Ever since his first appearance in the popular American song 'Up on the Housetop' back in 1864, Santa Claus (or Father Christmas) has had a starring role in many of our favourite Christmas songs.


Here are some of our favourite Christmas songs to feature the jolly fat man. We've got plenty more Christmas music content for you to enjoy. For example, you can find the lyrics to your favourite Christmas carols here. We've also listed our favourite Christmas songs of all time, as well as the best Christmas songs for children.

Best Santa Claus songs to get you in the festive mood

'Twas the Night before Christmas'

This wonderful song, which sets the Christmas Eve scene so beautifully, started life as a poem, 'A Visit from St. Nicholas'. First published anonymously under the title 'Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas' in 1823, it was later attributed to the writer and professor Clement Clarke Moore.

The poem played a big role in popular notions of Santa Claus, from the middle of the 19th century onwards. It was also hugely influential in helping the tradition of Christmas gift-giving to really take off.

'Twas the Night before Christmas' has been set to music various times. American composer Ken Darby wrote a version that was recorded three times by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians: the last version, from 1963, cemented the song's popularity. The following year, Burl Ives sang a different setting for the 1964 TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (one of our 12 best Christmas jazz songs, incidentally).

'Up on the Housetop'

The popular American Christmas song 'Up on the Housetop' was written by the composer, educator, pastor and abolitionist Benjamin Hanby in 1864.

It's generally believed to be the second-oldest secular Christmas song, outdone only by 'Jingle Bells', which was written in 1857. 'Up on the Housetop' does manage a first of its own, though: it's considered the first Christmas song that's chiefly about Santa Claus himself. Indeed, it probably gets the notion of Santa and his sleigh landing on the house roof from the 1823 poem 'A Visit from St. Nicholas' that we mentioned above.

The song has been covered by various artists including Gene Autry, The Chipmunks, The Jackson 5 and Pentatonix.

'Jolly Old St Nicholas'

This Christmas song has its origins in a poem by the American author Emily Huntington Miller (1833-1913), originally published in a US magazine in December 1865 under the name of 'Lilly's Secret'. Interestingly, some attribute the lyrics instead to Benjamin Hanby, who 'Up on the Housetop' above.

As for the music, it's believed to have come from the pen of one James R. Murray, who is also known for writing a musical arrangement for the much-loved Christmas carol 'Away in a Manger'.

'Jolly Old St Nicholas' has been recorded many times - including by The Chipmunks (again) in 1963, Andy Williams in 1995 and Carole King in 2017.

'When Santa got Stuck in the Chimney'

Poor old Santa comes a cropper in this comic festive favourite, getting lodged in the chimney while on his rounds.

'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'

This festive classic has been around for longer than you might think. Written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' was first recorded way back in 1934, courtesy of banjoist Harry Reser and his band.

More like this
Best Santa Claus songs 2

Since then, 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' has been a favourite for cover versions. The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Bruce Springsteen and Michael Bublé have all given us their take on this excited, exuberant holiday classic.

This festive favourite also featured in our roundup of the best Christmas jazz songs.

'Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer'

A favourite with adults and kids alike (no surprise that it features on our favourite Christmas children's songs list), 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' has enjoyed many famous cover versions. Ella Fitzgerald’s version is perhaps the most famous version. The original version was released in 1949 and was based on a 1939 story bearing the same name. Bing Crosby and, er, Alvin and the Chipmunks are among the other musicians to have a go at 'Rudolph'.

This also made it into our top ten best Christmas songs for children.

'Santa Baby'

This languid classic was first performed by jazz chanteuse Eartha Kitt, accompanied by with Henri René and His Orchestra, for a 1953 release. It's a witty imagined Christmas list addressed to Santa, by a woman who craves extravagant gifts such as fur coats, yachts, and decorations from the famous jeweller Tiffany's.

'Zat You Santa Claus?'

A wonderful showcase for Louis Armstrong's storytelling gifts, 'Zat You Santa Claus? was written by Jack Fox and was first recorded by Armstrong and his backing band The Commanders in 1953. Armstrong tells the tale of how 'Hanging my stocking/I can hear a knocking'. Guess who's there?

'Here Comes Santa Claus'

'Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)', to give it its full name, was written and first performed by Gene Autry, aka the Singing Cowboy, who also gave us famous versions of 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer', 'Frosty the Snowman' and 'Up On the Housetop'. Oakley Haldeman composed the music.

'Father Christmas'

We end with something a little different. At Christmas 1977, iconic British band The Kinks gave us a rather alternative take on the Christmas story. Their seasonal single 'Father Christmas' is narrated by a shopping-mall Santa, who is mugged by a gang of local kids. They tell poor Santa to leave his presents for 'the little rich boys' and - some good late '70s social commentary here - ask for money and jobs for their parents instead. In live performances of the song, and for the promotional video, Kinks singer Ray Davies dressed up in full Father Christmas regalia.


The song's witty, but quite dark - and owes something to the punk movement that was going strong at the time. There are some lovely sleigh bells, too, however.


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.