People who work in malls around the country might not agree by the time Dec. 24 rolls around, but
Christmas music is just the best. It sets the tone more than anything else really can. That being said, there’s Christmas music and then there’s Christmas music for kids. When it comes to picking out Christmas songs to listen to with kids, it’s always a good idea to stick with stuff that’s light, fun, and easy to sing along to. Plus if there’s a story about a bullied reindeer in there somewhere, it’s always a hit.
Christmas music has been around in some form or another since at least the 12th century, when
Francis of Assissi wrote down carols being sung in churches across Italy, France, and Germany that would really stand the test of time. The more contemporary holiday songs really came out in the mid-20th century, when radio became a big deal and big crooners like Bing Crosby and Burl Ives realized they could have hit after hit by singing about Christmas.
And in 2023, the classics are still jams today. From “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” to “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” here are 20 Christmas songs your little ones will be dancing to all December long.
“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”
“You know Dasher, and Dancer. Prancer and Vixen. Comet and Cupid. Donner and Blitzen. But do you recall...”
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was first recorded by Burl Ives in 1964, long after the other reindeer became famous in the classic Christmas story in 1823. But, and no offense to those terribly talented reindeer; they didn’t get their own television special. Or their own song. And their stories just aren’t as good. Rudolph, on the other hand, is still beloved by kids everywhere because his song tells the story of a reindeer being bullied for being different. And it’s not a small thing that his nose is the thing leading Santa to their houses on stormy Christmas Eves to deliver their presents. ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas
No wonder they love it.
“Frosty The Snowman”
Not to be outdone by a reindeer whose nose glows, here comes “Frosty the Snowman” in 1969. In this song, kids actually see one of their dreams come true; a snowman they’ve built coming to life and dancing around. He even had his own built in legend that came with him. According to the lyrics, Frosty was “a fairytale they say. He was made of snow, but the children know, how he came to life one day.”
Gene Autry sang the song that’s still being sung today. And I’d be willing to bet there are still kids who hope their own snowman comes to life every year because of it. “Jingle Bell Rock”
Here’s a song we’ve all heard so many versions of it’s hard to keep track. And why? Why do adults and kids l
ove “Jingle Bell Rock” so much? It’s still a chart topper to this day. Sure, Bobby Helms did a great little intro guitar riff in the original version from 1957, and there are actual jingle bells sounding off in the background. But the lyrics, “Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring, Snowin' and blowin' up bushels of fun, Now the jingle hop has begun” make no sense.
I guess it’s so much fun that no one cares, really. They’re too busy dancing.
“Have A Holly Jolly Christmas”
You really have to hand it to Burl Ives; two classic Christmas songs in one stop-motion movie about a reindeer? That’s impressive. While
“Holly, Jolly Christmas” is certainly the lesser known song from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” it’s still a fun one. And credit to Ives, the lyrics actually make sense. “Have a holly, jolly Christmas. It’s the best time of the year. I don’t know if there’ll be snow, so have a cup of cheer.” It’s a very repetitive song, which makes it more fun for kids because we all know how they love to do things on repeat.
Easy to sing, fun to hear. Truly a cup of cheer.
“The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)”
Alvin, Simon, and Theodore really came up with an original song with
“The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late).” It’s the only Christmas song where there’s an argument going on in the background, which makes it especially fun for kids. Who doesn’t want to hear Dave (writer and Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian) fighting with sassy little Alvin? And kids also identify with “we can hardly stand the wait, please Christmas don’t be late.”
Another song from the mid-century, this one came out in 1959 and it’s message holds as true today as when it was first written. Hurry up Christmas, we want to see our presents.
“It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”
I suspect this song is popular with kids not just because it’s so catchy, but because it’s in several kids’ movies like
. Kids are featured “jingle belling” in the very first verse too, plus I think they get to be a part “everyone telling you be of good cheer” which is nice. Who doesn’t want to be of good cheer? Home Alone 2
released this song in 1963, and since then it’s been played on repeat at all the “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow.” So I guess he knew what he was singing about. “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”
Just in case you thought your kids were asking for too much for Christmas, please consider these words. “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas. Only a hippopotamus will do. I don’t want a doll, no dinky tinker toy. I want a hippopotamus to play with and enjoy.” Gayle Peevy set the barre high with “
I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” in 1953 as a 10-year-old girl singing the hilariously catchy song. And the thing is; she got one. After her song was released, people donated money to the San Diego Zoo so that she could visit a hippo on Christmas Eve.
Maybe don’t tell your kids that part.
Here is my suggestion. Gather your kids to bake in the kitchen and play “Feliz Navidad” by Boney M. It might not be the original by
José Feliciano from 1960, which is also loads of fun, but this one has a little extra something special. First of all, this song is bilingual and teaches kids how to say “Merry Christmas” in Spanish in a way that’s fun and accessible.
Second, it’s just a really great song. More than 50 years after it was released, it will definitely gets kids dancing. Or baking cookies with you. Or both.
If you really want your kids to love a song, just add some Disney characters. Especially Goofy. The gang took on the classic “Sleigh Ride,” originally recorded by the Leroy Anderson in 1948, and added their own twist to it. Already a boppy sort of song, Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and the rest of the Disney crew make it funny. Which isn’t terribly hard to do with lyrics like, “Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring tingle tingling too (ring-a-ling-a ding-dong-ding!) Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.”
Definitely not the only fun version, of course. But for kids, Disney usually wins.
Bing Crosby, another Christmas giant, and the Andrews sisters sang
“Mele Kalikimaka” in 1949. It’s important to note the obvious white-washing of this song, sung as it was by a white man not from Hawaii about Christmas in Hawaii. That being said, it’s a good song that teaches kids how to say “Merry Christmas” in Hawaiian, literally “Mele Kalikimaka.” And it’s a fun, sort of innocent song that feels a bit different with the tropical sounds in the background giving off an island vibe.
Plus, it was
in . So depending on the age of your kids, that’s a real selling feature. Christmas Vacation “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”
Every kid loves the Grinch. As Boris Karloff sings in “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” his “brain is full of spiders, you’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch. I wouldn’t touch you with a 39 and a half foot pole.” This is the absolute genius of this song. Short, catchy, and full of amazing poetry from Dr. Seuss that manages to rhyme without sounding like it’s trying to rhyme.
Of course, watching
doesn’t hurt the appeal of this bizarre Christmas song from 1966. Nor does the iconically spooky voice of Boris Karloff himself. How The Grinch Stole Christmas “All I Want For Christmas”
Mariah Carey owns Christmas at this point, and for good reason. Her Christmas songs are some of the only modern classics, everything else seems to have come out in the middle of the 20th century.
“All I Want For Christmas” came out in 1994, and immediately became a smash hit. The song is guaranteed to put you in the Christmas mood at the very least, and most likely will get you dancing and singing at the top of your lungs.
This includes kids. Who don’t exactly hate their parents singing to them, “All I want for Christmas is you,” because in most cases, it’s probably true.
“Christmas In Hollis”
Do you want your kids to feel cool? Like they’re actual big kids with big kid taste in music instead of little kids who like, I don’t know, “Baby Shark?” Put on Run DMC’s 1987 hit “
Christmas In Hollis.” The lyrics are actually pretty funny, “It was December 24 on Hollis Ave after dark, When I seen a man chilling with his dog in the park. I approached him very slowly with my heart full of fear. Looked at his dog, oh my God, an ill reindeer.”
And let’s face it; this is more of a banger than pretty much any other Christmas song out there. There’s nothing like sharing a song you actually like with your kids; this one is it.
“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”
“You better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout, I’m telling you why.
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.” This song is pretty menacing, to be honest. But kids seem to love it, so perhaps the best version to listen to is the super upbeat version by The Jackson 5 from 1970. Little Michael Jackson sort of skates over the mild threats peppered throughout the songs so kids might miss them.
Because do we really want our kids sitting around thinking about Santa Claus watching them when they’re sleeping, and knowing when they’re awake? Best just to dance to the beat and ignore the rest.
“Up On The Housetop”
Another Jackson 5 cover of a Christmas song from their 1970 holiday album, “
Up On The Housetop,” is just about the best version out there. This time around they changed the words a bit to be about their own family, like with “Jackie's almost six feet tall, But no hot shot at basketball. Bring him a basket three feet tall. Maybe he'll play like a pro.”
And naturally it is just a way, way more upbeat version than anything before. Or actually since. For kids, it’s all about upbeat, high energy, fun Christmas music. Because that’s sort of the spirit of the season isn’t it?
Getting kids to dance around until they exhaust themselves and sleep all night.
“Christmas In Hollis”
I don’t know why the ‘80s were such a great time for fun holiday music, but they just were. And if ever you want to seem like the cool mom/dad to your kids, introduce them to
Run DMC’s 1987 banger “Christmas In Hollis.” It actually has a solid beat to it and would be fun to dance to even if it weren’t a holiday song, and the lyrics are kind of great, “Rhymes so loud and prod you hear it/It's Christmas time and we got the spirit/Jack Frost chillin', the hawk is out.And that's what Christmas is all about.” How great is that? “Wonderful Christmastime”
Speaking of lyrics, do you know what kids love? When a song has super easy lyrics so they can get down to singing along right away. Especially if the song happens to be in a popular Christmas movie and is super upbeat. Paul McCartney’s
“Wonderful Christmastime” from 1979 was in that year’s animated version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and it features some wonderfully simply lyrics. “The moon is bright, the spirit’s up. We’re here tonight. And that’s enough. Simply having a wonderful Christmastime.” That’s it really, over and over. Kids love it. “Santa Tell Me”
Ariana Grande’s instant
holiday classic “Santa Tell Me” from 2014 almost feels like a bit of a palette cleanser. It’s a Christmas song for sure, but it’s like a crossover that could almost work as a song all year. Not to mention the fact that this song will definitely hit with older kids who want to feel more grown up instead of sticking with the little kid standbys they’ve listened to year after year. This one will be on replay around the house, trust me. “Mistletoe” Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe” from 2011 is a song about smooching under the mistletoe with his shorty, which might not really resonate with your kids. But you know what will? Just literally everything else about this song. “Mistletoe” doesn’t need to make sense, it’s a fun song and Bieber’s child-like voice is really easy on the ears. The video is pretty hilarious for adults to watch too which just feels like a bonus. “Christmas Wrapping”
“Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses because it’s a genuinely good song and sometimes it’s important to expose your kids to music you like. Yes, you hear it in every shopping mall over the holidays, but when you think of it you probably really only hear a snippet or two. Plus your kids will want to dance around to this one which can feel uncomfortable in a mall. So really settle in and enjoy this fun, bizarre little song.
Christmas music can feel like a lot after awhile, but if you play these 20 songs while wrapping presents or baking cookies or doing something fun with your kids, you’ll be surprised how much they appreciate it. And remember it.
This article was originally published on
Dec. 7, 2021