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10 Popular Christmas Songs on the Radio

Updated on February 17, 2015

Favorite Holiday Songs

Can you name 10 popular Christmas songs on the radio waves?

Just days before Christmas in 2010, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) released their list of the most-played songs of the winter holiday season.

ASCAP used performance data from Mediaguide, an airplay monitoring service for radio music and advertising. Mediaguide tracked song performances for more than 2,500 radio stations across America.

Here are 10 popular Christmas songs on the radio, based on 2010 data. What songs will make the list this year?

Which 10 Christmas songs will make the list this year?
Which 10 Christmas songs will make the list this year? | Source

1. Sleigh Ride

This song played 174,758 times.

"Sleigh Ride" topped the list of popular Christmas songs of 2010. Radio stations played it nearly 175,000 times during the holiday season.

Composer Leroy Anderson conceived of the orchestral piece on a hot summer day in 1946. He completed his composition two years later. Mitchell Parish put words to the music in 1950.

Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, was the first to record the holiday classic in 1949. The instant hit became a signature piece for Fiedler.

Anderson recorded his own version of "Sleigh Ride" in 1950. It received the most radio airplay in 2010.

"Sleigh Ride" consistently ranks near the top of the list as a holiday favorite, not only in the United States but around the world.

2. Winter Wonderland

This song played 156,441 times.

"Winter Wonderland," another holiday classic, ranks second on the ASCAP list. Felix Bernard composed the song in 1934, and Richard B. (Dick) Smith wrote the lyrics for this perennial favorite.

In the original bridge, a couple makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to marry: "In the meadow we can build a snowman, then pretend that he is Parson Brown / He'll say, 'Are you married?' we'll say 'no man, but you can do the job when you're in town!'"

A 1953 version replaced this section with kid-friendly lyrics: "In the meadow we can build a snowman, and pretend that he's a circus clown / We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman, until the other kiddies knock 'im down!"

Through the years, more than 150 musicians have recorded "Winter Wonderland." The most popular version in 2010 belongs to The Eurythmics, the British duo of Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart.


3. Jingle Bell Rock

This song played 135,200 times.

"Jingle Bell Rock" also received a lot of radio attention in 2010. The song makes reference to the Christmas standard "Jingle Bells," as well as the 1950s pop song, "Rock Around the Clock."

Joe Beal, a public relations man from Massachusetts, wrote "Jingle Bell Rock" in collaboration with Jim Boothe, a Texas ad writer. Country singer Robert Lee "Bobby" Helms recorded the song in 1957. It was his best-known recording.

Despite the word "rock" in the song's title, the Helms recording was actually a crossover style called rockabilly, a blend of country music and rock-and-roll.

Many musicians have recorded "Jingle Bell Rock," but the best-known version belongs to Helms. Brenda Lee also released a popular rendition of the song.


4. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This song played 124,883 times.

"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," a radio airplay standard, was another hit in 2010.

Actor-songwriter Edward "Eddie" Pola wrote the song in 1963. He collaborated with George Wyle, a composer known for the Gilligan's Island theme song.

That year, Andy Williams released the song for his first holiday album, The Andy Williams Christmas Album.

Johnny Mathis recorded a popular 1980s version that still gets a lot of airplay. But the Williams recording was the most-requested version in 2010.

"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" was chosen as the Christmas Seals theme song in 1968 and 1976.


5. White Christmas

This song played 113,290 times.

"White Christmas," the Irving Berlin classic, evokes memories of an old-fashioned Christmas. The first Bing Crosby performance was Christmas Day 1941, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall.

"White Christmas" was released in 1942 as part of a 78-rpm album for the Holiday Inn musical. Crosby performed the song as a duet with actress Marjorie Reynolds, whose voice was dubbed by Martha Mears.

The sentimental song resonated with listeners during the second world war. The Armed Forces Network received frequent requests for it.

In 1954, Crosby sang "White Christmas" in the hit musical White Christmas. Many others have covered the song through the years, but Crosby's version remains the favorite.

"White Christmas" is the best-selling single of all time. In 2002, the Library of Congress placed it on the National Recording Registry for its historical significance.

6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This song played 108,964 times.

Judy Garland debuted "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis. In a Christmas Eve scene, Garland's character sings the sentimental song to cheer up her little sister.

The song was a favorite for American troops during World War II, often bringing soldiers to tears. While the song is credited to Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, Martin later said Blane merely gave him the idea it.

Frank Sinatra's modern rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is now more popular than the original song. But a recording by The Carpenters was the most-played version in 2010.

7. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

 This song played 101,433 times.

"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" was also popular in 2010. Composer-songwriter Meredith Willson wrote the song in 1951.

That year, the song became a hit for Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters. Their recording featured the music of Mitchell Ayres and his orchestra.

Bing Crosby recorded a widely-played version in 1951, and ASCAP says his recording actually received the most radio airplay in 2010.

"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" has been a "top ten" holiday song for many years. It is sure to be a favorite for years to come.


8. Frosty the Snowman

This song played 88,546 times.

Frosty the Snowman
Frosty the Snowman

Single: MP3 Format


"Frosty the Snowman." What child doesn't know this song? Steve Nelson and Water "Jack" Rollins wrote it for Gene Autry in 1950, after the success of his 1949 hit "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

It's the story of a snowman who comes to life when he wears a magical hat. He enjoys playful adventures with a group of children until the time comes to "hurry on his way" -- a gentle reference to melting, which is what snowmen do. But don't worry! He'll "be back again some day."

Hundreds of musicians have recorded the song, with popular versions from Ella Fitzgerald, The Ronettes, The Beach Boys, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. The most popular version in 2010 was a Jimmy Durante recording.

Like "Rudolph," "Frosty" has been adapted into books, films and a very popular television special that airs each holiday season.


9. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

This song played 87,736 times.

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" is a perennial holiday favorite. John Marks wrote the song and Brenda Lee recorded it in 1958. Despite her mature-sounding voice, Lee was only 13 years old at the time of her recording.

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" was an unpopular song until Lee became a star in 1960. Since then, it has topped the charts at Christmas time.

Despite the song's title, it fits the country music genre well. The song receives airplay on radio stations far and wide -- from top 40 and adult contemporary stations to those that play country music and oldies.

For five decades, Brenda Lee's recording of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" has been the only notable version of the song.


10. The Christmas Song

This song played 84,049 times.

"The Christmas Song" is usually subtitled "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire." Songwriter Bob Wells and vocalist Mel Torme wrote the song in 1944.

Originally called "Merry Christmas to You," this holiday classic was actually written on a hot summer day -- in an effort to "stay cool by thinking cool," according to BMI, Inc.

The Nat King Cole Trio first recorded the song in 1946. Later, utilizing a small string section, Cole made a second recording that became a huge hit with R&B listeners. He recorded a version with an orchestra in 1953, and again with a stereophonic orchestra in 1961.

The 1961 recording is considered Cole's definitive version. It was the most popular one in 2010.

Your Turn

What is your favorite Christmas song? Share your answer in the comments below. And if you like this article, share it with your social networks.

Reference Sources

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    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      7 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thank you, Radio Jingles!

    • profile image

      Radio Jingles 

      7 years ago

      I really loved your article..very informative though

    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      7 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thanks for the encouragement, Hyphenbird! The spiritual songs are my favorites, too. And one of my "new song" favorites is "How Many Kings" by Downhere. But I still enjoy some of the secular standards, too.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I love old and almost forgotten songs and many of the lovely spiritual songs are seldom played. I indeed enjoy many secular songs, but gravitate toward ones like:

      Mary, Did You Know?-Mary's Song and ones like that.

      Again, thanks for a most enjoyable Hub.

    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      7 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Yes, the old standards are still favorites at Christmas time. And it appears the most popular recordings of those songs are the original ones. Thanks for sharing your observation, quotations!

    • quotations profile image

      Robert P 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Looking at the list it seems that the genre of Christmas music has become stuck in tradition. There doesn't seem to be any new songs catching n with the same amount of popularity as these old standards. Most of these songs are about 60 years old.

    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      7 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Hi, Cogerson. Thanks for the compliment! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. I have to say, "Jingle Bell Rock" is probably my least favorite, too. I like "White Christmas" (and the movie "Holiday Inn"), and "Sleigh Ride" always puts me in the Christmas spirit.

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Very nice hub...I can not believe Jingle Bell Rock out performed some of those classic songs....I used to like Jingle Bell Rock..but over the years it is one of my least favorite Xmas songs...voted up


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