28 Top Christmas Rock Songs: From Classic to Modern

Updated July 26, 2021
singing Christmas songs

Have yourself a rock-and-roll Christmas this year by creating a playlist filled with the best Christmas rock songs from all genres of rock. Many popular rock artists have released a Christmas album, or at least one Christmas single, to capitalize on this season of spending and revelry. Check out some of the best rock 'n roll Christmas songs from yesteryear to today.

Modern Christmas Rock Songs

If you listen to commercial radio stations that play only current music, you'll definitely start to hear some Christmas songs from popular artists around November. These songs were released in the 2000s and many are listed on Spotify's 20 most listened to Christmas songs.

White Christmas

In 2018, legendary rock guitarist and vocalist, Eric Clapton, released a Christmas album entitled Happy Xmas. A highlight from the album was Clapton's cover of Bing Crosby's popular song, "White Christmas" where Clapton gave his signature bluesy finish to the classic tune.

Christmas Lights

Released in 2010 by alternative rock band Coldplay, Christmas Lights is a melancholic love song that highlights how the season can feel when you're missing someone you love. The song starts with a soft piano melody and lyrics, but the intensity escalates with Coldplay's energetic vibe.

Don't Shoot Me Santa

The Killers released Don't Shoot Me Santa in 2007 with proceeds being donated to African AIDS programs. A ballad melody and talking parts tell the story of Santa coming for someone who's perhaps been a bit of a bad boy.

I Want an Alien for Christmas

Fountains of Wayne's fun Christmas song I Want an Alien for Christmas is a novelty song that captures the fantasies of gifts you might receive for Christmas. This pop-rock song with a bit of punk is comparable to the classic I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.

Shake Up Christmas

Released in 2010 as the soundtrack for Coca Cola's Christmas campaign, Train's Shake Up Christmas captures the modern spirit of Christmas. Big vocals and a muted rock band sound make this holiday hit catchy and memorable.

Finally It's Christmas

Best known for his work with The Beach Boys, Mike Love brings his signature sound to a 2018 Christmas track featuring the brother band Hanson. Finally It's Christmas originally appeared on Hanson's 2017 album and shares both cultural and spiritual messages about Christmas. The pop-rock sound combined with bells is both upbeat and sentimental.

What Would Santa Do

Although they were most popular in earlier decades, The Monkees released their first Christmas album with their surviving members in 2018. What Would Santa Do mixes modern rock with The Monkees' unique sound to produce a beautiful Christmas song about how Santa would react if he saw the bad things happening to people.

Classic Rock Christmas Songs

While the rock subgenre of classic rock can include music from anywhere between the 1960s and the 1990s, classic rock Christmas songs typically come from the 1970s. All of these classic rock bands had commercially successful songs with top 100 classic rock songs throughout the years.

Thank God It's Christmas

Recorded in 1984, Queen's holiday hit Thank God It's Christmas was written by Roger Taylor, the band's drummer and occasional vocalist. The song speaks to how Christmas brings joy despite any hardships endured during the rest of the year. With a rock ballad style, it's sure to give you all the feels this Christmas.

Silent Night

Rocker Stevie Nicks lends her unique voice to a classic Christmas carol in her rendition of Silent Night. While the tone of the song stays true to the original carol, Stevie changes up the vocal arrangement just enough to make it a memorable rock song for the holidays. This cover was released on the 1987 holiday album A Very Special Christmas, which features famous Christmas songs sung by a variety of popular artists from that time.

Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth

In a holiday collaboration that nobody saw coming, David Bowie and Bing Crosby came together to create an unexpected holiday song which would end up being one of Crosby's last. Interestingly, the record wasn't released until 1982 - five years after it first premiered during a holiday broadcast - where it rose to popularity, with the strange video footage from the broadcast only adding to Bowie's mystique.

Sock It to Me Santa

Bob Seger and the Last Herd recorded an original, upbeat rock song that's called Sock It To Me Santa in 1966. The song has a James Brown feel to it and fits any playlist at Christmas or any other time of the year. Seger attempts to create a modern image of Santa with a red cape, mustache, and new bag of toys in this classic rock hit.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Released as a B-side in 1985, this 1975 live recording by Bruce Springsteen has become a staple of the American Christmas catalog. Springsteen's version of this classic Christmas tune brings his familiar rasp and stadium sound sensibilities to the beloved holiday song.

I Wish It Could be Christmas Every Day

Wizzard member Roy Wood shared in an interview that he wanted to try out making a Christmas rock song to bring Christmas songs back into fashion, so he came up with the hit I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day (1973). Sleigh bells, trumpets, cash register sounds, and a children's choir all take this party song to the next level with lyrics about how Christmas makes everyone instantly happy.

Punk Rock Christmas Songs

Punk rock is a subgenre of rock that is well known for its socially deviant aesthetic, and punk songs often include nonconformist topics. Some of the forerunners in punk music have taken their style and applied it to Christmas music to create songs that go against the holiday grain. If you look at the history of punk music and some of the best punk songs, you'll find that even holiday music has a place in counterculture.

Oi to the World

Originally released in 1996 by The Vandals, No Doubt did a great cover of the song Oi to the World in 1997. No Doubt's version appeared on the Special Olympics compilation album called A Very Special Christmas 3. The ska-pop tone of the song is energetic and its message about how God would want everyone to get along on Christmas.

Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)

Joey Ramone wrote and performed Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight) with The Ramones about how everyone should just get along on Christmas. His original version was a melancholy, bluesy song, but it was reworked for the 1989 album Brain Drain. Guitar riffs and a nonchalant attitude make this song a great, passionate reminder of what the holidays should be.

Fairytale of New York

In the mid-1980s, The Pogues had an idea to pen an original Christmas song that wasn't as tacky as all the others that had been recorded by various artists. The song became a tale of how Christmas is not the best time of the year for everyone by chronicling a couple who have fallen on hard times at Christmas. A storytelling approach and beautiful vocals by Kirsty MacColl make this an almost haunting Christmas rock song that picks up to a mid-tempo tune.

Christmas Wrapping

An instrumental lead-in gives Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses a fun, hip-hop sound. The song was written in 1981 by Chris Butler for the album A Christmas Record put out by ZE Records. The lyrics start out from the perspective of a woman saying she wants to spend Christmas alone this year so she can catch a break from her busy life then ends with her bumping into a guy she's been chasing all year thanks to a Christmas miracle.

Heavy Rock and Metal Christmas Songs

Heavy rock and heavy metal music is categorized by its aggressive sound featuring distorted electric guitars and intense vocals. While Christmas songs are often thought of as jolly or moving, throughout heavy metal history you'll find that some of the greatest hard rock songs can capture those same feelings in a new way.

Mary Did You Know

The 1980s new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) band Lionheart had a tumultuous run before breaking up. In 2016 they were asked to reunite for one performance at Rockingham Festival and agreed. In 2018 they released their version of the classic Christmas carol, Mary Did You Know with a new singer, Lee Small. The song celebrates Jesus with angelic vocals over heavy guitar and drum music.

Santa Claws Is Coming to Town

From the 2008 album We Wish You a Metal Christmas and a Headbanging New Year comes this twist on a classic kid's Christmas song by Alice Cooper, John 5, Billy Sheehan, and Vinny Appice. While most of the lyrics from Santa Claus Is Coming to Town are intact in this metal version, there are a few add-ins that make Santa seem more creepy than friendly.

The Little Drummer Boy

At the age of 91, horror actor Christopher Lee released his album, A Heavy Metal Christmas. The album was released in 2012 and featured a cover of the traditional Christmas song, The Little Drummer Boy. Lee's version prominently features his deep voice over classic metal riffs for a high-energy and modern Christmas carol.

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24

Holiday rock operas and epic light shows are the norm for Trans Siberian Orchestra. They released their debut album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories, in 1996 featuring the smash hit Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 that combines the instrumentals from God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Shchedryk. The music alternates between soft and loud in telling the story of a cello player sharing a Christmas tune in Sarajevo.

All I Want for Christmas

Heavy Metal Heroes is a band who dress up as superheroes and cover iconic pop songs in heavy metal versions. They took on Mariah Carey's classic Christmas hit, All I Want for Christmas, in 2018 and took it up several notches making it the perfect party song. A classic metal frontman voice, heavy guitar, and an adults-only humorous music video combine to form a great modern, metal hit.

Kidnap the Sandy Claws

In 2008, Disney commissioned the recording of an album called Nightmare Revisited that would feature covers of all the songs from the 1993 movie The Nightmare Before Christmas. Rock band Korn scored the song Kidnap the Sandy Claws and seriously turned up the creepy factor with their rendition. Haunting vocals and heavy drums give this cover a dark Christmas feeling.

British Rock Band Christmas Songs

The 1960s saw the dawn of the British Invasion, where a wave of rock bands, inspired by American blues, broke onto the American music charts. Of the many British rock music groups that there were, significantly fewer groups grew to fame across the pond than those who did in their native country.

Happy Xmas (War is Over)

John Lennon may be best known for his role in the iconic band The Beatles, but his Christmas song Happy Xmas (War is Over) from John & Yoko With The Plastic Ono Band And The Harlem Community Choir made him a holiday soundtrack staple. The song debuted at number four on the UK charts in 1972 and takes an acoustic tone with traditional Christmas carol undertones including the lyrics in protest to the Vietnam War.

Merry Christmas Everybody

Released in 1973, Slade's Merry Christmas Everybody started on the UK charts at number one and became an instant hit. The classic British rock sound and merry, inspirational message of everyone having fun at Christmas makes the song ideal for parties.

It's Christmas Time

Status Quo has the honor of being one of the longest-running British rock bands, so it's no wonder they have an awesome Christmas song. It's Christmas Time was released in 2008 with festive lyrics about how wonderful Christmastime is. The sound is a good mix between classic British rock and classic Christmas carols, making it appealing to lovers of all music genres.

Merry Christmas Everyone

Hitting number one on the UK charts in 1985 when it was released, Shakin Stevens' Christmas hit Merry Christmas Everyoneis short and catchy. The song chronicles all the things that make the Christmas season great. Clapping and bells give the rock song a more traditional carol feel.

Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)

Released in 2003 by The Darkness, Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End) is both a tribute to and parody of traditional Christmas carols. High notes, heavy guitar, and background vocals from the Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College School make this a completely unique Christmas song. While the lyrics poke fun at Christmas traditions, they also suggest no one wants the joyous day to end.

Have a Rockin' Christmas

Add meaning and energy to your Christmas party or to your tree trimming, holiday baking and decorating, by playing Christmas rock music. With dozens of songs to choose from, you can create a Christmas rock playlist that will last you for days, without ever hearing the same song twice.

28 Top Christmas Rock Songs: From Classic to Modern