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Nine songs to decorate your Christmas tree to


The songs you play at Christmas quickly become a tradition, and certain tunes become strongly evocative of certain Christmases, or certain periods of your life. It's a tradition it's easy to add to, too, as kids grow up and add their own favourites. Here are some starters to help you punctuate another lovely tradition, decorating the tree together.

 

Putting up the tree

Heigh-Ho by The Dwarf Chorus

Childhood and memory, silliness and fun, that's the Christmas spirit. Howk that tree in from the garden or down from the loft to the strains of seven animated dwarves extolling the virtues of hard work.

 

Fetching the ornaments

Once In Royal David's City, The Choir of King's College, Cambridge

Treat it like a sombre procession with the choir of King's College Cambridge singing Once In Royal David's City, the carol sung at the beginning of traditional carol services. It's saccharine, sure, but sets the mood nicely and keeps everyone calm while carrying the delicate breakables through the house.

 

Putting on the lights

O Come All Ye Faithful, Elvis Presley, from Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas

Elvis Christmas album
Image: Amazon.com

Christmas is a time of gaudy excess, and that means Elvis in his Vegas pomp, satin jumpsuit straining at the waist, oversized band ratcheting up the drama, Elvis smoothly crooning seductively about Jesus as if to an undecided cocktail waitress. This gentle carol is treated to the full cabaret treatment: choir, orchestra, rock and roll band. From the opening jazzy chord to the funky fanfare of trumpets and kettle drums heralding the arrival of the first chorus, this is majestic stuff.

 

Covering the tree with glittering sparkle (and maybe some Pools Of Light)

Spoonful Of Sugar by Harry Connick Jr

Get the blood flowing again with this children's classic reworked in a funky New Orleans marching band style. Harry Connick Jr lets his superb band do the talking, turning a twee Mary Poppins number into hip-shaking, rollicking delight.

 

Taking a drink break

Pogues Fairytale of New York single cover 
Image: Pogues.com
 

Fairytale Of New York

Hopefully it's early enough in the season that you're not sick of this bittersweet yuletide romp through addiction, poisonous romantic codependency and inventive insults. It has a line to suit every Christmas mood from sentimental to psychotic, the perfect Christmas song.

Make warm milk for the kids and hot chocolate or something a little stronger for yourselves and enjoy your handiwork and the ragged alchemy of Shane McGowan and Kirsty MacColl.

 

Putting on the tinsel

Frosty The Snowman, The Ronettes

the Ronettes Christmas album
Image: Amazon.com

Nothing beats the way Ronnie Spector's Noo Yawk voice chews through the name 'Frosty' in this indulgent confection. Phil Spector gave some Christmas songs the full wall-of-sound treatment and it's quite the swaggering antidote to some of the sweeter songs on the list. Call it a palate cleanser.

 

Putting on the angel/star/Captain Kirk figure

Have Yourself A Merry LIttle Christmas by Bob Dylan

Nobody could accuse Bob Dylan of having a smooth Christmas crooner's voice, but there's something lovely about his imperfect, scratchy voice straining for the right notes against a pristine soft-jazz backing. Listen to this and try not to picture a tired Santa singing it, we dare you.

 

Stacking the presents under the tree

Old Toy Trains by Nana Mouskouri

Keep it low key while placing the presents under the tree - you never know which ones will be breakable! This sweet slice of seasonal yearning will have you desperate to see the faces of your loved ones as they tear off the wrapping.

 

Sitting back and admiring with the lights off

Little Drummer Boy by Bing Crosby and David Bowie

The work is done, now it's time to put your feet up, put the room lights out and have the grand switching on of the tree. What better soundtrack than the moving, haunting, unlikely duet between '70s Bowie and an ageing Bing. This song manages to survive the constant replaying and remains as disjointedly magical as ever. 

 

See our playlist of (most of) these tracks on Spotify: Songs to decorate a tree to