And the Whole Wide World Is Filled with Cheer: The Five Worst and Ten Best Holiday Songs
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And the Whole Wide World Is Filled with Cheer: The Five Worst and Ten Best Christmas Holiday Songs

By Cindy Davis | Seriously Random Lists | December 20, 2012 | Comments ()


If you're expecting to see Wham! on this list--surprise(!)--they're not. Last Christmas falls distinctly into mediocrity. It's the time of year when our ears are assaulted with ever increasingly bad sounds (sometimes accompanied by horrific videos). Even worse, we can't just shut it off, because the sounds are everywhere we go. The grocery, the doctor's office, the bakery...all the places pummel our poor eardrums with elevator-ified sounds of the season. And when it's bad, it's really really bad. But then again, if a well-done jingle of the bells can instantly transport you to some heart-warming moment, frozen in the snowy fog of your mind, I say, "Go there while you can." Because chances are, we'll all be dead tomorrow night.

Bitch while you can, people...bitch while you can.

The Worst:

5. Do They Know It's Christmas?, Band Aid

Of course they know it's Christmas--they're being forced to listen to your crappy song. It's sort of mind boggling that Pink could gather so much talent in one place, only to come up with this terrible song. Yeah, charity!

4. Santa Baby, Madonna

I warn you, if you've never heard this, don't listen now. Remember Shirley Temple? Like both the drink and the kid, this is sickly sweet--and nobody has ever liked his Madonna sugarcoated.

3. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late), The Chipmunks

Do I even need to say anything here? Fucking chipmunks, fucking singing! Drown them all.

2. Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire

I don't know who thinks this song is funny (if only it were sung by chipmunks?), but just wait until you have a sobbing five year old in the car with you.

1. Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time, Paul McCartney

Just how can a Beatle-y holiday tune be bad, you might wonder? (Ask John Lennon; he (and Yoko) wrote the nearly equally awful Happy Xmas [War Is Over]). Both songs are an exercise in monotony and make me want to pull out my hairs, one by one.


10. You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, Thurl Ravenscroft

It ain't the holidays without the Grinch. Period.

9. Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley

Sometimes we forget how great Elvis really was--this is a great time to remember. Put a little (t)wang in your hot toddy. Tell it like it is, indeed.

8. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), Darlene Love

U2 made a run at this and didn't even come close. Revisit that great 60s sound just like Letterman does, and get a little Love into your Pandora rotation.

7. Jingle Bell Rock, The Brian Setzer Orchestra

If you feel the need to kitchen dance as you're cooking up a storm, this former Stray Cat will have your ass jiggling like Jello at first jingle.

6. Christmas Time Is Here, St. Paul's Episcopal Church Choir

I hear this song, and my entire being goes peaceful, a useful trick this time of year.

5. Christmas in Hollis, Run-D.M.C.

Old school Christmas, people. I defy you to not grin from ear to ear or add your own sound effects while watching this video. Yeah, bad white girl dancing happens, SO WHAT?

4. Winter Wonderland, Johnny Mathis

I'll listen to Johnny any day of the week, but Christmas day is Mathis day--and Winter Wonderland is my favorite holiday tune.

3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Frank Sinatra

These final three, kings of holiday-time are. Nothing beats the classics singing the classics...

2. White Christmas, Bing Crosby

1. The Christmas Song, Nat King Cole

Cindy Davis, (Twitter) wishes you all a lovely holiday season...if we live to see it through.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Mrs. Julien

    Sarah McLachlan's entire Christmas album sounds like she just opened a vein,

  • DerBingle

    "Jingle Bell Rock, The Brian Setzer Orchestra"? Really? Ye gods, I'll take one of the worst over this one. Overhyped overkill by a smug band in love with itself. The fat douche's breakdown in the middle is the most annoying thing ever. It just feels so ""Cuz you guys all recognize me and just can't wait for some of my partytime douchebag antics, right?" from a nobody.

    Sorry. I really hate the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Nice list otherwise!

  • Anna von Beav

    I love that Vince Guaraldi album SO MUCH at Christmastime that my CD of it is worn out. Literally. I have to replace it.

  • Austin

    Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry. It's one of the very few Christmas songs that stands on its on legs absent the Christmas theme. Same with The Pogues' Fairytale of New York.

  • Austin

    own (not on)

  • Mattfactor

    Best: "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" - Ramones

    Worst: "Two Step Around the Christmas Tree" - Suzy Bogguss

  • b

    For a non-traditional Christmas song, I love "Oi to the World". Oi to the punks! Oi to the skins!

  • grinning dog

    How did "I think you might like it" by John Travolta and Olivia What's Her Name not get to number 1 of the all time bad? I'd rather listen to the damn rodents that hear Danny and Sandy's bizarre ode to christmas. And his hair? What happened to Vinnie???

  • Jim Slemaker

    You can bang on Bono for the Band-Aid song, but U2's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" is a fantastic Christmas song. Agree on Mariah Carey. The video with Jimmy Fallon instantly put me in the Christmas spirit this year. Also, the Jackson 5's "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" is stellar. I like Springsteen's version, as well. And lastly, I'm kinda partial to the Eagles "Please Come Home For Christmas". So, sue me for being old.

  • duckandcover

    The fact that you properly attributed that song to Thurl Ravenscroft .. God bless us, everyone. Because of this, I will forgive the fact you didn't include Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano, The Singing Dogs Jingle Bells by Don Charles, and maybe even Christmas in Killarney by Dennis Day.

  • Even Stevens

    There are a LOT of comments, so I may have missed it being mentioned (or maybe I'm the only one) but I love Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan's version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

  • QueBarbara

    Oh, you kids. "Father Christmas" by The Kinks is the bestest Xmas song ever.

    "Father Christmas, give us some money
    We got no time for your silly toys
    We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over
    We want your bread, so don't make us annoyed
    Give all the toys to the little rich boys"

    Close runner up, Robert Earl Keen "Merry Christmas from the Family"

    "Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party"

  • QueBarbara

    Oh, and The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York


    Or Robert Downey, Jr.'s version, originally performed on Ally McBeal

  • Adrienne Marie

    Missing a few excellent ones.... such as "Father Christmas" by the Kinks and Josh Groban's version of "O Holy Night." His voice just gives me goosebumps.

  • Ben

    White Wine in the sun is the perfect christmas song. Esspecialy for Australians who just get sick of all this white christmas bullshit while we're sitting here feeling the sweat pool between our arse cheeks.

  • Guest

    See, now you've gone and done it.

    You said "arse cheeks" and totally derailed my train of thought.

    Damn my testosterone.

  • My favorite song is your #1. Nat King Cole's classic is hands-down the best Christmas song.

    Paul McCartney's abomination used to be my least favorite, but I have a new song I despise this year: "Christmas Canon" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The radio station we listen to at work play the song once every hour, it seems, and I f*cking HATE IT. It's a bastardization of "Pachelbel's Canon," that features choruses of shrill children shrieking "Merry Christmas" over and over until your ears bleed. I really, really, REALLY hate it.

  • Andrew

    Bryan Adams "We're having a reggae Christmas" easily wins the Worst Christmas Song of Ever .....

  • Milly

    No 'Oi to the World', no point.

  • Luke

    Late to the party...mad about Fairytale of New York...but also White Wine in the Sun....because I figured this was a Tim crowd.... I give you..the best

  • Slash

    My list of the best, the worst aren't worthy of mention:

    Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Garland

    Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town – Bruce Springsteen or Mariah

    Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives

    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry

    All I Want for Christmas Is You – Mariah

    2000 Miles – The Pretenders

    Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses

    Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt

    Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Darlene Love

    Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms

    Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

    in Hollis - Run-D.M.C.

    12 Days of Christmas – Doug and Bob McKenzie

    Santa Claus and His Old Lady – Cheech and Chong

    Winter Wonderland - Johnny

    Carol of the Bells –
    Trans-Siberian Orchestra (the only version of this song that’s remotely

    White Christmas - Bing

    The Christmas Song – Nat
    King Cole

    God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
    – Nat King Cole

    O Holy Night – Nat King Cole

    Silent Night – Sarah
    McLachlan or Tori Amos

    Little Drummer Boy –
    Bing/Bowie or Harry Simeone Chorale

    Happy Christmas (War is
    Over) – Lennon

    Christmastime Is Here -
    Vince Guaraldi Trio

    O Tannenbaum - Vince
    Guaraldi Trio

    Linus and Lucy - Vince
    Guaraldi Trio

    Here Comes Santa Claus –
    Gene Autry

    Do You Hear What I Hear –
    Bing Crosby

    Run Rudolph Run - Chuck

    Please Come Home for
    Christmas – The Eagles

    The Most Wonderful Time of
    the Year – Andy Williams

    Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes

    Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding

    This Christmas – Donny Hathaway

    Happy Holidays – Andy Williams

  • Uriah_Creep

    You have some good modern choices there ("2000 Mile" and "Please Come Home for Christmas", for example), and I would add "I Believe in Father Christmas" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Great stuff. And if you like Billy Squier, add "Christmas Is the Time to Say 'I Love You'"

  • Ruthie O

    My absolute favorite version of "White Christmas" is sung by Otis Redding: so much soul, so much heartbreak, and so much pleading at such a young age.

  • Slash

    Also, I kinda like "Do They Know It's Christmas." It's not a fave or anything, but I don't think it sucks. It's just a bummer. Nobody wants to be shamed for enjoying a holiday.

    Can't really argue too much with the others listed (other than the "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" error, which is covered below (or above, whatever).

  • SilverDeb

    Fairytale of New York and Christiain & Pagans by Dar Williams are my 2 favorite Christmas songs.

  • Somehow, despite living and growing up in America--and in Oklahoma, no less--I'm not familiar with most of these. Some of it's because I wasn't raised Christian and my Baptist grandparents didn't seem to know what to do about it, so Christmas got turned extremely secular and family-oriented. Some of it's because my mother adores Christmas carols, but only the ones she got off of the Dr. Demento show (her favorite being Kill a Tree for Christ). Some of it's that I'm a grouchy recluse who barely ventures outside of the house and doesn't watch much holiday programming, so most of it isn't commonly inflicted on me. Probably mostly that last one.
    I still have a few favorites. The Jolly Rogers have a Christmas Song that always makes me smile. And there's All Hail to the Days, which I think is lovely. And Gwydion Penderwyn did a couple of songs that at least touched on the winter solstice.
    When it comes down to it, though, I think I know more Beltane/May Day carols. And damned if I don't love all of those.
    In short, sometimes I come across things that make me wonder if I somehow live in an intersecting pocket dimension, because I seem to somehow completely miss so many things that are so utterly normal for everyone else.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Dr. Demento...haven't heard that name in a while. I need to revisit...

  • If I recall correctly, my little brother's favorite was always Christmas at Ground Zero.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Also, Harry Belafonte's Christmas album is golden.

  • lowercase_ryan
  • It's me, downvoting you.

  • lowercase_ryan

    you and only you.

  • The Replicant Brooke

    No Mele' Kalikimaka?

  • lowercase_ryan


  • damnitjanet

    Thank you for using the Holiday Inn clip of "White Christmas."
    Also, I prefer the Porky Pig version of "Blue Christmas."

    And, umm, excuse me, but where is "ChristMAS is All Around" by BILLY MACK???

  • mswas

    Most people call them green onions, but they're really scallions. CHRISTMAS DRAGNET!

  • Bo Darville

    My fave is "Old Toy Trains" by Roger Miller. Makes me misty eyed (after about 4 whiskeys)...

  • Sara_Tonin00

    ...."Christ-MAS is all around us...I feel it in my toes..."

  • apsutter

    Also, I'm upset by the lack of The Supremes on this list. Their 20th Century Masters Christmas album is my favorite and their version of Silver Bells can't be beat.

  • thenchonto

    Is it just me or is "Last Christmas" showing up way, way more this year than in previous years? I never paid much attention to it previously. Any other year I'd be like "yep, pinnacle of mediocrity", but holy special someones and lovers with faces, it's been relentlessly following me everywhere I've gone since Black Friday. I've heard it probably eight times in the last four days, sometimes the original, but occasionally one of two covers by god only knows who. One might've been Taylor Swift; the other was quaalude-overdose-level down tempo and seemingly went on for over an hour.

    First I tried making up parodies to block out the unending drone of synthesizers (Last Christmas, Bing Crosby was here, along with Burl Ives, bringing us
    cheer. But this year, where ever I go, they're only playing George
    Michael.) Then, I tried multiple listens of Bing Crosby and David Bowie's "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" (which I had to scour my music files to find because that's obviously not showing up on the radio or in any stores because we are firmly committed to this mid-80's pop revival thing, I guess), but that hasn't helped. My sister is advising me to listen to some Mozart overtures to
    recover from the onslaught, calling them "ear parsley for the abused
    aural palette".

    I'm considering running off to a remote, day-glo free cave somewhere and hiding out until January. One hundred listens and I've got the damn thing twice memorized. I try keeping my distance, but it still catches me by surprise. Tell me Pajibans, do you sympathize? It's been a month; yet I'm still terrorized. Merry Christmas! I should wrap this up and post it, with a note saying "please help me". I mean it. Now I know that the guys of Wham have won. If I heard it now, I know I'd listen again... Last... Christmas I... *unintelligible, endless sob singing*

  • Sara_Tonin00

    It really figures that Taylor Swift would choose 'Last Christmas' out of all the carols, to record and release as a single.

  • apsutter

    "Do They Know It's Christmas" makes me want to punch Bono right in his stupid head everytime I hear it. It's just such a laugh to hear these famous musicians singing about the poor and guilting the general public into feeling ashamed of themselves. That whole song infuriates me but when he gets to the part he sings "but tonight thank God it's them instead of you" I literally want to murder the smug entitled ass.

  • Jennifer Schmennifer

    I think all of Bono's charity work for Africa is to make up for singing that one stupid line.

    I also like "And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime," as if that were the most tragic thing. I wonder if Christmas-celebrating antipodeans thought that was funny. "The greatest gift they'll get this year is life," not snow. Like those sad, deprived Australians.

  • Lee

    Yeah, our Aussie Christmases at the beach and by the pool are so tragic coz we don't have any snow.

  • Jennifer Schmennifer

    I hope you know I was being sarcastic. I've enjoyed a few Aussie Christmases myself.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Yeah, the whole song...why should they care if it's Christmas?

  • Artemis

    Especially since a significant number of those impacted by the 1984 famine were Muslim. I, too, want to punch someone in the face every time I hear that song.

  • Zen

    This one is good for yuks.

  • ghisent

    I'm glad that there are other people to join me in shamefully loving Mariah's "All I Want For Christmas Is You." I CAN'T HELP MYSELF, PEOPLE.

    Also, I maybe love it even MORE when that adorable little moppet sings it in Love, Actually.


  • duckandcover

    For me, it's mainly because it was THE SONG in Love Actually. But yes, I definitely appreciate it more this year than any other.


  • Artemis

    That song is number four on my list of Christmas favorites, following the top three on Cindy's list (though I put Sinatra in the number one spot). I'm not even ashamed. No matter how weird Mariah gets, or how tiny her skirts become, that song gives her a lifetime pass with me.

  • ghisent

    You people get me. You really, really get me.

    Mariah gets extra cred for that ridiculously adorable Jimmy Fallon bit.

  • PerpetualIntern

    I was reading through the comments to see if anyone had mentioned this yet. I love that song AND I DONT CARE WHO KNOWS IT.

  • Miss Kate

    This year, I finally had to admit that I just can't stand Bing Crosby's lazy, warbly style of crooning. He always sounds to me like he's bored. Nat King Cole, on the other hand, is sublime.

  • JH

    Perry Como's "Home for the Holidays (There's no Place Like)" is a glaring omission.

    And Chris Cornell's "Ave Maria" is worth more than a couple of listens during the season.

  • googergieger

    Last Christmas should be on here for the Erlend Oye cover.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    No. That song never should be mentioned. At all.

  • TheOtherGreg

    "Wonderful Christmas Time": The song continues to receive substantial airplay every year. Including
    royalties from cover versions, it is estimated that Paul McCartney makes
    $400,000 per year from this song, which puts its cumulative earnings
    for this song at near $15 million. -Wikipedia

  • Jezzer


  • Jezzer

    "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" is my favorite secular Christmas song, even with Yoko howling over the chorus. GOOD DAY, MADAM.

  • Leigh

    When people say that John's Happy Xmas is the worst Christmas song ever, I get greviously offended, I don't know why. Maybe it's not a chestnuts-roasting, snow falling song, but it's a brilliant protest song and comment on society.

  • apsutter

    I LOVE this song. Completely and unabashedly and I even love the beginning when John and Yoko say Merry Christmas to each other.

  • BWeaves

    I'm not Christian, but I love the old school Christmas carols I learned in the Anglican school my parents sent me to (because the Jewish school was too expensive).

  • jmd

    And on that note - I can't help but love Sandler's Hanukkah Song and ABSO-lutely Tom Lehrer's Hanukkah in Santa Monica!

  • FireLizardQueen

    Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree". If only because imagining her singing "later we'll have some fucking pie" is priceless.

  • Captain D

    My major disagreement is in leaving Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas from the Family" off the best list. Let's just agree to call it #11.

    You're spot on about that McCartney tune that should not be named. How can radio stations keep playing it in good conscience? Think of the kids!

  • mats19

    My grandmother loves grandma got run over by a reindeer... in fact 2 scotchs in on christmas eve she will even karaoke it. This is why she is the far superior grandmother in the family.

    and what about a little bowie and bing ... little drummer boy was always my favorite with bowies awful teeth pahrum-pah-pah-puming...

  • eat.a.peach

    Thank God It's Christmas - Queen. "It's so amazingly epic!" said everyone ever about every single Queen song ever.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    You're my new bestfriend.

  • jmd

    No Frank SInatra, Judy Garland MUST be the one singing that song. And also - Straight No Chaser doing their Christmas medley and their more recent Christmas Can-Can.

  • Andrew J Moore

    Fairytale of New York - The Pogues. Best. Christmas. Song. Ever.

  • Amanda

    Srsly. How could you let this one slip under the radar??

  • dmm

    Agreed! Also my 14 and 11 year old nephews are convinced this is true as well (of course, no coercion on my part...)

    Also, judge me if you will but I also really like Thanks For Christmas by The Three Wise Men (aka XTC) and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by The Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan.

  • himonoonna

    In the interest of nearly pointless trivia, it's worth mentioning that there is actually an entire Japanese dorama based on Wham!'s "Last Christmas." In fact, it is cleverly titled "Last Christmas." And, yes, it's just as thrilling as the song choice and title suggest.

  • tmoney

    I'm sad "Mele Kalikimaka" isn't on this list. That is my favorite song to sing in the shower this time of year. It's also from the best Christmas movie ever made.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Hard to argue with you here Cindy. There really is nothing worse than "Wonderful Christmastime". Its one saving grace is that it doesn't have every sh*tty pop singer and (probably) their dog unnecessarily covering it, like goddamn "Santa Baby" or "My Favourite Things". Christmas songs are treacly enough without having to listen to you whine about the sh*t you want.

    That said, I do have some exceptions. Like number 3 up there (the James Taylor version is actually rather nice as well), and of course the boozy, tone-deaf renditions of "Blue Christmas" we do at Grandma's house every year.

    Edit: i should note that my office has been playing satellite radio Christmas stations for four weeks now, and whoever wrote and/or sang "This Christmas" deserves a steaming pile of reindeer effluence in their stocking.

  • Joseph Crisp

    No Fairy Tale of New York???

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Bing/Bowie "Drummer Boy"

    I like both the Chipmunk AND Grandma Got Run Over...there's a place for goofiness in the holidays, and those hit it. I don't want to listen to them 24/7, but then again, there's NO Christmas song I want to listen to that often.

  • Robert

    I also think Annie Lennox's pagan re-imagining of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is worth bringing up. She pulls ancient traditions into the Christian mythology and it work really well.

  • Miss Kate

    I've never seen this! Freaky and cool, thanks for posting.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I just discovered that the woman made a christmas album 2 years ago. It's awesome, of course.

  • dizzylucy

    That Chipmunks song makes me want to run through a plate glass window.

    Generally prefer the classics, and any decent version of O Holy Night.
    Stevie Wonder - What Christmas Means to Me.
    I do shamelessly love Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas.

  • e jerry powell

    Sorry, Cindy; the gay in me will not allow this to stand.

    #3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. NOT SINATRA. That song was introduced in Meet Me in St. Louis by JUDY GODDAMN GARLAND, and no substitutions will be allowed.

  • Cosigned.

  • Slash

    For fuck's sake, this. Judy's version will never be bested. Ever. Certainly not by Sinatra.

  • Amanda

    Agreed. Watched Meet Me in St. Louis the other night with the Hub as he'd never seen it. Such a great scene, so sorrowful and sweet at the same time...

  • e jerry powell
  • apsutter

    Yea, Judy sang the shit outta that song and whenever I hear her version I always tear up.

  • e jerry powell

    Damn right.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Tee hee. Garland. How appropriate.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    And here I thought it would be Mrs. Julien jumping on this.

  • e jerry powell

    Prolixity is nowhere near the gayness that is me.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I was too overcome with disgust to type.

  • e jerry powell

    You were raised right.

  • googergieger

    Sorry about that.

    *pulls pants up*

  • Samantha Klein

    Yes. Thank you.

  • Erich

    You forgot the single greatest Christmas song ever written, The Night Santa Went Crazy

  • RilesSD

    How dare you on Paul McCartney!

    Best (only?) gangsta rap xmas song goes to Eazy E - Merry Muthafukkin Xmas

  • I'm rather fond of Mumford & Sons performance of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I know their just performing a Sufjan Stevens arrangement, I just like their's better.

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