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Christmas songs: Popular seasonal music through the years

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The Christmas songs we have embraced and allowed to become classics have changed drastically through the years. Back in the 1930s, such classics as the mythical “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and the seasonal “Winter Wonderland” were widely performed. In the 1940s there were other Christmas songs which have become favorites through the years - such as “White Christmas,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “The Christmas Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” and “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

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In the 1950s, Christmas songs really started to change with songs like “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and “Blue Christmas” being popular in the Christmas seasons. Though standards such as “Silver Bells,” “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,” and the giddy “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Frosty the Snowman” came along in that decade as well.

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Beyond the 1960s, acceptance of new Christmas songs tended to slow down. Yet, the 1960s still brought us some songs which have lasted for 50-plus years such as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Pretty Paper,” and “Little Saint Nick.” Novelty songs "Santa Claus is Watching You" and "Snoopy's Christmas" have pretty-much lasted through the years as well.

The 1970s saw a continued slow down of new Christmas classics, but that was the decade “Feliz Navidad” was embraced, as well as “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” and the comedic “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

The 1980s brought some more Christmas songs, but not many have lasted other than “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and perhaps “Last Christmas.”

The 1990s produced few new Christmas songs that have lasted, but a welcome-addition which has enjoyed tremendous popularity in the past 20 years is “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

There were other Christmas classics, for sure, such as “The Twelve Days of Christmas” – which in its English form – goes back to 1909. But, the bulk of the Christmas songs we hear each Christmas season were obviously written from the 1930s through the 1970s.

Currently, the only Christmas song getting any attention for its Christmas-time message is “Merry Christmas Exclamation Point.” It is “current” and included here only as a sample of the type of Christmas song being created in 2013. All the others in this article are "classics."

Christmas songs through the years - one example from each decade: 1930s to present (Click on the song title to hear the song)

1930s: Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Frank Sinatra)

1940s: White Christmas (Bing Crosby)

1950s: Jingle Bell Rock (Brenda Lee)

1960s: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Andy Williams)

1970s: Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano)

1980s: Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Band Aid)

1990s: All I Want for Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey)

Example of current Christmas song: Christmas Exclamation Point (Jon Lajoie)

This article is about the non-religious popular songs of the Christmas season which were introduced to the public in recent times – not the classic hymns and songs with a religious reference.

Merry Christmas!

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