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A History of Jolly Jams

A history of the greatest Christmas songs from each decade.

December 13, 2018

Christmas, one of the most anticipated times of the year. I’m sure we all wait for the time where days are cold, nights are long, and we sit by the fire sipping our hot cocoa.

One of the biggest parts of Christmas and the holiday season is the music. Hate it or love it, Christmas music will always play a vital role in getting people into the spirit of the holidays. For the past century, there has been a huge amount of Christmas song we still sing to this day.

Pre-1930’s: Holiday songs and Christmas music originated long ago, in the middle ages, when church choirs would sing songs to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Later, in the 1800s many writers interested in festive songs for Christmas started to compose traditional carols. Carols were more modern forms of old religious songs sung during Christmas time. Some of these carols we know today as “Deck the Halls”, “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night”, and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, to name a few.

1930-1939: The 1930s was a small stepping stone in modern Christmas music and holiday songs. Although Christmas music was starting to take a new direction, many still stayed traditional and classical. This would soon change with songs such as “Winter Wonderland”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, and “Jingle Bells”.

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1940-1949: After slow, yet steady progress in the last decade, the 1940s were about to change Christmas music and festive holiday songs forever. Singers, such as Gene Autry and Bing Crosby, started to sing less traditional and religious songs and started to sing more festive and joyful songs like “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer” and “Happy Holiday”. Other songs like “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” also helped paved the way for modern festive tunes.


1950-1959: The 1950s brought us many more Christmas classics like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Santa Baby”. Rock N’ Roll music was at its peak in the ’50s which led us to have our first Rock N’ Roll Christmas song in the form of “Jingle Bell Rock”. Other Rock N’ Roll Christmas songs from this time were “Run Rudolph Run”, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, and even a full-length Christmas album by the king himself, Elvis Presley. This decade also saw a small resurgence of traditional songs such as “The Little Drummer Boy”.

1960-1969: The ’60s was a quiet decade for Christmas music. Only a few songs became commercial hits in this decade. Some of these hits were brought to us by the iconic pop-rock band, The Beach Boys. One of which included “Little Saint Nick”. One of the most notable Christmas songs that were birthed during the ’60s is “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”.

1970-1979: Just as the previous decade the 1970s were slow and quiet. Not many holiday songs were becoming successful in the ’70s. A glimmer of joy was shared through two previous members of The Beatles. John Lennon, the former guitarist, wrote his song “Happy Christmas” and Paul McCartney, the former singer, wrote “Wonderful Christmastime”. Even with few holiday songs coming out of this decade, the ’70s brought the first commercially successful Christmas song in Spanish within the U.S. with the song “Feliz Navidad”.

1980-1989: The previous 20 years of Christmas music set the way for a resurgence in the holiday tradition. More acts began to make more holiday songs. Many internationally known acts such as David Bowie, Wham!, and Queen released hits like “Last Christmas”, “Peace on Earth”, “Thank God It’s Christmas”. In 1984 supergroup Band Aid, consisting of many famous musicians and singers, formed to aid famine relief in Ethiopia during this time. All the proceeds of their song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” were donated to organizations that were 

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helping Ethiopians during their terrible famine.


1990-1999: Following the enormous success of the past decade’s hits and efforts, the 1990s were arguably not the best for holiday tunes. Who can you blame? The 1980s were great! Pop singer Mariah Carey released her holiday hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. This was really the only Christmas song to remember from the ’90s. 

2000-Present (no pun intended): It was the turn of the century and time for a new start in Christmas music. The early 2000s weren’t very festive, but a few years later in the 2010’s this changed. Coldplay had their hit “Christmas Lights” and Justin Bieber had “Mistletoe”. Other songs from this time include: “You Make It Feel Like Christmas”, “Santa Tell Me”, and many more.

Christmas music and holiday songs with their rich history have been a huge part of the holiday season. We have all heard many of these songs and hopefully continue to stand the test of time.

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