How do the traditional Christmas standards perform on the Official Charts?
There are some songs that feel like they have been around forever. Much can be said about the handful of Christmas standards that have become as commonplace in British life as turkey, tinsel and re-purposing your kitchen towel as the costume of a Wise Man in the Nativity.
Thanks to the introduction of downloads and streaming, it's now a common sight for these standards to enjoy renewed popularity on the Official Singles Chart each holiday season. In some cases, they've even reached higher peaks than they did when they were originally released, and other favourites were actually never first issued as singles at all.
Join us below as we analyse which traditional Christmas faves still have the power for chart dominance, decades after their initial release.
Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!
Incredibly, this Christmas classic, in all these decades, has only just scraped into the Top 40, reaching Number 37 in 2020. That's partly down to the track being created seven years before before the Official Chart was born, in 1945. While the song has been covered by many artists, including Michael Buble, Rod Stewart and Carly Simon, it's Dean Martin's rendition that is the most popular and now appears in the charts across the world.
It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Andy Williams' festive mainstay has been around since 1963, but only reached its highest peak on the Official Singles Chart - Number 17 - in 2017. Every year since, it's managed to chart in the UK at Christmas time, reliably returning to the Top 40.
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
Brenda Lee's original was a Number 6 hit waaaaaay back in 1962, and finally returned to the Top 40 in 2016, thanks to streaming, and reached Number 9 the following year. Brenda's version, however, was lapped in 1987 when comedian Mel Smith and singer Kim Wilde teamed up for a novelty version in aid of Comic Relief, peaking at Number 3.
White Christmas is the oldest million-seller in UK Chart history, having been in circulation since 1942. One of the most popular songs of all time, yet it has never reached Number 1. It even had to wait 35 years (!) to break through on the charts, reaching Number 5 in 1977. A new version of the track with the London Symphony Orchestra was released in 2019.
Jingle Bell Rock
Maybe we can thank Mean Girls for this tune's enduring festive popularity, but it was first released by Bobby Helms in 1957. It took until 2019 for Jingle Bell Rock to reach its highest peak of Number 30 under Helms, but has actually peaked inside the Top 40 three times in total. Old-school crooner and entertainer Max Bygraves took it to Number 7 in 1959. Chubby Checker and Bobby Rydell's cover reached Number 40 in 1962.
The Christmas Song
Nat King Cole's original of this classic shockingly didn't even make it to the UK Top 40 - peaking at Number 52 in 1992. But it's got a very modern twist (and chart success) thanks to breakthrough UK artist Olivia Dean, who has covered the song for Amazon Music as an exclusive release in 2021. At the time of writing, it's become Dean's highest-peaking UK chart hit, at Number 39.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) has been a Top 10 hit three times – twice for John & Yoko in 1972 and 1980 and then for the finalists of Pop Idol in 2003. The 1980 rerelease following the death of John Lennon is the one to hit the highest – peaking at Number 2 behind St Winifred’s School Choir with There’s No One Quite Like Grandma. Oh yes.
In 2018, Happy Xmas (War Is Over) went Top 20 for the first time in 38 years, reaching Number 19. View John Lennon's Official Chart history in full here.
Silent Night as the distinction of being involved in the first ever chart battle for the Official Christmas Number 1 single. Sadly, Bing Crosby's (yes, him again) version in 1952 only reached Number 8. Al Martino won that year with Here In My Heart. Then, 36 years later, boyband Bros hit Number 2 with their cover in 1988.
Winter Wonderland has been around since 1934 and covered by big names like Leona Lewis, Aretha Franklin, Eurythmics, Diana Ross and Michael Bublé. But it's hit the Top 40 only once, when Johnny Mathis took it walking in a winter Top 20, reaching Number 17 in 1958.
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Probably most famous for its cover by the You know the Jackson 5 version, which charted for the first time in 2018, hitting Number 30, but the song also has renditions by Bing Crosby (again), Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, and even Dannii Minogue and Ronan Keating. But Santa Claus Is Coming To Town has charted just two other times. The Carpenters had a modest hit, reaching Number 37 in 1975. Its other appearance is thanks to none other than Bruce Springsteen, who reached Number 9 in 1985 with a double-A side of My Hometown.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Shockingly, this emotional ditty has never graced the Top 40. Closest was Rod Stewart's rendition, which peaked at 51 in 2012.
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
If Mariah is the modern queen of Christmas, then Michael Buble is its king. Such is the power of Buble's 2011 Christmas LP, it took It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas into the Top 40 and then Seven years after its release, it went Top 10, hitting Number 7. At the time of writing in 2021, Buble's take is back in the Top 10, currently at Number 9.
A saucy takedown of how materialistic Christmas has become (thank you capitalism), Eartha Kitt, Mariah, Madonna, Kylie, Ariana, and most recently Gwen Stefani have all tackled this femme fatale classic. For years it never made the Top 40, gaining a couple of near-misses for Eartha (stalling at Number 58) and Kylie, until… Santa Baby finally edged up to Number 38 in 2017, becoming Kylie Minogue's 50th Top 40 hit. See all Kylie's UK hit singles and albums in her Official Chart archive
The Power Of Love
This one isn't technically a Christmas song, but its notable since both versions of the song - the original by Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Gabrielle Aplin's moody cover - both hit Number 1 on the Official Charts, although neither claimed Christmas Number 1s (it's also notable that Frankie Goes To Hollywood's original version has a video that recreates the Nativity scene, if you weren't already sure this was a modern Christmas standard).
Gabrielle's cover as well was the first track used in the John Lewis Christmas advert to top the charts, following soon would be the likes of Lily Allen. So, here it is in all its angsty glory, in honour of a new British Christmas tradition.
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