The Evolution of Christmas Songs

There are lots of components that go into making Christmas what it is. Tons of food, cheesy films, awkward office parties, increasingly elaborate TV adverts, redecorating the Christmas tree when the kids have gone to bed - and, of course, Christmas songs.

Christmas just isn't the same without the radio, offices, shops and restaurants pumping out all your favourite festive hits, but just how have these songs changed over the years?

We've dug into the yuletide archives (looked on the internet) and researched how Christmas number ones have changed over the years, starting in 1970 and going right up to the present day. The following infographic looks at various aspects of the Christmas songs that have topped the charts, including common themes, the key it's written in, length, and more...

Evolution of Christmas songs infographic

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The Evolution of Christmas Songs

Ever wondered how Christmas songs have evolved over the last 47 years? How has the lyrical content evolved? Have the songs got quicker or slower? Have the songs got longer or shorter? Do the songs actually reflect changes in society? Christmas Tree World take a look at all this and more...

Word frequency

1970-1989

  • Christmas - 79
  • Time - 57
  • Love - 47
  • Know - 34
  • World - 30
  • Just - 26
  • Day - 23
  • Lord - 22
  • Want - 22
  • Ernie - 21

Other frequent words: Merry (14), Born (14), Sing (11)

1990-2016

  • Love - 67
  • Know - 59
  • Baby - 33
  • Day - 32
  • World - 30
  • Hallelujah - 29
  • Never - 27
  • Time - 27
  • Told - 26
  • Gonna - 26

Other frequent words: F*ck (16 - thanks Rage Against The Machine), Born (15), Sing (14)

35% of Christmas number 1s between 1970-1989 were 'Christmas songs'.

7% of Christmas number 1s between 1990-2016 were 'Christmas songs' - including another version of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?'.

Song Keys

Number of Christmas songs per song key

1970-1989

  • A - 2
  • B - 0
  • C - 7
  • D - 1
  • E - 3
  • F - 1
  • G - 2

1990-2016

  • A - 2
  • B - 0
  • C - 3
  • D - 7
  • E - 7
  • F - 1
  • G - 7

No Christmas Number 1 in the last 47 years on the key of B.

C Major was the most popular key from 1970-1989 - Schubert described the characteristics of that key as ‘innocence, simplicity, naïvety, children's talk’.

G Major was the most popular key from 1990-2016 - Schubert described the characteristics of that key as ‘rustic, idyllic and lyrical’.

Average song speed/length

1970-1989

Average song speed - 96bpm

Average song length - 03:45

1990-2016

Average song speed - 85bpm

Average song length - 04:08

Facts

Paul Joyce, who wrote ‘Can We Fix it’, won an Ivor Novello award for the song in 2001

Christmas Number 1s from 1970 - 1989 were shorter, quicker and lighter in lyrical content

Christmas Number 1s from 1990 - 2016 are longer, slower and more frequently written in a minor key

48% of Christmas Number 1s in the last 26 years have been covers

What's your favourite Christmas song?

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