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What Are the Best and Worst Christmas Songs?

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by Geraldine Massey (subscribe)
I'm an experienced corporate communicator and editor with an eye for interesting events and an attachment to my trusty Oxford dictionary.
Published December 11th 2011
I'm a sucker for Christmas. I love it all - the religious significance and traditions, the decorations, Christmas trees, turkey, and family time, and nothing says Christmas to me quite as much as Christmas Carols (except of course anything painfully warbled by Rod Stewart, Elton John or pop divas like Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber).

We have many Christmas traditions in our home. A few weeks before Christmas the whole family gathers to decorate the tree. This is an important festive occasion itself, complete with Santa hats, champagne and the first playing of Christmas carols. Over the years we've acquired many Christmas CDs. Our collection ranges from the Kings College and Vienna Boys Choirs to Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. We have carols in English, French and German, and carols from the Forties, Sixties and Noughties. They range from sublime and uplifting to maudlin and ridiculous. Christmas has inspired some of the most glorious and at the same time, some of the most execrable music ever written or sung.

So, for what it's worth here are my candidates for the Naughty and Nice Christmas Song Lists.

Worst Ever

The Littlest Angel
That great crooner, Harry Lillis (Bing) Crosby, the man who popularised Christmas songs more than anyone, actually wrote the saccharine lyrics for this one. "Going My Way" must have gone to his head. It's the sentimental tale of a four year old angel and his gifts for the Holy Child. Bing - not even "White Christmas" makes up for this one.

Bing Crosby - image from Wikipedia

A New Baby For Christmas
Johnny Preston is the man who popularised this blot on the Christmas songbook. Lyrics include:
"I want a new baby for Christmas
One with long pretty hair
Then I can send her kisses
And I know I'll never miss her
Because she will always be there
Enough said.

The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot
I've heard people say that this song makes them cry. Me too, but I think our reasons are different. Apart from the poor grammar (surely it should be ".. who Santa Claus forgot") there's that folksy spoken chorus and lyrics like:
"He sent a note to Santa
For some soldiers and a drum,
It broke his little heart
When he found Santa hadn't come
There are versions by Nat King Cole and Johnny Adams, who both should have known better.

I Want a Rock 'n' Roll Guitar
Johnny Preston again, and a big hit in 1959. What can I say? He's also the man who sang "Running Bear".
"I want a rock 'n' roll guitar, with a big bass string.
I want a rock 'n' roll guitar so I can play that thing
I wanna be on TV like a rock 'n' roll star
I want Santa Claus to bring me a rock 'n' roll guitar

Best Ever

O Holy Night
Believe it or not I first heard this carol sung by actor Robert Guillaume in a Christmas episode of the Eighties sitcom "Benson". It's been my favourite ever since. Known for his sitcom roles Guillaume was really a very talented musical performer with a fine tenor voice. The carol was originally written as a poem and then set to music by nineteenth century composer, Adolphe Charles Adams. Its soaring melody and lyrics get me every time.

Carol of the Bells
Originally Ukranian Christmas folk music, the English lyrics were added by American composer, Peter Wilhousky in 1936. The rolling melody and pealing bells are probably most famous from their use in "Home Alone".

Silent Night
Arguably the world's most famous Christmas carol, "Silent Night" had humble beginnings. It was written as a poem by an Austrian priest and set to a simple tune by his friend in 1818 so that it could be played by guitar at Christmas midnight Mass when the church organ was broken.
"Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

White Christmas
I've never experienced a white Christmas, but haven't given up hope. Irving Berlin wrote hundreds of popular songs, but none so popular as "White Christmas". It first appeared in the movie Holiday Inn in 1942 and became an immediate favourite with Allied troops serving in World War Two.

And the winners are ..... We'll let you decide. Maybe you can discuss it at the office Christmas party. We'd love you to join in the discussion here and contribute your own accolades and raspberries.
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I'm a real sucker for sappy Christmas songs. Prime example:

by Jon Jones (score: 4|20778) 3574 days ago
I'm not sure which list Last Christmas by Wham belongs to.

Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy performed by David Bowie and Bing Crosby is pretty great.

The Funny or Die parody with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly is fantastic.

by Vanessa (score: 4|35872) 3574 days ago
I love the Australian Christmas Carol "The Carol of the Birds" and also the one that starts with :"The red dust is over the town", (I think that's how it starts!)
by jay.m (score: 1|59) 3568 days ago
Chris Rea "Driving Home for Christmas" always gets me
by karin (score: 1|10) 3566 days ago
Definitely in the 'best' Christmas Songs category would be anything sung by Aled Jones, the Welsh lyric baritone. A couple of favourites of mine are 'Candlelight Carol' -, and 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' sung with boy band, "Libera" - .

The ultimate Christmas song though is Aled Jones as an adult, singing a duet with himself when he was a boy soprano, with 'O Holy Night'' -
by susie (score: 0|6) 3571 days ago
Best is fairytale of New York
by mrlyn (score: 0|4) 3571 days ago

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