What is the greatest Christmas song of all time?

A lot of songs would love to be considered the greatest Christmas song ever written, sung or released.

A lot of songs would love to be considered the greatest Christmas song ever written, sung or released. Many people could certainly argue in favour of the old and new and there is a lot of choice from every decade.

For many, of the more traditional variety, Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ would immediately be evocative of home-cooked meals, tipsy family members and a rose-tinted perspective of the festive season. Personally I rather like Ray Charles’s ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ but I’m not entirely sure it’s a Christmas song.

Charitable folks might favour Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas?’ and as honourable as this sentiment is, I really feel that it belongs to an era and experience that is quite specific and does not have the longevity that the greatest Christmas number one deserves. 

Then there are some other eighties examples – ‘All I want for Christmas is You’ or The Wham’s sickly sweet ‘Last Christmas’, which have their place, one probably best confined to the karaoke bar. Anything covered by Mariah Carey or Michael Bubble, sadly does not enter the running for the greatest Christmas number one.

For others of a more romantic persuasion, nothing would set off the Christmas festivities like Robert Burns’ poem ‘Auld Lang Syne’, used to glorious effect in When Harry Met Sally. However I do recongise that technically this would be more of a celebration of the New Year. 

For a modern audience however perhaps the appeal of last year’s Coldplay hit, ‘Christmas Lights’ would fit the bill, it is certainly a rather romantic and sentiment tribute.  

Or for the more comic perhaps a cheeky listen to Bill Nighy’s ‘Christmas is All Around’, which has got to be the best part of Curtis’s over-long homage to the Christmas period.

However for me, there has only ever been one song that could possibly hold a place as the greatest Christmas number one. It is only really playable in December; it is a deeply enjoyable song, with risqué touches. For some people it is controversial in its use of profanity and thus it has been edited for radio. Its singers have been marred in tragedy, a fact that is inescapable, but whose lovely voices live on. And as soon as those piano notes start, you know exactly where you are.

It is a song that captures the hope, the despair, the alcohol, the faintly tragic feel of something lost that cannot quite be named, mixed in with a deep affection for a loved one – this is the song of the Christmas holiday season. 

It only ever could be The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’.