Top 17 '80s Holiday Songs

This post originally appeared on Culture Brats on December 19, 2011 but we're bringing it back today because we're in a giving mood. Happy holidays!

Here are our favorite '80s holiday tunes:

17. They Might Be Giants, "Santa's Beard"
16. Alison Moyet, "The Coventry Carol"
15. Bob Rivers, "The Twelve Pains Of Christmas"
14. Ramones, "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)"
13. Spinal Tap, "Christmas With The Devil"
12. Stevie Nicks, "Silent Night"
11. Eurythmics, "Winter Wonderland"
10. Sting, "Gabriel's Message"
9. Billy Squier, "Christmas Is a Time to Say I Love You"
8. Bob And Doug McKenzie, "The Twelve Days Of Christmas"
7. Wham!, "Last Christmas"
6. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, "Fairytale Of New York"

5. The Pretenders, "2000 Miles"
It's hard for me to consider 2000 Miles just a Christmas song. I mean, it is a Christmas song (more or less), but it's one of those pieces that can be heard and appreciated year-round. I liked the song enough when it was released on the Learning To Crawl album in the early '80s - it's simple yet soulful and Chrissie's voice is just crazy beautiful. But when a friend included this song on a mixtape for me while I was stationed in Germany, well, let's just say I'm sure my roommate was sick of The Pretenders come Christmastime. Here we are, some twenty years after receiving that tape and this song still makes me a little wistful. --Mr. Big Dubya

4. The Waitresses, "Christmas Wrapping"
"Bah hambug!" No that's too strong, 'cause it is my favorite holiday...

And with that opening line of "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses, you're turning up the radio and singing along whether you like it or not. Even though, let's face it. You don't know all the words. It's okay, you know the story and the story is pretty much the most important part.

"Christmas Wrapping" is the tale of a single working girl who decides to opt out of the Christmas festivities while recounting all her missed opportunities with a guy she met in a ski shop the year before. But lo! [Warning: spoiler alert, y’all.] In some sort of Christmas miracle, while shopping at the only all night-grocery for cranberries she finally runs into the guy who decided to fly solo for Christmas too. And what's this? He also forgot cranberries? What are the odds?

Wait. Was this song written by Nora Ephron? You'd think this was the plot of a movie starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks instead of a song by the new wave band who also brought you "I Know What Boys Like" and the theme song to Square Pegs. It's all so... familiar. Christmas magic and happy endings? It's like a well-loved holiday movie you watch every year. It's almost... optimistic. But optimistic with a groovy bass line. Just the way I like it. --Tania

3. Run-D.M.C., "Christmas in Hollis"
I'm not a fan of rap/hip-hop as a general rule, but I am a fan of non-traditional Christmas songs. Apart from "Silver Bells" and "Silent Night," most of the standards leave me yawning. My favorite of all non-traditional '80s Christmas songs is, by far, Spinal Tap's moving anthem "Christmas With The Devil." But that didn't make our Top Five.

Which brings us back to "Christmas In Hollis."

Anybody who read my last Ranked post probably knows why I have an affinity for this particular Run-D.M.C. ditty. There are a number of Christmas songs played in Die Hard, but this one is the first--Argyle plays this song in the limo when he's driving John McClane to the Nakatomi Building. ("Don't you have any Christmas music?" "Hey...this is Christmas music!") I had never heard the song before I saw the movie and to be honest, I don't hear it much nowadays other than when I watch the movie, but every time I hear it, it brings a smile to my face. They played it between plays during the Carolina Hurricanes hockey game last night. I couldn't help but sing along.

At any rate, because it conjures up images of Die Hard, the most Christmasy of all Christmas movies for me, "Christmas In Hollis" will always be an integral part of my holiday playlist. --Dave

2. Band Aid, "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
Lots of people can't stand this song. They mock the absurdity (Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears) and arrogance (Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you) of its lyrics. But for me, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was the holiday song of the '80s, a decade famous for its absurdity and arrogance.

The brainchild of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was a star-studded song to raise money for Ethiopia. And the stars did come out for this one: Paul Young, Boy George, Phil Collins, George Michael, Simon Le Bon, Sting, Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley, Bono, Jody Watley, and Bananarama were among the participants. The song would've gone down in history for Le Bon, George, and Hadley participating in the greatest New Romantic Croon-Off known to man had it not been for Bono over-emoting all over the place.

Even though I love this song and belt out the lines and even try to out-Bono Bono every time I hear the song, several things have always puzzled me about the song:
  1. Bananarama? Really?
  2. How did Paul Young manage to get such a big part? He got to open the song (which was originally supposed to be performed by David Bowie) and had a major part in the bridge as well.
  3. How did Sting's ego react when it learned Sting would not be given a solo?
  4. No, seriously. Bananarama?
These are the questions that keep me up at night. --Chris

1. U2, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"
It's Christmas Eve. You're sitting in a seedy bar, drunk off your ass, with nowhere else to go. Your cheek is sticky from where it was resting before the bartender woke you up and told you it was closing time. It's starting to snow outside, and you already know your jacket's going to be too thin to withstand the cold when you leave. Your breath stinks, but since you just got dumped, who the hell cares, right?

That's what I imagine when I hear U2's version of the Phil Spector 1963 classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Clearly, I like my holiday carols with a bit of pathos.

Bono's take on Darlene Love's original recording was featured on the first A Very Special Christmas album in 1987. That first record, with its Keith Haring cover art and pop renditions of contemporary and classic carols, was pretty hit-and-miss. But in between forgettable confections by The Pointer Sisters, Run-D.M.C., and Madonna, there was this mournful, doo-woppy song that gave me my first case of holiday depression – but in a good way. In a cozy "screw everybody else" way that made me feel like I was wrapped in a blanket of my own cynicism. (They're singing "Deck the Halls" but it's not like Christmas at all.)

Between Bono's wailing, the pining twang of The Edge's guitar, and the relentlessly upbeat percussion, this song bums me out and comforts me at the same time. Which is exactly what Christmas still does to me.

P.S. On last year's A Very Special Christmas 9, this song was recorded again. By Leighton Meester. Um, no. Nice try, sweetheart. But that's not going to get me through till closing time. --Didactic Pirate

We showed you ours, now show us yours. What's your favorite holiday tune from the 1980s?

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