. When my Dad was a kid, he would go to bed on Christmas Eve…and the adults would put the tree up! And then it would come down a few days later.
      Now I LOVE my tree, but I do think that celebrating certain things in a more narrow window does make it all feel more special. Like I’ve seen decorations at the store for months and could have bought an advent calendar back in October…

  10. I shamelessly stole this post idea. I love it! I leaned a little more contemporary so I didn’t review my favorite traditional carols, but this post has really put me in the Christmas spirit!

    Overall, I’m in alignment with you regarding the best and worst. I am not a fan of hugely repetitive Christmas songs. For me, “Little Drummer Boy” and for you, “12 Days of Christmas.” I do love some Mariah at Christmas though. Sparingly!

    1. Steal away! Love it.
      I’m not a big fan of Little Drummer Boy, though find it a lot less annoying than 12 Days of Christmas! The latter goes on – forever?!

  11. ‘Leise rieselt der Schnee’ (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=m13xwWorw9s) is my all time favorite. A lot of the German ones get me now. I went to a holiday concert for one of the choirs at UC a couple years ago. When they sang one of the German holiday songs I started crying because I was so moved. It made me realize how I sometimes miss spending the holiday season in my home country.

    1. Christmas and holidays in general end up with a DEEP sense of “place” for so many of us. I can only imagine how much you do miss spending it in your home country even if “home” now is across the Atlantic.

  12. I like all Christmas songs. I love your top 5 and your bottom 5 too. I also love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra Carol of the Bells song. I first saw it on the Macy’s Christmas display in New York and then it was on The Office. My husband laughs at me every year when I play it.

    1. I haven’t heard that version of Carol of the Bells in a while (it’s in a movie? Which one? Home Alone?), but it’s such a classic!!
      I don’t remember it from The Office, but I DO remember Angela singing The Little Drummer Boy!

  13. As an atheist, let me tell you that I LOVE the beautiful religious Christmas songs the best. I adore ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’, ‘Joy to the World’, ‘Silent Night’, ‘What Child is This’, and ‘The First Noel’.

    Of the more pop/secular type songs, I really like ‘Happy Christmas (War is Over)’, ‘Winter Wonderland’, and ‘Blue Christmas’. I love David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing ‘Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth’, and often sing the Bowie part in the shower. TMI, right?

    I abhor ‘Santa Baby’, ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’, and ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’.
    I’m agnostic on ‘Last Christmas’, though I do participate in Whamageddon (on Facebook)

    1. I’m very firmly in the dislike category for all the ones you dislike. For the most part, I listen to the music at home off Spotify, so I get quite a bit of autonomy these days. When I’m out shopping, whatever is playing in the store tends to blend into general background noise to me.

      I definitely prefer faith-based songs the best; to me, Jesus IS the central reason for my celebration and the lyrics reflect that, but beyond that…they also just feel like Christmas because they’re so familiar and classic!

  14. Have you heard the Straight No Chaser versions of some of these songs? They’re an a capella group out of the University of North Carolina, and I love the simplicity of just their voices!
    “O Holy Night,” “Silent Night,” and “Do You Hear What I Hear?” are my favorites.
    “Santa Baby” is on the top of my No Thanks list, but for a specific reason: I was in my middle school’s chorus, and we had a holiday concert. My chorus teacher (who was maybe in her 30’s? It’s tough to tell as a 13-year-old.) dressed up in a not-so-appropriate Mrs. Clause outfit and sang that song (solo) for the parents. She was a good chorus teacher, but that was not the best moment.

    1. I haven’t! I’ve never even heard of Straight No Chaser (though, what a perfect name for an acapella group). Listening to their rendition of Silent Night right now…

      I don’t like Santa Baby at the best of times and would despite it after a cringe-worthy holiday performance.

  15. Haha, this post is so fun… Christmas songs is where we really should draw the line LOL (just kidding).
    I’ll definitely have to post my own list, but for now let me tell you that it’s much harder to come up with Christmas songs that I hate than the ones I love (I love almost all Christmas music!).

    One of my favorites? The first Noel.

    1. I am neutral on a lot; like I don’t go out of my way to listen to some but I do find it easier to avoid overplay now that I mostly listen via Spotify and can curate my list!

    1. I love Silent Night! Joy to the World is often how we end Christmas Eve Services at church so it very much feels like a Christmas Eve service song to me – which happens to be my favourite night of the year!

  16. I love Christmas music so much!! I am extremely partial to what I consider to be the “classics”- so songs like Silent Night, O Holy Night, Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful, etc. I also like the non-religious “classics” (again, in my opinion- I’m not exactly sure what constitutes a classic), but like Let It Snow, Winter Wonderland, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, etc. O Holy Night is probably my all time “favorite”.

    I’m not much of a fan of anything that feels more recent and “poppy”- so I can take or leave All I want For Christmas, and I really do not like Last Christmas, or Baby It’s Cold outside, etc. I mean, I won’t like, turn the radio off if they play, but definitely not my favorites at all!

    1. Me too – the classics are my favourites. All the songs you list I love, and I’m not attracted to the modern “poppy” songs, but do new enjoy ballads/lullaby-type songs – Ingrid Michaelson is one of my favs for this category.

  17. Reading all these comments made me realize that in my mind I differentiate between Christmas songs and Christmas carols with carols being pretty specifically written for a church setting. I think I lean towards my favorite songs being Christmas carols just because I don’t happen to listen to a lot of pop music.
    I love carols sung by choirs – there’s something so hectic about the Holiday season that the ethereal sound of a choir is just the soothing calm that I need this time of year. I love the ones with pretty melodies especially – Gesu Bambino, Do you Hear What I Hear, Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabelle, The Holly and The Ivy, Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day, In the Bleak MidWinter
    I also love Once in Royal David’s City because that’s how the Lessons and Carols from King’s College always start and I love how the child who sings the opening solo isn’t chosen until the right before the broadcast starts, so there’s always a sense of anticipation and drama associated with that carol.

    1. There is a unique magic that comes from a group of people raising their voice in song together. It often gives me chills!
      I LOVE In the Bleak Midwinter (Sarah McLachlan does a great version)…we’re back to the minors again which are almost always a hit with me.
      Once in Royal David’s City is great. It makes me sad because some of these songs seem so “old” now and I wonder if my kids will have any link to them. There is just so much “competition” for airtime and many of these classics aren’t very well known. I play lots of old songs, but wonder if they’ll remember some of these less common ones that I grew up loving?

  18. My favorites, though I love pretty much all Christmas songs so it’s hard to choose only 5.
    Silent Night
    Hark the Herald Angels Sing
    Angels We Have Heard On Hight
    Cherry Tree Carol
    Carol of the Bells
    Joy to the World
    12 Days of Christmas – my childhood favorite and now my kid’s favorite, too!
    Fun prompt, thanks!

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