All charts, including the Hot 100, will refresh tomorrow (Dec. 22) on Billboard.com.
How does Carey's "Christmas" reach a new high on the Hot 100 more than 21 years after its release? Its chart history is a bit tangled (like a string of Christmas tree lights freshly taken out of storage). The chronology: the song was first released as a promotional single to radio, but not as a commercially-available single, in 1994. It ushered in Carey's first seasonal album, Merry Christmas. The song's lack of original retail availability is key, as, per rules at the time, only tracks available as singles in stores could chart on the Hot 100. (Remember, this was the pre-digital era, when the only way to purchase individual songs was via physical singles, i.e., on CD, cassette or vinyl.) "Christmas" hit No. 6 on Adult Contemporary, No. 9 on Pop Songs and No. 12 on the all-genre Radio Songs tally (with all three charts based solely on airplay) in the winter of 1994-95, but was frozen out of the Hot 100.
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By December of 1998, non-commercially-available titles were allowed to appear on the Hot 100, and "Christmas" first hit the chart dated Jan. 8, 2000, spending a week at No. 83. By 2012, rules were amended so that older songs were allowed to chart on the Hot 100 if ranking in the top 50 and showing noteworthy continued gains. On Dec. 22, 2012, "Christmas" re-entered at No. 29; it rose to No. 21 two weeks later. It since hit highs of No. 26 (in winter 2013-14) and No. 35 (2014-15) before its new best rank this week.
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"Christmas" has sold 3.1 million downloads (since Nielsen Music began scanning digital sales in 2003), ruling as the best-selling holiday download to date, while the Merry Christmas album has sold 5.5 million copies. The song has also spun off a new TV movie, A Christmas Melody, which premiered Saturday, Dec. 19, on Hallmark (with further airings scheduled this week). The film marks Carey's directorial debut and stars the diva, as well as Lacey Chabert.
"Thousands of original Christmas songs have been written in the last 20 years, but for whatever reason, it just became that song," Walter Afanasieff, who co-wrote "Christmas" with Carey, told Billboard in 2014. "It just keeps growing and growing. I believe it will be the most successful, popular Christmas song of all time."