The festive season arrives each year with a cacophony of Christmas tunes designed to get everyone into the holiday spirit. Love or hate them, the most popular Christmas songs of all time certainly earn plenty of airtime during winter.
The question is, which Christmas songs rank at the top of the popularity lists year after year?
While every person has their own idea of the ideal festive playlist, some songs generate more attention than others. We’ve examined the latest data from radio and streaming companies worldwide to bring this insight into the most popular holiday songs ever.
The Most Popular Christmas Songs on US Radio
Perhaps unsurprisingly, lists of the most popular Christmas songs can vary depending on where you are.
While there’s some overlap between many Western countries, you might encounter some tunes more often than others, depending on your location.
Though streaming and airtime data from radio stations around the US is somewhat limited, there are reports available that offer useful insight into American Christmas favorites.
For instance, FiveThirtyEight gathered information on the most recently played song on 70 iHeartMedia radio stations to create a list of the top most-played tunes in the festive season in 2014.
In 2022, the P1 Media Group released its annual Christmas music research, testing the appeal of 40 of the most-streamed songs in the holiday charts.
Participants in the study rated their enjoyment of the song on a scale of 1-10. Here are the top 10 Christmas Songs in the US according to this data.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (Score: 87.22)
A holiday classic in almost any American household, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” was first released by Brenda Lee in 1964.
The song has a fun and playful vibe, with various jazz and pop elements. Participants in the study gave the song a score of 87.22 out of 100 in popularity. There are almost 400 recorded versions of this song in circulation today!
“Jingle Bell Rock” (Score: 87.20)
Another rock-focused tune from America’s list of popular Christmas songs, “Jingle Bell Rock,” produced by Bobby Helms in 1957, fell just below Brenda Lee’s title in the P1 media group’s research, scoring 87.20.
If you’re not familiar with the classic version of this tune, you’ve probably heard a handful of the new variations produced by artists like Aly and AJ.
“Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” (Score: 85.43)
Easily one of the most family-friendly tunes on this list, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was one of two Burl Ives songs ranked on the top ten list for the most popular Christmas songs.
The adorable, lighthearted tune tells the tale of Santa Claus’s unique reindeer with his glowing nose.
“Holly Jolly Christmas” (Score: 85.35)
Most fans of this festive tune will likely be familiar with the Michael Buble version, which has gained massive global acclaim over the last few years.
However, the song was initially produced by Burl Ives in 1965, making it one of the older Christmas tunes on our list.
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (Score: 85.13)
Indeed, one of the biggest ear bugs on this list, the festive song by Andy Williams is a delightful seasonal tune with a warming message. The song was written and produced in 1963 and has earned numerous covers over the years, even appearing on the show Glee.
“All I Want for Christmas Is You” (Score 84.95)
An unsurprising addition to our list of the most popular Christmas songs on the American airwaves is “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey, first published in 1994.
The song has won three world records over the years, including the highest-charting song on the Billboard US Hot 100 and the most streamed song on Spotify in 24 hours.
“Feliz Navidad” (Score: 83.75)
Recorded by Jose Feliciano in 1970, “Feliz Navidad” ranks high on this popularity list and is ranked by ASCAP as one of the all-time most-streamed festive tunes worldwide. The song is bold and joyful, with lots of sing-along lyrics, perfect for family celebrations.
“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (Score: 85.53)
Originally titled “It’s Beginning to Look Like a Lot Like Christmas,” this festive classic was initially recorded by Bing Crosby in 1951.
It’s one of the most enduring holiday songs of all time, with a massive presence not just in the US but worldwide, thanks to memorable lyrics and soft notes.
“Last Christmas” (Score: 83.02)
Produced by Wham! in 1986, “Last Christmas” is an icon in the festive music landscape. According to George Michael, the song actually doesn’t have much to do with Christmas at all. It is intended to be a ballad about unrequited love and a failed relationship.
“Jingle Bells” (Score: 82.85)
Considered one of the best-known and commonly sung American tunes worldwide, “Jingle Bells” was first written by James Lord Pierpoint in 1850.
However, the popular tune included on this list is the version of the song produced by Frank Sinatra in 1957.
The Most Popular Christmas Songs in the UK
As you might imagine, many of the popular Christmas songs from the US also appear on the UK charts. However, there are some differences in the number of times each tune appears on radio stations throughout Britain.
For instance, according to Official Charts in 2021, the most-played Christmas song of all time in the UK was Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” with around 248 million streams at the time of writing.
Two other well-known tunes in the UK landscape fall just beneath Mariah’s top hit with an equally high score, Wham’s “Last Christmas” with 220 million streams, and “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues, with 170 million plays.
The Pogues’ tune is one you might be less likely to encounter in the US, despite its American name. The song has even faced controversy over the years for its somewhat problematic lyrics.
Other popular songs listed by the chart include:
- “Merry Christmas, Everyone,” by the Shaking Stevens, with 136 million streams: A fun and lighthearted song recorded in 1984 and covered by countless artists over the years.
- “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” by Band-Aid, with 130 million streams: The iconic charity single released in 1984, this tune has become one of the UK’s best-selling singles of all time.
- “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” by Michael Buble, with 128 million streams: The more recent version of the popular chart-topping hit by Bing Crosby
- “Santa Tell Me,” by Arianne Grande, with 113 million streams: One of the most modern Christmas songs to reach the top of the chart in recent years.
- “One More Sleep” by Leona Lewis with 92 million streams: A modern song created by one of the most famous X-Factor winners from the UK.
The Most Streamed Christmas Songs on Spotify
Like radio stations, most music streaming platforms don’t provide much data about their top-streaming songs for the public to consume.
However, Spotify is a bit of an exception to this rule. The streaming platform, with over 489 million active users and 205 million premium subscribers, regularly releases all kinds of reports.
Not only can Spotify fans get a behind-the-scenes look at their own listening habits with yearly wrap-ups, but they can also learn about some of the most popular songs on the platform.
At the end of 2020, Spotify joined forces with various analytics and research groups to produce a list of their most streamed Christmas songs of all time.
Here are the tunes that earned the top 10 spots:
- “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (43.2%): Unsurprisingly, Mariah Carey once again rose to the top on the Spotify streaming platform with her world-renowned festive tune.
- “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (27.8%): Falling quite below Carey, Andy Williams’ classic tune was ranked second on Spotify’s popularity list.
- “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (26.1%): Michael Buble’s modernized version of the classic festive hit once again outshined its predecessor on this chart.
- “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (23.9%): One of the only songs on Spotify’s list not to feature in the top spots of radio channels covered above, “Happy Xmas” is a fantastic song by John Lennon, which celebrates the end of the war. It was recorded in 1971.
- “Santa Tell Me” (23.2%): Ariana Grande is as popular on streaming platforms as on the radio, earning the fifth spot for the most streamed festive tunes ever.
- “Underneath the Tree” (20.7%): Another relatively modern song to appear in Spotify’s charts, “Underneath the Tree” was recorded by Kelly Clarkson in 2013 for her Christmas album Wrapped in Red.
- “Blue Christmas” (20.1%): Icon Elvis Presley walked away with the seventh spot on this list for his romantic ballad, Blue Christmas, produced in 1957.
- “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (17.4%): The second entry from Mariah Carey on Spotify’s chart, “Baby Please Come Home” may be a lesser-known tune, but it’s still one of the most popular songs out there, with various covers from artists like Michael Buble.
- “Little Saint Nick” (17.2%): A fun and pop-focused tune created by The Beach Boys, “Little Saint Nick” was released as a single in 1983 and featured a lot of the stylistic vocals and memorable music styles of the band.
- “Holly Jolly Christmas” (16.7%): Finally, Michael Buble took the 10th spot on the list with his version of “Holly Jolly Christmas,” released in 2011 as part of the artist’s comprehensive Christmas album, which features a range of other well-known titles.
Popular Christmas Songs from Throughout the Decades
Ultimately, looking at all the data available today, it’s safe to say there’s no one answer to the question, “Which is the most popular Christmas song of all time?”
However, there are certainly a lot of well-known tunes that have earned a strong position on radio channels and streaming stations alike.
We hope this behind-the-scenes guide has given you an insight into some of the most famous and enduring Christmas classics throughout history and the modern tunes gradually gaining more prominence in the audio landscape.