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The top 20 most successful Christmas songs ever


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It’s that time again folks! You’ve got Michael Buble’s album defrosting by the fire along with the roasting chestnuts, you’re ready to murder everyone trying to steal your turkey in Tescos and you still haven’t finished your wrapping - the festive season is upon us.

And what could be more Christmassy than the annual debate over which Christmas song is the best. At the start of Christmas day we’re rocking the Noddy Holder scream, and by the end of it sound like Shane McGowan in ‘Fairytale of New York’ (seriously, does anyone know what he’s saying?).

We know that Granny always tells us that the old songs are the best - and it’s interesting to see that the tunes that make the top 20 are almost exclusively from the 20th century.

There are also some hidden gems that made it to the Christmas top spot- Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ and The Beatles’ ‘I Feel Fine’, but we thought we’d focus on the festive favourites.

So here we bring you the true gift of Christmas- some gold, frankincense and myrrh, and the top 20 bestselling Christmas songs of all time. 

1. Band Aid- Do They Know it’s Christmas? (1984)

It’s comforting to hear that the bestselling Christmas song EVER is one for a good cause, with Bob Geldof and co. shifting an incredible 3.8 million units since its release in 1984, making it the one Christmas hit to sell over 3 million copies. Its revamps have raised millions for worthy causes, and remains one of Britain’s best loved festive tunes.

2. Boney M- Mary’s Boy Child (1978)

One of the few on the list that remains true to the religious origins of Christmas, and this one managed to climb to the top spot not once, but twice. Boney M’s 1978 disco revival was the bigger hit, selling a huge 1.88 million sales. Not too shabby you might think, but band member Liz Mitchell claims that the royalties that they receive are “minimal and menial”, each receiving a pitiful 1% each year.  

3. Wham! – Last Christmas (1984) #3 this year

Before his tragic death on Christmas day 2016, Wham!’s lead singer George Michael is rumoured to have made £300,000 a year in royalties for this smash hit alone. Last Christmas is the biggest selling #2 single of all time, shifting a whopping 1.82 million sales back in 1984, and only missing out on the top spot because of the colossal Band Aid single. Each year the hit sells more and more copies, and is currently sitting comfortably at #3 in the UK Singles Chart.  

4. Harry Belafonte - Mary’s Boy Child (1957)

The one that started it all is at #4, with the original tune selling an incredible 1.18 million units on its 1950s release.

5. Band Aid 20 (2004)

The festive favourite returned to the charts with a new noughties look, featuring The Sugarbabes, Dizzee Rascal and The Darkness, and sold an incredible 72,000 in the first 24 hours of release. It became the UK’s biggest selling single of the year as well as Christmas #1, and was the last single ever to sell a million copies on CD, as times were a changing.  

6. Slade- Merry Xmas Everybody (1973)

Whether you love or hate it, we can all agree that when we hear that scream it is officially Christmas. British treasure Noddy Holder is as Christmas as St Nick himself, and is just as jolly, making an estimated £500,000 a year from the hit. It sold over a million copies in the UK alone, and is estimated to be the most recognisable song in the world, with almost half of its population having heard it. Now that is a hit.

7. Bing Crosby - White Christmas (1942)

There’s nothing like a golden oldie - and I’m sure that Mr Crosby would agree, as this one makes £328,000 in royalties each year. The hit has been covered countless times and holds a candle to everyone’s biggest Christmas wish, but will this be the year that it comes true?

8. East 17 - Stay Another Day (1994)

Probably one of the coolest on the list (if that’s your kinda thing) is a good old-fashioned boyband providing us with a Christmas staple, and a fancy dress idea for your office Christmas party. This also provides the band members with an impressive £100,000 in royalties a year- enough to maybe update the winter wardrobe.

9. Cliff Richard - The Millennium Prayer (1999)

At #9 it’s an unexpected entry from Cliff Richard, with a #1 which certainly ruffled some feathers. Back in 1999 Cliff left his record label EMI after 40 years when they were reluctant to release a recording of the Lord’s Prayer, sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. However Cliff had the last laugh of the 20th century when it reached the top spot and became his 14th song to do so. EMI might have had a point though- the song has been voted in several polls as the UK’s worst #1 ever. Bah humbug!

10. Johnny Mathis - When a Child is Born (1976)

Christmas time seems to be a make-or-break for singer/songwriter careers, with this peaceful tune securing Mathis’ only #1 single, which stayed put for three weeks and sold an incredible 885,000 copies. And I bet your Mum still remembers it.

11. John Lennon/Yoko Ono - Happy Christmas (War is Over) (1972)

A slightly alternative festive favourite, Lennon claimed that he was “sick of White Christmas”, and so wrote a song that would promote the activism that he and Yoko did in previous years. Surprisingly, John Lennon’s Christmas tune wasn’t an immediate hit, and failed to chart in the US upon its first release in the US. It eventually reached #4 in the UK when it was released the following year, and was re-released for Christmas in 1980, just a few weeks after the former Beatle was killed. This time it climbed to #2, and re-entered the charts in 2003 and 2007.

12. Jona Lewie - Stop the Cavalry (1980)

Like Lennon, Lewie never intended for 'Stop the Cavalry' to be a Christmas hit, but instead wrote a protest song against global conflicts. We bet he’s grateful that he added in that one festive line (“wish I was at home for Christmas”) though, because the royalties earn him an impressive £120,000 each year, and a huge 50% of his income. It reached #3 back in 1980, just behind two songs released in honour of John Lennon after his sudden death.

13. Cliff Richard - Mistletoe and Wine (1988)

Cliff might have two songs make it to the bestselling Christmas songs of all time, but he’s also climbing up some other...less festive polls. Despite securing the #1 spot for four weeks (his 12th #1 in total), selling 750,000 units of Mistletoe and Wine and earning £100,000 from this tune alone, it was recently voted in a poll by Costa Coffee as Britain’s most hated Christmas song. Looks like he'll have to go to Starbucks for his Gingerbread latte from now on.

14. Mud - Lonely This Christmas (1974)

It seems that this list is no stranger to some Glam Rock, with quartet Mud at #14. They secured the 1974 Christmas #1 and continued to into January of 1975, after selling 750,000 copies.

15. The Pogues ft. Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York (1987)

The song was actually a result of a bet with Elvis Costello, who claimed that the band wouldn’t be able to write a Christmas song that wasn’t “slushy”. Well they definitely did just that - causing Radio DJs grief every time it gets to the second verse. It was a huge success and sold 1.18m copies, but it seems that nobody loves this tune as much as lead singer Shane McGowan, who rakes in no less than £400,000 in royalties each year for Fairytale of New York, even thirty years after its release.

16. Mariah Carey - All I Want for Christmas is You (1994)

Despite being kept from the top by Christmas giants East 17, the 1994 hit has re-entered the charts every single year since is release, and is now the most downloaded Christmas song of all time. It hit the million-sales mark in 2013, and has gone platinum twice. It’s rumoured to make $50m in royalties each year, but Mariah reportedly only receives around £400,000 of that. It’s a hard life aye.

17. Paul McCartney - Pipes of Peace (1983)

Are you thinking that this video looks familiar? Well, that might be because this was the inspiration for that Sainsbury's Christmas advert that was released in 2014 (you know, the one that stirred things up and gave John Lewis a run for their money), with soldiers returning to their trenches on Christmas day after the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, to find presents from their loved ones. 

Paul McCartney also had a pretty good Christmas in 1983, when 'Pipes of Peace' became his first solo #1, and stayed put for two weeks.  

18. Shakin Stevens - Merry Christmas Everyone (1985)

The chirpest tune goes to Shakin Stevens- a hit that rakes in between £5-10,000 in radio plays each year. He’s probably still wishing that every day is Christmas now though, as most of the estimated £130,000 in royalties goes to songwriter Bob Heatlie.  

19. Wizzard - I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day (1973)

Wizzard were yet another band kept from the top spot from Christmas giants like Slade. But despite only reaching #4, the song remains a festive favourite and still brings in £180,000 every year in royalties. Not bad at all.

20. Band Aid II (1989)

Although it didn't create quite as much of a stir, Band Aid still stormed the charts with the first revival of the 1984 and secured the Christmas #1 spot for three weeks. Banamarama made a return, and welcomed the new voices of Kylie and Jason, Wet Wet Wet and Cliff Richard. 

That's great and all, but we have one question - where is Billy Mack?!

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