Christmas songs are essential for any musician to add to their list of playable repertoire. Whether you perform in from of an audience, or just for family and friends, you’ll want to know these songs.
Here are some absolutely classic Christmas songs you can easily learn. We will cover both secular and religious music in this list for a bit of variety. These songs will make the perfect companion to the sound of a fire-crackling yule log.
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“It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas has had many hit versions over the years. Artists such as Bing Crosby and Perry Cuomo have had smashing successes with their iterations. As such, it’s become a holiday standard that you’ll inevitably hear around Christmas.
This song can be a little complex, but for the most part, is fairly easy for an intermediate player. You’ll be using primarily open chord shapes in this song. However, keep in mind that you can easily change the song’s key by using a capo.
“Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano
José Feliciano’s hit song Feliz Navidad is a Christmas song that people either love or hate. This song has an extremely infectious melody and at times it can be a bit repetitive.
However, Feliz Navidad does do one thing very well. It readily emotes the joy and happiness that many people feel around the Christmas season. For that reason, it is essential to add this to your list of songs.
Feliz Navidad is very easy to play. The song is built around 4 different chords, with only one chord being a barre chord. Be sure to emulate the song’s musical pauses (coupled with a cappella vocals) to get the song’s iconic sound down.
By far one of the most famous American Christmas songs of all time is Jingle Bells. This song was originally written in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont. Rumor has it that it was originally intended to be a drinking song for the holidays.
Jingle Bells has been covered by many artists since that time. The song has even been given a popular rendition involving a smelly Batman and an egg-laying Robin.
With well over a century of popularity, we can be sure Jingle Bells is here to stay. Consider learning this easy song, which primarily uses simple open chords. You might just incite a bit of drunken camaraderie if played in the right setting.
“Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley
Believe it or not, Elvis wasn’t the first person to ever perform Blue Christmas. However, his version is by far the most popular. The song does not sound the same without his crooner vocal stylings applied to the melody.
Blue Christmas is an excellent song to add to your repertoire as many people can relate to the song. Despite its joyful aspect, Christmas tends to bring out the blues for many people.
Sometimes it’s just nice to hear a song that keeps it real without having a forced smile for commercialism’s sake. Playing Blue Christmas at the right time will definitely give you some nods of approval.
Christmas likely wouldn’t feel like Christmas if you didn't hear Silent Night at least once. This song was originally written in 1818 by Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr. Since then, it’s become a bonafide cultural keepsake, receiving heritage declaration by UNESCO.
Silent Night has been covered time and again over the years. Bing Crosby’s recording continues to be one of the most popular. It has been reported that his version has been bought well over 10 million times since its release.
This song is very easy to play, consisting of only 5 chords. Many guitarists like to spice this up and play fingerstyle versions. Regardless of your approach, this is a staple song that must be in your catalog.
“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon & Yoko Ono
It was a bit of a surprise when John Lennon released a Christmas song. However, it became a smash hit, embedding a very political message for all to hear.
This message is quite potent, and for that reason, this song could be played all year round. The world is never safe from war, but it would be a great Christmas present to have world peace.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) has 6 different chords being used in its composition. The verse and chorus have a sort of cyclical feel to the progressions, making this fun to learn and play. Be sure to play the chord melody inherent in the suspensions to make the guitar sound like the recording.
“White Christmas” by Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is another true Christmas classic that enjoys regular play in the holiday season. The song has been covered time and again, but Bing Crosby’s recording is by far the most famous.
White Christmas is comprised of 7 different chords, with all but 1 chord being open chords. You may wish to use a capo to transpose the song to fit your vocal range.
Many people in snow-prone locations are very familiar with a white Christmas. Do people in tropical zones sing this song?
“Let It Snow!”
Believe it or not, this song was actually written during a wave of intense heat in 1945. The composers (Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn) used the song to envision cooler temperatures.
Did it work? We can’t be too sure, but it likely did snow quite a bit of money when the song became popular. Famous artists such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Michael Buble have all done renditions of this classic.
This song is very easy to play, consisting primarily of simple open chords. Each line tends to have 3 chord changes, which could pose a bit of a challenge for some. Go slowly and you’ll get it down in no time!
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane
This song got its debut performance by Judy Garland in the film Meet Me In St. Louis. Since then, it’s become a Christmas standard, with several versions of the song becoming quite popular.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas infuses a bit of nostalgia with some hopeful wishing. These emotions are often all too present during the holiday season, making this song much more potent.
There are quite a few different chords in this song, with some venturing far outside the traditional open chord shapes. However, even a beginner can learn this song with practiced dedication and patience.
“We Three Kings”
This song, also known as We Three Kings Of Orient Are, is a traditional Christmas hymn, written in 1857. It tells the tale of the 3 wisemen who visited the stable at the birth of Jesus.
Many are attracted to this song’s minor tonality, as the song has a hint of mysteriousness. You can play this quite easily using some standard open chords, which makes this perfect for a beginner.
“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Johnny Marks
What would Christmas be without the excellent tale of the leader of Santa’s sleigh? Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is a perfect tale of how everyone (in this case, a reindeer) has a purpose.
This song was originally released by Johnny Marks in 1939. However, it was Gene Autry’s 1949 release that became a smash hit, solidifying it into modern Christmas lore.
If you want to tell the tale of bright-nosed Rudolph, you’ll be happy to know the song is easy. You’ll need to know your simple open chords, as well as some 7th chords, to play this one.
“Little Drummer Boy”
Little Drummer Boy is another Christmas classic that you might consider adding to your repertoire. It’s very easy to learn, consisting of only 3 different chords.
To really make the most of this song, be sure to add a sort of pulsating rhythm. You will want to mimic a sort of drum march that you might hear a marching band perform.
If visuals help, just imagine how a nutcracker might walk around. They would probably be a bit stiff-legged, but precise in time. This is what you’ll want to emulate.
“The First Noel”
As far as old songs go, The First Noel is perhaps one of the oldest on this list. Historians have noted that the song could have origins as far back as the 13th century.
If anything, it goes to show how much of a staple The First Noel has been in the holiday season. You can also be sure that countless musicians over the years have done their own rendition of the song. Why not add your own rendition to the list?
The First Noel is a pretty simple song, consisting of only 4 chords. 3 of these chords are simple open chords, with the other being an easy minor barre chord.
“We Wish You A Merry Christmas”
Another true Christmas staple is We Wish You A Merry Christmas. This is an old traditional English song dating back as far as the 16th century.
What makes this song so great is that it also includes the New Year in its lyrics. You can essentially wish someone the best over the holiday season without having to play 2 different songs.
We Wish You A Merry Christmas is an easy song but does involve 7 different chords. All of these are relatively standard chords you likely know if you know your open chords.
“Away In A Manger”
If playing traditional Christmas hymns is your bag, be sure to add Away In A Manger. This hymn is another old tune, dating back as far as the American Civil War.
The song has an iconic melody within the hymn. This melody has come to be known as Mueller, which was originally published for the first time in 1887.
Away In A Manger is a very simple song, with 6 different open chords. 2 of these chords are actually just dominant 7th variations of a chord. This makes it quite easy to learn in a quick manner.
“Up On The Housetop” by Benjamin Hanby
Not everyone is into religious music for Christmas, and that’s okay. In fact, the Santa Claus mythology is one of the most fun aspects of the season.
Up On The Housetop is reportedly one of the very first songs ever written about the man in red. Since its publishing in 1864, it’s been covered by many artists including Gene Autry.
If you wish to sing about the jolly man in red, you’ll need to know 4 basic open chords. These include G, C, D, and D7.
“Winter Wonderland” by Richard Bernhard Smith and Felix Bernard
The song Winter Wonderland has come to be the epitome of the wintry season often accompanying Christmas. However, the song has a very interesting history.
This song actually was written by Richard Smith, who was being treated for tuberculosis while in a sanitarium. He wrote the lyrics and his friend wrote the music to the iconic song.
Playing Winter Wonderland will involve quite a few chords (10 to be exact). However, many of these are major and minor variations that you likely already know in open chord shapes.
“Deck The Halls”
Deck The Halls is another Christmas staple that has origins dating back to the 16th century. While the music is that old, the famous English lyrics were actually penned in 1862.
This song has a very celebratory feel to it, making it great for the preparation of the holiday season. Plus, everyone can sing along to the fa-la-la’s throughout the song, which is fun.
To play this song, you’ll need to know 5 different open chords. These include G, D, A, E minor, and E major.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
Another Christmas song that has been around since the 1500s is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. This song has a very stately and prominent sounding feel, alluding to the richness of the Christmas spirit.
If you wish to add this to your list of songs, you’ll be able to do so with some basic chords. These include E minor, C, B7, A minor, G, and D.
“Frosty The Snowman” by Walter Rollins and Steve Nelson
What list of Christmas songs would complete without mentioning everyone’s favorite pipe-smoking snowman? Frosty The Snowman is one of the most fun side stories associated with Christmas.
Sure, poor old Frosty is susceptible to melting in the hot sun. But, there is always hope he managed to find colder climates.
This song is relatively easy to play but does involve a barre chord and a diminished chord. Don’t fret if these types of chords aren’t currently in your range of abilities. You’ll be able to become familiar with them by playing this song.
“Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots
Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town is a very popular song that’s gotten a few different facelifts over the years. This song became famous in 1934 when singer Eddie Cantor spun off a rendition on the radio.
You’ll be able to play this primarily using all open chords. These include G, C, E minor, A minor 7, D7, G7, A7, and D.
As far as playing the actual song goes, many people love the traditional bouncing composition of the song. However, some people prefer a more modern pop take, such as Mariah Carey’s version. Maybe you can create your own iconic rendition to start a new tradition.
“O Holy Night” by Placide Cappeau, Adolphe Adam, John Sullivan
O Holy Night is another one of those songs that invoke a dreamy, mystical feeling to Christmas. This song was originally written in the 1840s, with its first performance sung in a church nearly 7 years later.
Despite its age, it’s become a very popular song used as a platform to showcase someone’s excellent vocal performance capabilities. Singers such as Josh Groban, Martina McBride, and Celine Dion have all found success with the song.
Playing this song is pretty easy for the most part, and only consists of 6 different chords. You’ll want to adopt a gentle approach to playing the song to invoke that delicate sound this song is known for.
“O Christmas Tree”
Many people also know this popular Christmas song by its original German name O Tannenbaum. Believe it or not, this song did not start out as a Christmas song. Rather, it became adopted into the holiday season around the mid-1800s.
O Christmas Tree is an excellent Christmas song to learn because it’s extremely easy. You’ll only need to play 5 different open chords to provide the musical arrangement for this piece. These include G, D, A minor, D7, and E7.
Easy Guitar Songs For Christmas, Final Thoughts
It’s never too early to start learning some Christmas music. In fact, you shouldn’t feel ashamed for doing so if Christmas happens to be many months away.
All too often, guitarists will procrastinate learning new material. What ends up happening is that we become unprepared for those moments when Christmas music is called for. Who knows, you might bust some of these out in the middle of July.
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!