Christmas Songs Throughout the Years

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The first Christmas carols date back as far as the 12th century. While a majority of Christmas songs listened to today are not the standard Christmas carols, many of the first produced holiday tunes are rooted in these classic carols. 

The first holiday song ever published in 1739 was Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, an iconic carol dating back to as early as 1650. Throughout the rest of the 18th and 19th century, other carols that are still listened to today were published, including The Twelve Days of Christmas, Deck the Halls, and O Little Town of Bethlehem.

After the first few published Christmas songs, there seemed to be a period of time in which production of this music ceased. However, in the 1940s, Christmas music came back and better than ever, producing many fan-favorite christmas songs, now studio recorded for all to hear. This time though, many of the songs were not inspired by the ancient stories of Christmas and instead by modern Christmas at that time. Songs recorded in the 1940s include White Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, the iconic Christmas Song, Here Comes Santa Claus, All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, all songs still adored by families across the globe.

The 50s was another great decade for classic Christmas hits, introducing tracks such as Frosty the Snowman, Santa Baby, Home for the Holidays, Baby It’s Cold Outside, and Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree. This decade also kick-started Elvis Presley’s collection of produced Christmas songs with his recording of Santa Claus is Back in Town in 1957. 

1960s rock music inspired many of the more upbeat and cheerful Christmas tunes. Classics such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town rose to popularity within this decade. 

This same Christmas rock trend of holiday tracks continued into the 70s, with Jingle Bell Rock recorded in 1970. This decade also welcomed many songs that were not so conventional in the previous holiday music charts in the United States. These tracks were Feliz Navidad in 1970 and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer in 1979.

Synthesizers and other classic 80s sounds were incorporated into the sound of Christmas during that decade. This classic 1980s sound can be found in Last Christmas in 1984  and Merry Christmas Everyone which was released in 1985.

The 1990s and 2000s was one of the biggest times for Christmas music, with some of the biggest, most popular Christmas songs in history. Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You still charts in the top songs around December every year. Many other popular celebrities and singers released hits at this time too, such as Destiny’s Child’s 8 Days of Christmas. Artists like Celine Dion, NSYNC, Snoop Dogg, the Spice Girls, Bon Jovi, and many more all released many Christmas tracks throughout this era, adding more modern and pop-oriented songs onto everyone’s holiday playlist. 

Finally with the 2010s, many more mainstream artists released unforgettable Christmas songs. Mariah Carey released many more holiday tracks, and Justin Bieber debuted his loved-by-all Mistletoe in 2011. Other titles released, Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande and Underneath the Tree by Kelly Clarkson also gained much positive comments, bringing more pop-Christmas tunes to the charts in 2013 and 2014.

Although Christmas music today may seem to have strayed from the original hymns and carols of the early 18th century,  the progression of holiday tracks produced from the earliest of recordings to now help create the happy holiday cheer we all know and love. 

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