Christmas coming! That means mince pies, marathon TV-watching sessions and, yes, Christmas songs. Although you might have heard some of the anthems below so many times before that you'll want to want to perforate your eardrums with a candy cane – don't! You'll regret it later, and many festive pop songs are great works of art. If you really, properly listen to our countdown of the Top 10 festive tunes, you might just find your heart filling up with Christmas joy.
Top 10 Christmas songs
Mariah Carey – 'All I Want For Christmas Is You'
It’s not the best-selling Christmas anthem (that’s Bing at number five) and heck, it didn’t even make it to Number One in the UK, but Mariah tops our list of the greatest ever festive songs for one good reason – it’s catchier than a Christmas cold. Originally released in 1994, this selfless plea to be with a loved one has everything: sleigh bells, pop hooks, the right balance of schmaltz and soul, and uplifting vibes strong enough to launch a jump-jet. Sure, Wham! know their way around a chart-topper, but who wants to think about being jilted by an ex in the holidays? Darlene Love’s classic at number four shares a similar sentiment, but her bluesy howl can’t replicate the gaiety of Mariah’s falsetto. Nor can The Pogues’ rasping Shane MacGowan for that matter. The acid test of a great Christmas song is whether you get bored of it, and this one, we’re sure, is for life.
Wham! – 'Last Christmas'
There are so many winning elements to Wham!’s 1984 smash that its status as a solid gold Christmas staple – covered by such diverse talents as Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Crazy Frog – is forever guaranteed. A ballad of doomed romance, it features sleighbells and synths, plus some truly memorable knitwear in the video. But what really sets ‘Last Christmas’ apart is George Michael’s heart-on-sleeve delivery: his genuine heartbreak horror (‘My God! I thought you were someone to rely on’) and wistful, sexy whispers. The words ‘Merry Christmas’ never sounded so sultry. And that’s what makes this song so very special (special).
The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – 'Fairytale of New York'
Yes, you will hear it on repeat in the shops. Yes, the band are scraping the barrel a bit putting on an entire annual Christmas show, mainly for the purpose of playing this song live. But when was the last time you properly listened to Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues’ epic Big Apple-set fable? Shut your eyes and give it a go, and if you aren’t a nervous wreck by the fade-out, your heart (like that jumper from your nan) is two sizes too small. ‘Fairytale…’ is a perfect four-minute narrative of hope, despair and heartbreak – and, despite the profanity, it ends with love. It’s also 25 years old this year: high time it was Christmas Number One.
John Lennon & Yoko Ono – 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)'
Euphoric and scathing, as hopeful as it is resigned, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s definitive festive peace-on-earth song has transcended its original anti-Vietnam War purpose to become a Christmas stalwart.
The Waitresses – 'Christmas Wrapping'
As we get older Christmas begins to feel like little more than an inconvenience, but this bouncy new wave gem reminds us to resist the impulse to scream ‘bah, humbug’ and simply go with it. It may be the end of a tiring year, you may even be facing the possibility of a Christmas dinner for one, but, one way or another, the festive spirit will see you through. And if this song’s stomping disco rhythm section doesn’t pep you up, nothing will.
Kurtis Blow – 'Christmas Rappin'
At the beginning of this somewhat unlikely 1979 Christmas smash, you can hear the moment at which hip hop arrived. Interrupting a starchy recital of ’A Visit from St Nicholas’, Kurtis Blow launches into his own inner city yarn about Santa showing up to a Harlem Christmas party, producing a Yuletide classic – and rap’s first major label hit.
Band Aid – 'Do They Know It’s Christmas?'
Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s 1984 reaction to the Ethiopian famine, with contributions from Phil Collins, Sting, Bowie, Macca and Bono, was a publicity machine of epic proportions. It worked: ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ stayed at the top spot for five weeks, and was the biggest UK chart success of the decade. Put that all aside, and it’s also just a great (and surprisingly unconventional) pop song.
Slow Club – 'Christmas TV'
It’s a lesser-known festive favourite, but this ballad of December love is the definitive indie Christmas track. Slow Club’s boy/girl vocals tell a story of lovers desperately holding on to a moment of Christmas togetherness before they’re separated by life. It’s pretty and heartwrenching – and gives meaning to the phrase ‘Christmas twee’.