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MusicRadar: The 25 best Christmas songs of all time

The Christmas song has been a staple of pop culture for well over 60 years. Every December, radio stations dust off a collection of classic croons, festive party anthems and odes to loved and lost ones from Christmases gone by. And then there are the throngs of new pop starlets desperate to tear off their own corner of that evergreen Christmas song royalty cheque.

But which one is the best? Which song distils the spirit of Christmas purely enough to send nagging Aunt Ethel into a post-pudding coma, shutting her up just in time for the Queen’s speech?

When Ask MusicRadar posed the question, we knew that this had the potential to be more donkey derby than heavyweight title fight. But who crossed the line first?

Here are the 25 best Christmas songs of all time, as voted for by MusicRadar’s music-making community and the readers of Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music, Guitar Techniques and Rhythm magazine.

25. Mary Boy Child

Marys Boy Child was a substantial hit for Harry Belafonte in 1956, although the best-known version (and the one likely to appear on your Xmas Hits compilation) is Boney Ms take, re-worked and re-titled to Marys Boy Child - Oh My Lord.

Written by: Jester Hairston (and Frank Farian, Fred Jay on the Oh My Lord version)

24. Frosty The Snowman

Originally recorded by Gene Autry And The Cass County Boys in 1950 as a follow-up to the previous year’s hit Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty The Snowman - as well as spawning an animated short in 1954 - is another oft-covered standard in festive music. They don’t come much better than the Jackson 5’s stomping Motown version.

Written by: Walter ‘Jack’ Rollins and Steve Nelson

23. Winter Wonderland

The tune adopted by chanting fans on football terraces is, of course, from Winter Wonderland. Released first by Richard Himber in 1934, the song, like every festive staple, has attracted its fair share of interpretations. And ‘Wonderland’s are as diverse as any you'll hear: Bob Dylan, Cocteau Twins, Cyndi Lauper, Ozzy Osbourne ft. Jessica Simpson… we could go on. But we’ll leave it to Ozzy's version and walk away.

Written by: Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith

22. In Dulci Jubilo by Mike Oldfield

This list doesn’t contain any traditional carols, apart from this one: In Dulci Jubilo (translated to ‘In Sweetest Rejoicing’ or ‘Good Christian Men, Rejoice’) is thought to have been written by the “German mystic” Heinrich Seuse in 1328-ish. It was translated into English by Robert Lucas de Pearsall in 1837 and it was this version that multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield transformed into the festive standard we know and love today.

Written by: Heinrich Seuse, Robert Lucas de Pearsall, John Mason Neale

21. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Possibly the best tool a parent has for keeping their kids in check throughout the year: “He [Santa] knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake". The Jackson 5 know it, so do Alvin And The Chipmunks and so does this Bruce Springsteen's version, whose rockin’ version is the fifth most played (or, “most murdered”) Christmas song since 2003 in the UK.

Written by: J. Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie


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