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Great holiday songs you've never heard

Art by Karen Lin

With the holidays steadily approaching, many people are turning on their favorite Christmas tunes. “Deck The Halls,” “White Christmas,” even “Frosty The Snowman” will be played on repeat in the coming weeks. Even though I love those holiday classics, after hearing Mariah Carey sing “All I Want For Christmas Is You” for the hundredth time, I was ready to ditch the Christmas tunes altogether. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Christmas music, but I was tired of hearing the same twenty songs over and over. Were there other holiday songs that I’d never listened to? To my great surprise, it turns out that there are a great number of non-commercial, unknown, rock-genre holiday songs out there. If you want the same holiday spirit with different holiday songs, then listen to the five tunes listed below.

Father Christmas by The Kinks

In 1976, The Kinks came out with this amazing and unique holiday song. Going against the norms of everyday Christmas classics, this song offers a new approach to what the holidays are actually about. Father Christmas starts off with a boy who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, but finds himself playing that character in front of a department store as an adult. Suddenly, a bunch of kids knock him over and ask for his money. They say the lyrics “Father Christmas, give us some money / don't mess around with those silly toys / give all the toys to the little rich boys.” Instead of meaningless toys for Christmas, they want gifts that will actually help them live, such as jobs for their fathers. The lyrics to this song are very symbolic; Because the ‘real’ santa refuses to give them any gifts of value, they mug the santa impersonator and receive the ‘gift’ of money that way. This song reminds us that there are more important things about Christmas than just gifts. Instead of a commercial message of “Christmas is awesome,” this song looks deeper into the holiday than just that flat statement.

Grandpa’s Last Xmas by The Vandals

The Vandals are a band that specializes in funny, jokey songs, and this one is no exception. Unlike many Christmas songs, which spread messages of joy and love, “Grandpa’s Last Xmas” is simply just a funny song with no deeper meaning than to make you laugh. The song is about a young boy; his mom tells him to be nice to grandpa because it might be his last Christmas. But the boy clearly does not want to do that, and despite his mom’s insistence, does not want to hang out with his grandad. He says, “I know, his life's been long and hard / but he deserves some quiet and peace in a nice graveyard / Grandpa, I love you just the same / But I know that you won't be happy until you drive us all insane.” The full lyrics are just as hilarious as those. The Vandals have a full punk-rock Christmas album called “Oi To The World,” and if you liked this song, then I recommend you listen to it. Although most of the album is too explicit to include, it’s still a great one that offers great variation from other classic Christmas tunes.

Space Christmas by Allo, Darlin

This is a song that I loved from the first listen. It has a soft, sweet melody that seems to drift through your head and whisper the lyrics. The song really encapsulates Christmas emotion; specifically, love. The song starts with the lyrics “If I could buy you anything I wanted this Christmas / I would get the Academy to give you an Oscar for your script / Even though you haven't built a single set / I know it's my favorite movie yet.” Then the artist says that if she had a lot of money, she and her partner could go to the moon and spend their first Christmas in space. The metaphorical lyrics illustrate a more meaningful side of the holiday spirit—not only the image of Christmas trees and tinsel, but the spirit and love that the holidays are all about.

White Winter Hymnal by The Fleet Foxes

I only listened to this song for ten seconds before adding it to my playlist. Having never heard it before, I was immediately taken away by the haunting melody and overlapping vocals. Is it actually a holiday song, though? The ambiguous lyrics may suggest otherwise. But since the word “winter” is in the title, I went ahead and added it to the list anyway. It starts with the words “I was following the” over and over, creating a medley of voices. The rest of the lyrics are surprisingly simple; there’s “a pack,” swaddled in coats and red scarves. Someone named Michael falls into the snow, turning it red. There are many different theories as to what the lyrics actually mean, ranging from the French Revolution to a group of drug dealers. Personally, I picture a group of timid children playing in the snow, chasing a group of wolves up a mountainside in ancient Norway (for some odd reason.) My friend, however, sees children running home from school, when suddenly, Michael is shot and left to bleed in the snow. So, is this actually a holiday song? Listen to it and decide for yourself.

Christmas by The Who

This song is part of a famous rock opera titled “Tommy.” A rock opera is basically an album that tells a story - in this case, the songs tell a ballad about a deaf, blind, and mute boy named Tommy that has an exceptional knack for pinball. It sounds obscure, (which it is,) but it’s also an amazing musical masterpiece that, believe it or not, has a Christmas song hidden within it. This holiday gem starts by talking about excited children on Christmas morning; opening presents, playing in the snow, surrounded by family. But poor Tommy is unaware of all of this, spending Christmas in his own bubble of solitude. The song starts with “Did you ever see the faces of children? They get so excited / Waking up on Christmas morning hours before the winter sun has ignited.” This is truly what Christmas feels like as a young kid; waking up early, the anticipation of snow and presents and Santa Claus. But of Course, Tommy can’t experience any of that. Although that story is very specific to the song, it reminds us to appreciate everything we have and all that we’re grateful for. If you listen to this song, I recommend getting the full experience and listening to the album as a whole.

Image via Shutterstock


Evidently, there are a lot of unique holiday deep cuts. Although the classics are great, sometimes it’s refreshing to hear some new tunes for a change. The five songs on this list are amazing, but if you’re in the mood for some other rare Christmas songs, here are five more: 2000 Miles by The Pretenders, Not Another Christmas Song by Blink 182, Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas by The Eels, Regenisraen by Game Theory, and Christmas All Over Again by Tom Petty. Hopefully the five songs on this list will help you freshen up your Christmas playlist this year.

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