The five best and worst Christmas songs ever

Around Christmastime, I’m usually informed by someone that I’m something of a grinch. My heart seems to be three sizes too small… at least when it comes to Christmas music.

Although I try to have a bit of yuletide cheer, I’m generally not a fan of the songs. So many are just kind of, well, terrible. Either theologically inaccurate, badly written and performed, or some combination thereof.

But that’s not to say all of them are awful. Some are really, really good. So today, I thought it’d be fun to do a bit of comparing and contrasting, with what I believe are the five best and worst Christmas songs ever.

Best: “This is War”

I love this song a lot, even if it’s not super-cheery in tone:

Worst: “It Must Be Santa”

This song is six kinds of terrible—and Bob Dylan made it even worse:

I’m pretty sure this is one of the songs that will be played in Hell. On repeat.

Best: “Go Tell it on the Mountain”

Jacob Moon does a great job on this one:

Worst: “Last Christmas”

Any version is terrible, but here’s Taylor Swift’s (since I hear it every time I go to the grocery store):

Best: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”

Worst: “Wonderful Christmas Time” 

The post-Beatles years were not always kind to Paul McCartney, as evidenced by the following:

Best: “O Come, Emmanuel”

There are so many terrific versions out there, but this one is excellent:

Worst: “Santa Baby”

Because nothing says “Christmas” like prostitution for presents:

Best: “The 12 Days of (Canadian) Christmas”

Because I’m Canadian:

Worst: “Mary, Did You Know?”

This one’s extra cringe-worthy in its Technopraise (seriously??) remix:

So those are a few of the best and worst from my perspective. Did I miss anything?

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  • doughibbard

    Mary, Did You Know? is great once per year. It’s a “special music” song for church, not a radio rotation one.

    And I’m convinced that stupid “Wonderful Christmas Time” being played incessantly on in-store radio is responsible for 87% of angry employees, 46% of public violence at Christmas, and 96% of the made-up statistics of this post.

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Agreed on Wonderful Christmas Time. Still can’t get behind Mary, Did You Know, though :) You’re right though, it’s definitely a “special.”

  • AWHall

    It Came Upon a Midnight Clear…yikes…read the words! It doesn’t matter what the tune is…

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Touching the world with harps of gold, eh?

  • Michelle Dacus Lesley

    Worst: “Same Old Lang Syne.” If I have to get into a car wreck to change the radio station when that song comes on, so be it. Ugh.

    (I call it “Same Old Melody Line.” Somebody took two bars of melody, played them back to back 573,000 times, and decided to call it a song. It’s worse than a 7-11 praise song.)

  • Matthew

    Worst: Christmas Shoes.

    I especially love O Come O Come Emmanuel sung in Latin. I’m also fond of Of The Father’s Love Begotten. There was a great arrangement of that one that we performed for the Baylor Christmas Concert one year. We also sang Let All Mortal Flesh that year… still one of my favorites.

    You should check out Bebo Norman’s Christmas CD: Christmas from the Realms of Glory. It does have Mary, Did You Know on it, but the CD as a whole is great. It also has a couple of originals on there that are really good.

  • Craig P. Hurst

    I have always been disturbed by “Santa Baby” as well. Every time I hear it I do a double take with my ears.

  • Keystone

    “O Holy Night” shivers me timbers done by anyone at Christmas,….. like “Amazing Grace” does all year!
    I especially like the line noting how “the soul felt its worth”.
    We need to feel our souls worth too.

  • Mark

    One that really bugs me is “What Child is This?” The problem is in the last line repeated over and over:
    What child is this, who, laid to rest,
    On Mary’s lap is sleeping,Whom angels greet with anthems sweetWhile shepherds watch are keeping?This, this is Christ the King,Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;1Haste, haste to bring Him laud,2The babe, the son of Mary!

    Is it just me or is there another option than “Mary” that sounds good rhyming with “laud”? (God=Laud sounds nice) Why force in the Mary part? A wonderful woman, Mary. but not one to worship at Christmas. Just sayin’

  • Matthew

    I still agree with what I said a year ago. That Let All Mortal Flesh arrangement is by Gustav Holst, though I can’t seem to find a decent recording of it on Youtube. Fernando Ortega’s version is quite good as well, though. (Then again, any Fernando Ortega arrangement is going to be good.)