1. “White Christmas”
Not only the best-selling Christmas single ever, Bing Crosby’s 1947 recording of “White Christmas” is THE number-one-selling song of all time. What most people don’t know is that Crosby originally recorded the song five years earlier in 1942 with the Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter’s Orchestra. The later recording featured only Crosby and became the most popular version of the song.
2. “All I Want for Christmas is You”
Mariah Carey originally released her single in 1994, but the song gained popularity over the next decade. In December 2011, “All I Want for Christmas is You” held both the first and third slots on the charts. Michael Buble’s cover took the top spot, and Carey’s own duet with Justin Bieber took the third.
3. “Do You Hear What I Hear”
In 1962, Noel Regney and his wife, Gloria Shayne Baker, wrote this song as a plea for peace. America was in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and conflict seemed imminent. Since then, the song has become a Christmas classic. One of the most notable performances is Carrie Underwood’s at the 75th lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
4. “The Little Drummer Boy”
In 1955 this song was recorded by the Trapp Family Singers. Most of us know them as the Von Trapp Family Singers, as in Captain and Maria Von Trapp and their family. “Sound of Music,” anyone? Though originally written in 1941, the song remains popular today and most recently regained popularity through the a capella group Pentatonix.
5. “Silent Night”
Franz Gruber wrote “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve 1818 in Germany. Since then, “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” has been translated into 140 languages and been performed in every musical genre. Check out this version by Mannheim Steamroller.
6. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Judy Garland made this song famous in 1944 in “Meet Me in St. Louis.” The original lyrics read, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past.” Garland and movie producers though the lyrics were too sad and asked for a rewrite. The new lyrics became the ones we know today.
7. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”
Americans first heard this catchy tune in the 1966 Dr. Seuss Holiday TV Special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Thurl Ravenscroft not only sang the original but was also the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger. Christmas songs. They’re gr-r-reat!
8. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
The Roman Catholic Church in Boston was outraged when 13-year-old Jimmy Boyd released the first recording of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” in 1952. Church leaders alleged that the song mixed sexual innuendos with Christmas. Boyd personally met with the Archdiocese to explain that the song was intended to mean that the child’s father, dressed as Santa Claus, was kissing his mother under the mistletoe. After their meeting, the Archdiocese lifted their ban on the song.
9. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
In 1949, five different couples released duet recordings of this song. That’s five hit versions of the same song in the same year! Though released strictly as a romantic winter song, it has become closely associated with the love of the Christmas season … and also with the movie “Elf.”
10. “Last Christmas”
Wham took the charts by storm in 1984 with this Christmas break-up song. But did you know the song was originally written about Easter? Wham changed the lyrics to be Christmas-oriented to boost sales. In 2013, it was Spotify’s most-streamed single on Christmas Day.
11. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
After seeing a BBC report in 1984 highlighting the famine in Ethiopia, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure were inspired to raise money to provide relief for the victims. They co-wrote “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and assembled Band Aid, a group made up of the most popular British and Irish musicians of the era. Band Aid’s recording became the biggest-selling single in the history of the UK Singles Chart, selling 3 million copies by the end of 1984.
12. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Montgomery Ward employee Robert L. May created the story of Rudolph in 1939. Ten years later, May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote the song about Santa’s ninth reindeer that we all know so well. Marks also wrote Christmas classics “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” and “Holly Jolly Christmas.”
13. “Jingle Bells”
“Jingle Bells” was originally copyrighted under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh” in 1857. Now inseparably connected with the Christmas season, it was first written for a Thanksgiving celebration. On Dec. 16, 1965, astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra joined their talents to make “Jingle Bells” the first piece of music performed in space.