It is no secret, the holidays are almost upon us. We are closely getting to that time where Christmas songs and carols will be heard everywhere.
What better way to share the joy than learning some Christmas tunes. Here are the best Christmas songs and Christmas carols ever written.
Jingle Bells – Dean Martin
Jingle Bells is arguably the most known Christmas song ever. New England-born songwriter James Lord Pierpont wrote this song in 1857.
Interestingly, the name of this song was originally Open Horse, Open Sleigh. There is speculation that he wrote this song in honor of his town’s sleigh races.
This Jingle Bells version comes from American singer Dean Martin. It is included in his 1966 studio album, The Dean Martin Christmas Album. It is in the key of G and uses all open chords, as well as some dominant chords such as an A7 and a D7.
White Christmas – Bing Crosby
Even though I just mentioned that Jingle Bells can be considered the most recognized Christmas song, White Christmas holds the record for the world’s best-selling single in history.
White Christmas was written by American composer Irving Berlin. It is said he wrote it in 1940 in California, although there is no solid evidence of this.
This White Christmas version comes from Bing Crosby and was the very first public performance of this song. It is in the key of G and uses one particular chord outside of the scale that was very commonly used, Cm (iv).
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, is a song by American songwriter Johnny Marks. He composed this tune based on a story his brother-in-law Robert L. May wrote in 1939. A version of this song peaked on the US Charts in 1949.
There are many versions of this popular tune from artists such as The Supremes, The Temptations, and The Jackson 5. This version is the original #1 hit from Gene Autry, and it is in the key of A. It uses the three main chords from a major scale, the I, IV, and V.
We Wish You A Merry Christmas – Christmas Carol
We Wish You A Merry Christmas is another very popular Christmas carol. This one comes from Western England and dates back to the nineteenth century. Bristol-based composer and organist Arthur Warrell is the one who made this carol popular.
Once again, this Christmas carol has no particular version that stands out. The traditional carol is in the key of C and uses an E7 to gravitate towards A minor. This is one of the easiest Christmas songs you can learn.
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Michael Buble
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town was written by American Tin Pan Alley songwriters J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie. 1934’s banjoist Harry Reser version is the earliest recorded version.
The intention behind this song was to encourage people to be more charitable and help the most affected by the Great Depression that was occurring at the moment.
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’s Michael Bubble’s version is one of the most recent ones and it became very popular during the 2011 holidays. This one is in the key of C
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Michael Buble
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is a song written by American composers Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Judy Garland introduced this song to the world at 1944’s MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis.
In 2007, ASCP ranked Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas as the third most performed Christmas song.
We have another Michael Bubble’s version, which was recorded in 2011 as well. This version is in the key of G and has a very interesting bridge, which uses several passing chords such as Cm6, Bb Diminished, and F#7.
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Dean Martin
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! is a song written by lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne in 1945. This song was inspired by one intense heatwave in California both Sammy and Cahn experienced.
In reality, this song does not reference Christmas time in any way whatsoever. However due to a strong relation of snow-holiday times in the USA, this song is considered a popular Christmas song.
This version is from singer Dean Martin and its chord chart in several keys.
Frosty The Snowman – Gene Autry
Frosty the Snowman is another popular Christmas song. Written by American musician Walter “Jack” Rollins and songwriter Steve Nelson, this song was first recorded by Gene Autry in 1950.
This song talks about a snowman who, through magic, is brought to life. Frosty then roams around the city, playing with kids and spreading joy until the day of his departure.
Gene Autry’s version is in the key of C and uses a lot of secondary dominants. Secondary dominant chords function as a gravitational pull towards other chords (for example, C7 to F or A7 to Dm)
Deck The Hall – Christmas Carol
Deck The Hall is another traditional Christmas carol. This one comes from Wales and dates back to the 16th century. Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant wrote English lyrics to this song in 1862.
While there is no particular version that has stood out over others, I’ve chosen a version in the key of D. It is very simple and only has one cord out of the scale (E)
The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
The Christmas Song is another classic Christmas song from 1945. Written by American songwriters Robert Wells and Mel Tormé, this song became quite popular thanks to Nat King Cole’s rendition.
Nat King Cole’s version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974.
The Christmas Song is in the key of C and uses 7th chords to give it a richer, jazzier touch. A great song to explore jazz harmonies and cadences.
Silent Night – Bing Crosby
Silent Night is not a Christmas song but a Christmas carol. The main difference between a Christmas song and a Christmas carol is that carols are of religious nature and were written much earlier than Christmas songs.
This Christmas carol is one of the most popular Christmas carols of all time and was written in 1818 by Austrian church organist Franz Xaver Gruber to which Austrian priest Joseph Mohr added lyrics to.
Silent Night’s most popular version was sung by Bing Crosby in 1935. It is also the fourth best-selling single of all-time. This one is in the key of G.
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – Michael Buble
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas is a song written in 1951 by American flutist and composer Meredith Wilson. It is a common belief that he wrote this song while staying in Yarmouth’s Grand Hotel, as the song references several aspects of that hotel.
There are several versions of this song, two of the most popular being Perry Como’s version and Michael Bubble’s version. In this case, I’ll be focusing on Michael Bubble’s version.
This one was recorded in 2011 as the first track of his Christmas album. it is in the key of E and uses a capo on the second fret.
Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
Jingle Bell Rock is a Christmas song written by American songwriters Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe. It was popularized, however, in 1957 by Country music singer Bobby Helms.
This song is actually an extension of the original Christmas song Jingle Bells. It has a more early rock/rockabilly feel to it, which made it very popular in the late 50s.
Bobby Helms’ version is in the key of D and uses D tuning which is, in essence, involves a 2 step down retuning of the guitar (6th to 1st string: D-G-C-F-A-D)
The Twelve Days Of Christmas – Christmas Carol
The Twelve Days Of Christmas is one of the most popular Christmas carols we know. It is a carol published in 1780 in England, though considered to be of French origin.
This song has a cumulative format, meaning that each verse, you add more lyrics to it. In the case of this song, you go enumerating the gifts from each of the twelve Christmas days.
The Twelve Days Of Christmas version I’m using is in the key of G.
Feliz Navidad (MerryChristmas) is a song written in 1970 by Puerto Rican singer José Feliciano. This song mixes some simple phrases in Spanish and English, which helped it become a hit in the US, Canada, and Latin America.
Interestingly enough, José Feliciano not only uses an acoustic guitar for this song, but also a Puerto Rican cuatro. A Puerto Rican cuarto has a total of 10 strings and has a shape similar to the violin.
Either way, this song is in the key of Em and it’s a simple one to learn.
A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives
A Holly Jolly Christmas is a Christmas song written by American songwriter Johnny Marks. It is one of the top most-performed holiday songs written by ASCAP members.
While Johnny Marks recorded the first-ever version in 1962, it was in 1964 that American singer Burl Ives re-recorded it and took it to the top of the charts.
Burl Ives’ version is in the key of C and uses a lot of passing and dominant chords to give it much more richness. A great song to learn alternate progressions.
Sleigh Ride – Johhny Mathis
Sleigh Ride is not specifically a Christmas song, but rather a light orchestra standard composed by Leroy Anderson. It is, however, closely related to Christmas time due to the nature of the song (sleigh races in the snow).
The version I chose is from American pop singer Johnny Mathis, which he released in 1958 on his first-ever Christmas Album. His version is in the key of Gb, but thanks to the use of a capo on the 6th fret, it’s easier than it would seem.
All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
All I Want For Christmas Is You is one of the most popular Christmas songs in music history. It is also one, if not the most popular holiday song not written in the songwriter era before the 1960s.
This song was written by American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey and co-produced with Walter Afanasieff. This song appears on several Christmas shows, movies, and live streams to this day.
All I Want For Christmas Is You’s version I’ve Chosen is in the key of G and has all open chords to help you learn it easily.
Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
Blue Christmas is a sad Christmas song that speaks of unrequited love during the holiday times. It was written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson and performed by none other than the King, Elvis Presley.
This song was initially recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948. It actually became a very popular song, hitting the charts in 1950. It was, however, Elvis’ version that helped this song skyrocket and become a Christmas trademark.
Blue Christmas is in the key of E and has a very bluesy-rock feel to it.
Angels We Have Heard On High – Christmas Carol
Angels We Have Heard On High is a Christmas carol based on the hymn Gloria. This song talks about the birth of Jesus Christ, as described in the Gospel of Luke.
Many artists, such as Pentatonix, have recorded renditions of this song. However, the traditional carol has always been favored.
This traditional song is in the key of C and uses A7 as a secondary dominant to gravitate towards Dm. Besides that, a quite simple tune with your expected chords.
O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum) – Christmas Carol
O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum) is another very popular Christmas carol. This one’s origin dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century and is of German descent.
Its lyrics were written in 1824 by German composer Ernst Anschültz. In reality, this song did not refer to Christmas but to a Tannenbaum, which is the tree most commonly used as a Christmas Tree. Once the English lyrics were written, they do refer to it as a Christmas tree.
O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum) is in the key of D
Joy To The World – Mariah Carey
Joy To The World is a Christmas carol of English origin. English hymn writer Issac Watts wrote the lyrics and helped make this song the most-published Christmas hymn in North America. It was originally published in 1719.
Mariah Carey (which is the version I chose for this carol) co-produced her cover version alongside Walter Afanasieff and released it in 1994. Her version is in the key of D and is a fairly simple song to learn.
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen – Christmas Carol
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen is an English Christmas carol. It is one of the oldest carols and dates back to the early sixteenth century. This song is also commonly known as Tidings of Comfort and Joy.
Charles Dickens greatly helped popularize this song, thanks to its involvement in A Christmas Carol. Artists such as Hozier and Pentatonix have versions of this song.
The chart shows the traditional song and is in the key of Em.
The Little Drummer Boy – Pentatonix
The Little Drummer Boy is another very popular Christmas song. It was written by American composer Katherine Kennicott Davis and was originally known as Carol of the Drum.
The story describes a little boy who attends Jesus’ birth and offers his drum skills as a gift (as he was poor). It is based on a traditional Czech song.
The version I’m placing charts for is the cover of a cappella band Pentatonix. It is in the key of Ab, and a capo on the first fret is very recommended.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – Frank Sinatra
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a Christmas carol that dates back to 1793. It first appeared in the Hymns and Sacred Peoples collection, featuring a combination of lyrics from methodists Charles Wesley and George Whitefield.
German composer Felix Mendelssohn was the one who adapted the music to the lyrics, later creating a cantata (1840), creating the carol we know today.
Once again, many artists have had their renditions of this song. However, the chart I’m using is from the traditional, easy chart. It is in the key of G and should be fairly simple to learn.
O Holy Night – Christmas Carol
O Holy Night is a popular Christmas carol of French background. It is also known as Cantique de Noël and comes from the French poem Minuit, chrétiens (from French poet Placide Cappeau)
This carol reflects on the birth of Jesus Christ and deems it humanity’s redemption. The poem was composed in 1843 and the music premiered in 1847.
O Holy Night is in the key of C and is a very straightforward song to learn.
Silver Bells – Bing Crosby
Silver Bells is a popular Christan song that was composed by American composers Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. It was first sung by American entertainer William Frawley in 1950 and later popularized by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards.
A funny fact about this song, it was originally named Tinkle Bells, however, Jay Livingstong’s wife adverted them that tinkle was a slang word for urinating and would not work. It was then changed to Silver Bells.
Silver Bells is in the key of C and only features three chords: C, F, and G. One of the easiest songs to learn from this list.
Winter Wonderland – Guy Lombardo
Winter Wonderland is a song often regarded as a Christmas song due to the nature of the season. It was written in 1934 by American composer Felix Bernard and lyricist Richard Bernhard Smith. It’s a very popular song with over 200 different renditions.
Canadian-American bandleader and violinist Guy Lombardo’s 1934 version was the first version to gain major success, becoming the biggest holiday hit of that year.
The version I’ve used is in the key of D and has a couple of chords outside the scale (F# and B).
O Come, All Ye Faithful – Christmas Carol
O Come, All Ye Faithful is a Christmas carol attributed to several authors. This song has English hymnist John Francis Wade, composer John Reading, and King John IV of Portugal as potential authors. However, the most known version is the English translation by priest Frederick Oakeley, written in 1841.
This song’s version I’ve chosen is in the key of G and has only the A chord as an outside chord from the scale.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) is a Christmas single released by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, along with the Harlem Community Choir. Its main purpose was to be a protest against the Vietnam War, which lasted 20 years.
This song is a culmination of more than two years of continuous peace activism both John and Yoko undertook. This song is in the key of A and uses alterations of chords within the scale (such as Asus4 or Asus 2 instead of a regular A triad).
Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
Wonderful Christmastime is a Christmas song by another Beatles member, Paul Mc Cartney. It was recorded and released for his second solo album, McCartney II, in 1980. The song was a moderate success and continues to hold popularity during the Christmas holidays.
Paul McCartney is credited as the only songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, having recorded everything himself.
Wonderful Christmastime is in the key of B. A capo on the second fret might be of great help for beginners or anyone who struggles with barre chords.
Last Christmas – Wham!
Last Christmas is a Christmas song released in December 1984 by the English pop duo, Wham! It was written and produced by George Michael and it’s another of the modern Christmas songs with high popularity during the holidays.
This song has an interesting mixture of an upbeat track with happy instrumentation, paired with sad lyrics of unrequited love. It is this combination that helped the song become a massive hit, especially in the United Kingdom.
Last Christmas is in the key of D and has a very simple chord progression.
Christmas Time – Bryan Adams
Christmas Time is a Christmas song by Canadian rock singer-songwriter Bryan Adams. It was released in 1985 and in 2019 accompanied by a YouTube video released by Bryan Adams himself. It is another song that holds high popularity during the holidays.
Christmas Time is in the key of C, but the chord chart I found also gives you the option to play in several more keys. This might prove useful to you if you need to change the song to be more comfortable singing.
Someday At Christmas – Stevie Wonder
Someday At Christmas is the opening track of Stevie Wonder’s eighth studio album, also named Someday At Christmas. This album was released in 1967 and marked Stevie’s first Christmas album. However, the album in itself did not perform very well.
Someday At Christmas (the track) did manage to hit the US charts and is still to this day considered a must in any Christmas playlist. It is in the key of A and, faithful to Stevie Wonder’s style, holds various chord changes and modulations, making this song a great one to expand your chord progressions.
O Little Town of Bethlehem – Christmas Carol
O Little Town of Bethlehem is a Christmas carol based on an 1868 manuscript from Episcopal priest Phillips Brooks. Organist Lewis Redner later added the music.
There are several versions of this song, but the two most common ones are the United States version (titled St. Louis) and the United Kingdom and Commonwealth version (Forest Green).
O Little Town of Bethlehem is in the key of D and modulates at the end to the key of C. Nevertheless, it is a simple tune to learn and a popular Christmas carol.
Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea
Driving Home For Christmas is a Christmas song written by English singer-songwriter Chris Rea. It was written and released in 1986.
This song became what is called a “sleeper hit”. This means that this song didn’t really have an immediate impact on the charts. However, as the years went by, Driving Home For Christmas started appearing on the Top 40 chart from 2007 to this day.
Driving Home For Christmas is in the key of A and has some great chord extensions.
Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens
Merry Christmas Everyone is a Christmas song recorded by Welsh singer-songwriter Shakin’ Stevens. It was written by Bob Heatlie and produced by Dave Edmunds, to be later released in 1985.
Since 1985, this song has steadily appeared in the UK charts, reaching its second-highest spot in 2018 at No. 9. It did reach No. 1 the year of its release.
Merry Christmas Everyone is in the key of G and is a very simple tune to learn, by only having 4 chords in it (G, Em, C, and D).
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree is a Christmas song written by Johnny Marks. He is known as one of the most prolific Christmas songwriters, having written many holiday standards such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Holly Jolly Christmas.
American singer Brenda Lee was the first one to record Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, which she released in 1958. Her version sold over 25 million copies and holds position No. 4 in terms of Christmas digital downloads.
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree is in the key of G and has seventh chords in it.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Bing Crosby
I’ll Be Home For Christmas is yet another Christmas song that has become a holiday standard. It was written by lyricist Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent.
The first recorded version came from Bing Crosby, who achieved a top ten charting. This song is in honor of soldiers abroad, waiting to come back home.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas is in the key of C.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – The Jackson 5
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is a Christmas song first recorded by American singer Jimmy Boyd in 1952. It became an instant hit and was further popularized by The Jackson 5.
The story of this song is actually a pretty funny one. It describes from the point of view of a child how he sees his mother kissing Santa Claus late at night. It does leave pretty open whether Santa Claus is actually his father in a costume or a random stranger.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is in the key of C and uses 7th chords.
Christmas time is a time to be with your loved ones, wind down, relax, and enjoy some of the most beautiful pieces of music mankind has written.
There is nothing more fulfilling than sharing the joy of music and I hope this list proves to be a good place to learn the best Christmas tunes out there.
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