Break out your mittens and dust off your wreaths—“Christmastime is here,” as the Peanuts sing in their Charlie Brown holiday special. And while many yuletide hymns are religiously inspired, some of the most hummable melodies come straight from TV specials and Christmas films that span the decades. These original songs energize last-minute shopping, assuage holiday traffic, and—when needed—drown out volatile discussions with relatives over Christmas supper.
10. “One More Sleep Til Christmas” from The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
A Dickens’ tale, holiday tunes, and a singing frog: it’s a winning trifecta. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge’s faithful employee Bob Cratchit (played by Kermit) asks if he and the other bookkeepers can be excused the next day. Scrooge reluctantly obliges, lifting Kermit into an infectious song of celebration and merriment.
9. “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” from White Christmas (1954)
Irving Berlin’s tender duet may not have any festive lyrics, but its themes of appreciation and not sweating the small stuff make it a fetching Christmassy tune. King of carols Bing Crosby originated this classic with singer Rosemary Clooney, and Berlin received an Oscar nomination for the number.
8. “Believe” from The Polar Express (2004)
Josh Groban has his own Christmas album, but his best yuletide hymn might be in the unforgettable children’s book-turned-movie, The Polar Express. Groban’s heaven-sent vocals soar over the film’s credits in this signature song that imbues even the coldest season with promise and warmth.
7. “Where Are You, Christmas?” from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
It’s hard to compete with the original cartoon Grinch, but the Jim Carey remake at least took strides in fleshing out the role of little Cindy Lou Who. In the live-action version, Cindy (Taylor Momsen) grows frustrated with Whoville’s commercialization of her favorite holiday. She voices her plight in this number, made famous by Faith Hill’s more belt-heavy cover.
6. “Christmastime is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Vince Guaraldi is a savant of jazzy carol renditions, and his standout contribution to the Peanuts holiday special is just as bluesy. Even as children sing his merry lyrics (“Sleigh bells in the air, beauty everywhere”), the melody is tinged with melancholic seventh chords. It’s a perfect recipe for cartoon’s favorite child curmudgeon.
5. “Somewhere in My Memory” from Home Alone (1990)
What genre can’t John Williams conquer? From adventurous anthems (Indiana Jones) to mystifying fantasy (Harry Potter), he’s been a Hollywood constant since the 1970s. In his Academy Award-nominated theme song for Home Alone, Williams disarmingly mixes sleigh bells, madrigals, and nostalgia.
4. “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
The Grinch returns to this list, now in his original incarnation. Basso profundo Thurl Ravenscroft eternalized this delectably villainous paean, and who didn’t learn analogies in middle school without considering Dr. Seuss’s colorful lyrics? “You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel.”
3. “Silver Bells” from The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
This radio favorite is much more well-known than its screwball comedy source. The jingle’s mesmeric imagery of city sidewalks and giddy shoppers has entertained listeners for over half a century. Originally performed by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the film, the seminal classic has been covered by artists from Johnny Mathis to Destiny’s Child.
2. “White Christmas” from Holiday Inn (1942)
Within the prolific Irving Berlin songbook, his ode to glistening treetops and sleigh bells in the snow might be his most memorable. For this 1942 musical film, Berlin was tasked with writing a smash song for each holiday. Berlin was raised Jewish and worried most about composing the Christmas number, but his fears were for naught — he won his first Oscar with this song.
1. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Christmas has never been more poignant than in Judy Garland’s iconic and elegiac ballad. As first performed in the 1944 MGM musical, Garland returns home after dancing with the man who just proposed to her. She finds her kid sister — distraught as the family prepares for an unexpected move to New York that will upend their blooming relationships — and offers this song as comfort. Seventy-something years and countless renditions later, Garland’s crooning voice still cradles us.