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Mark D. Roberts

Part 4 in the series: More Christmas Carol Surprises
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Three years ago I posted the list of the top 25 Christmas songs according to ASCAP (The American Society of Composers and Publishers). This list reflects the songs that have been performed the most in the past five years. You can find ASCAP’s list, with discussion and details here. I’m going to post simply the names of the top 25 songs. But I’ll add in parentheses the change in order since 2004. So, with no further ado, here’s the latest list.
The Top Christmas Songs according to ASCAP: The 2007 List

1. Winter Wonderland (+2)
2. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) (-1)
3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (-1)
4. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (=)
5. White Christmas (=)
6. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (=)
7. Jingle Bell Rock (+3)
8. Sleigh Ride (+4)
9. Little Drummer Boy (=)
10. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (-2)
11. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (+3)
12. I’ll Be Home For Christmas (-5)
13. Silver Bells (-2)
14. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (+2)
15. Feliz Navidad (-2)
16. Frosty The Snowman (+1)
17. A Holly Jolly Christmas (+1)
18. Blue Christmas (-3)
19. It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (+1)
20. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (-1)
21. Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) (=)
22. (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays (new)
23. Carol Of The Bells (=)
24. Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Feed the World) (new)
25. Wonderful Christmastime (-3)
Dropped off:
Santa Baby (was 24)
This Christmas (was 25)

As I look at this list, I’m struck by how stable it is. Only two new songs since 2004. And relatively little movement up or down. Almost all of these songs, by the way, were written in the 40s and the 50s (see my earlier list).
“Winter Wonderland”
Perhaps the most significant change in the list from 2004 is the ascendancy of “Winter Wonderland,” which took the top stop for the first time. This song was written in 1934, and, according to ASCAP, it shot up to #2 in popularity almost immediately. You’ll notice that “Winder Wonderland” is not a Christmas song in any obvious way. It’s a winter celebration song, with sleigh bells, snow, and a snowman.
Have you every paid attention to the storyline of “Winter Wonderland”? In the midst of a celebration of winter, a couple (presumably) is walking along, until they come to a meadow, where they build a snowman. They pretend that the snowman is “Parson Brown,” a Protestant minister, who asks if the couple is married. They say no, but invite him to marry them when he comes to town. Later on, after the thrill of the snowman moment, as the couple is dreaming by the first, they decided to go ahead “unafraid” with “the plans that we’ve made.” In other words, “Winter Wonderland” is a song about couple who, charmed by the beauty of a winter night, become engaged. (Photo: my current favorite version of “Winter Wonderland” is by James Taylor on his Christmas album)
“Do They Know It’s Christmas”
This song was was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in 1984 in an effort to raise money for people suffering in the Ethiopian famine. The original recording features many prominent artists of the 80s, including: Phil Collins, Bono, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and Boy George. Check out a Youtube video here.
This song is quite unusual among popular Christmas songs because it is not especially romantic. It recognizes that there is suffering in the world, and that Christmastime is a good time to do something about it. So the song urges: “Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime.” The bridge says: “Feed the World. Let them know it’s Christmastime again.”
This song stands in the long tradition of seeing Christmas as a special season of charity. This popular notion owes much to Charles Dickens, who used his verb “Christmas Carol” to spread his gospel of Christmas benevolence. (See my study of Dickens.)

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