And heeerre weeeee go!
1. “Little Saint Nick” - Beach Boys
“Little Saint Nick” is not only the best Christmas song, it’s the best Beach Boys song. Released just before Christmas in 1963, this song perfectly captures everything I like about Christmas: the color red, hot rods, and the weird juxtaposition of Christmas (a winter holiday) with a traditionally warm weather setting (the “Beach” Boys). As an aside, I grew up near a resort town, and to me there’s nothing better than seeing a dead off-season beach town decorated for Christmas. Regardless, this is the best Christmas song, hands down. “Christmas comes this time each year...” is one of the best—and truest!—lyrics from any song, but especially any Beach Boys song.
2. “Christmas Time Is Here” - Vince Guaraldi Trio
Everyone knows this song. If you don’t, you’ve been living under a rock. At the very least, you’ve heard the instrumental version, but for the purposes of this list, we’re concentrating on the vocal version. “Christmas Time Is Here” first surfaced as part of 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is notable for being one of the very first animated Christmas Specials, and also for being the second-best one after Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Really, this and #3 are a toss-up, but I dig the piano on this song, so I’m bumping it up to #2. I’ll be honest, I don’t think you can claim to be a fan of Christmas and not like this song.
3. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” - Burl Ives
Like I said above, “Rudolph” and “Christmas Time” are a toss-up. I love both. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is actually my favorite Christmas movie—probably because it is the best one, and I like good things—and like the second entry, I don’t think you can claim to be a fan of Christmas without enjoying this song. Shockingly, this song first appeared in 1964's Christmas Special of the same name. It is child-like whimsy wrapped in a peppermint candy coating. It is the way the sound of snow falling tastes. It is like a Christmas explosion in your brain. Burl Ives has such a distinctive voice that is well-suited to singing Christmas songs (see also: #4).
A warning, regarding both the movie and the song: accept no substitutes. Some people will tell you the various remakes of Rudolph (movie) are in some way superior to the original Claymation version; these people do not have your best interests at heart, and you would do well to ignore them. Others will tell you the Gene Autry version of the song is better than Burl Ives’ version. I would offer that killing someone who said this would not be considered a disproportionate response, and probably falls under some interpretation of the Castle Doctrine.
4. “A Holly Jolly Christmas” - Burl Ives
Like I said before, Burl Ives’ voice was made for Christmas songs. This song, from Ives’ 1965 Have A Holly Jolly Christmas, is required listening for the holiday season. It clocks in at just over 2 minutes, which tracks well with the amount of time you really want to have to spend conversing with your racist uncle at Christmas dinner. You can just imagine this song, in your head, while he’s talking about how brown-skinned people are going to kill us all/take our money/something else racist, and your life will be better for it.
5. “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” - Elmo & Patsy
This is White Trash Christmas at it’s finest. I grew up in a fairly rural area, and this song was played incessantly on the local radio stations. Released in 1979, this novelty song describes the death of the titular grandmother at the hands....err, hooves...of the Jolly Elf’s reindeer. Really, this song is terrible, but it makes #5 on this list because I cannot feasibly extract this song from so many of my Childhood memories. It’s corny in the way The Red Green Show is corny, but without any of the humor or endearing characterization.
There you have it, folks! Surely some of your favorite Christmas songs did not make this Top 5 list. Sorry, that’s your fault for having bad taste, but I’d be willing to entertain an arguments to the contrary in the comments below.