There are several essential elements to the holiday season that, without them, it wouldn’t be Christmas. From the warm smell of baked goods to twinkling lights lining the streets, Christmas is truly a combination of things that get us into the holiday spirit.
One of the most important elements of the Christmas season is music. There is an assortment of songs, carols, and jingles that everyone can agree are Christmas classics. They can even be described as the sound of Christmas.
Although we’ll always love the nostalgia of kids’ Christmas songs and the soul of Christmas gospel music, and we recognize that Mariah Carey basically owns the holiday season. Yes, I know and I know you know too ;). But… Christmas rock songs are the sound of the modern Christmas season, at least in my humble and Christmas obsessed opinion.
Whether it’s an original song or a cover of a Christmas jingle by one of the greatest rock stars of all time, Christmas rock songs not only get you in the spirit! They get your feet and tooshy MOVING. I absolutely love dancing and baking to Christmas music. There is just something super special about it! Anddd… we love listening to classic Christmas music when are playing adult drinking games! We’ve actually even used some of the music to help us create games.
Anyway, keep reading to find out what the best Christmas rock songs are. You might even be reminded of some old favorites!
A Brief History of Christmas Rock Songs
Soon after sound recording became the norm and started sweeping the world in the early 20th century, Christmas songs became some of the most successful genres to be recorded. Although recordings of already established classics such as “O Holy Night” and “The 12 Days of Christmas” were well-known and had a lot of interest, original songs soon started gaining traction and popularity.
For example, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was written by Johnny Marks in 1949 and inspired by the newly developed character created 10 years prior. Although initially marketed as a children’s song, it has been covered, adapted, and sung by several recording artists. And there are MANY adaptations available. From The Temptations to Alvin and the Chipmunks, it’s arguable that there’s a new recording of this classic Christmas rock song that emerges every few years.
Notable Christmas Rock Songs
The same can be said about most Christmas rock songs, many of which originated around that same time in the early 20th century. Notable Christmas rock songs include:
- “Jingle Bell Rock”
- “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
- “Blue Christmas”
- “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)”
- “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
One American songwriter in particular, Johnny Marks, can be linked to writing many Christmas staples today. Just for fun, here’s a little-known fact about him: He was Jewish and never actually celebrated Christmas!
Although we love the oldies, many original Christmas songs that we now consider classics date later than the early 20th century. There also continue to be a number of original Christmas songs that are written, recorded, and performed to this day. In fact, it’s almost expected from most popular recording artists that they’ll eventually release at least one Christmas album at some point in their careers. For some, their Christmas albums are forgotten after the year that they’re released, while others see their Christmas albums become one of their most successful releases.
Notable Christmas albums include:
- Merry Christmas – Mariah Carey
- What a Wonderful Christmas – Louis Armstrong
- Christmas With Johnny Cash – Johnny Cash
- White Christmas – Bing Crosby
Rock artists have also been known to make Christmas music. Some of them having the most popular Christmas songs of all time. Let’s take a look at some of the best Christmas rock songs to get you grooving this holiday season.
Best Christmas Rock Songs for Your Holiday Playlist
Many artists will admit it’s hard to know whether a Christmas song will become a mega hit during the holiday season. I mean, how can you predict, especially now? So even though many Christmas songs by popular rock artists find at least moderate success during the season they’re released, the ultimate Christmas rock songs continue to be holiday staples long after their initial success.
With so many Christmas rock songs played throughout the holiday season, it’s hard to pick a favorite or even to recognize each song. I’ve put a list together to help you choose the best ones to add to your holiday playlist.
Here are our top Christmas rock songs that have endured the test of time.
Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
Everyone has done a version of this song, but we have to go with Bobby Helm’s original 1957 recording. It’s the most popular version of the song you’ll hear, as well as the most recognizable. It tops the charts every holiday season and can be heard in every mall, supermarket, and airport until New Years.
Fun fact: Did you know this was originally released as a country song? Although you can hear its country roots, many people will say it’s a quintessential rock hit. Talk about a crossover smash!
A Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney and the Wings
Next on our list of the best Christmas rock songs, we have A Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney and the Wings.
Written by McCartney during his post-Beatles fame in 1979. This is one of the most popular modern, original Christmas rock songs written by an artist at, or arguably even past, the height of their career. This song has a happy tune and even happier lyrics that can get anyone in a jolly mood.
Some may not consider this a rock song due to its synthesizer line – a taste of what was to dominate the 1980s – but since it was written and recorded by someone who was once part of the biggest rock band in the world, we had to include it.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2
Next, we have Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by U2. Originally recorded by Darlene Love and co-written by Phil Spector in 1963, the U2 version of this song is more of what you expect from a Christmas rock song.
If rock isn’t your favorite genre, there are several other versions of this song that span a wide array of genres. Other notable versions of the song include a rendition by Mariah Carey and another by Michael Bublé. However, no matter what version of this song you listen to, we can agree that it is one of the great Christmas rock songs of all time.
Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen
We can’t talk about rock songs without mentioning one of the greatest rock bands of all time: Queen. Fans will be happy to know that the band has a Christmas rock song. “Thank God It’s Christmas” is everything you expect from a Queen song.
Released in 1984, this touching song features Freddie Mercury’s gigantic vocals and the band’s classic musical arrangement. In 2019, 35 years after its original release, the band released an adorable animated lyric video to pair with the song.
Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John Lennon
Next on our list of Christmas rock songs, we have “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon.
This is the second Christmas rock song on our list by a former Beatle. A joint effort with his wife Yoko Ono that was released in 1971, this song was part of the duo’s famous peace efforts. What makes this song special is that it features a Harlem community choir in the background vocals.
Even though at the time of its release it was meant to be a protest song in opposition to the Vietnam War, the song continues to triumph as a Christmas classic to this day.
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
You’re most likely familiar with this classic Christmas song and the mature vocals that accompany it. However, did you know Brenda Lee was only 13 when she recorded this single in 1958?
Another standard Christmas song written by Johnny Marks, this song took a couple years to gain traction. Once it did, I believe it went on to sell over 50 million copies, and it’s been covered dozens of times. The song gained new life when it was featured in the 1990 hit film Home Alone. Isn’t that crazy?
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town – Bruce Springsteen
Next on the list, we have Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
The earliest known recorded version of this song dates back to 1934. There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of recordings since! I think that’s absolutely crazy! However, this is the version I find to be the most worthy to be considered one of the best rock songs.
Also known as the Boss, Springsteen was once known as the epitome of America!I think that is what gives his 1975 version of this song a unique charm. His raspy vocals and boisterous attitude are what make this one of the best Christmas rock songs ever.
Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
We can’t talk about rock songs without mentioning Elvis. Luckily, he gave us a great hit to get us in the holiday mood every year.
“Blue Christmas” is one of the all-time classic Christmas rock songs performed by the King himself, Elvis Presley. Written in 1948 and originally recorded by Doye O’Dell, Elvis added his Memphis charm to this song. And I think he took it to a whole new level. Still considered a longstanding staple to the Christmas season, it’s easy to see how this song made its way onto our list.
Feliz Navidad – José Feliciano
Even though this isn’t a typical rock song and most of the lyrics aren’t even in English! Many would still agree that “Feliz Navidad” is such a Christmas standard that it travels across genres. I mean, we sing it in our household all throughout the holiday season. It’s just so catchy! I find this is another one that gets me groovin’ and shaking.
Written and recorded by Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Felicano in 1970, this song is simple, heartfelt, and fun. Feliciano claims he actually wrote it while he was away from his family and homesick, which may explain why it feels like there’s so much heart in this song.
The song is not only a classic in the United States and the Spanish community, but it is a major global hit that can be heard around the world during the holiday season.
Chanukah Song – Adam Sandler
Last on our list of the best Christmas rock songs is “Chanukah Song” by Adam Sandler.
Ending this list with a song titled “Chanukah Song” speaks to the pure comedy of the songs. Did you know? This song was initially a gimmick written in 1994 for a sketch during his time on Saturday Night Live! Sandler probably had no idea that the song would have the lasting impact that it had in the comedy world! And also during the holiday season.
Not only has he recorded a new version of this song several times, but it has also been covered by many other artists and been featured in several TV shows and movies, including The Office and Robot Chicken.
The Takeaway: Christmas Music Is the Sound of the Holidays
The holiday season isn’t complete without hearing Christmas songs every time you walk into an establishment. Although people often joke about how repetitive Christmas music can get, there’s something about hearing your favorite Christmas rock song on the radio or even purposefully playing it from Spotify that gets everyone in the holiday spirit.
From oldies but goodies to more modern classics, there’s a large variety of Christmas rock songs out there to bring you joy and get you moving. If Christmas rock songs aren’t your thing, you can find holiday music in every genre.
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