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‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town’ Tops ASCAP List of Century’s Most Performed Holiday Songs

"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" and "White Christmas" are the all time top most performed holiday songs in the ASCAP catalogue, according to…

“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” and “White Christmas” are the all time top most performed holiday songs in the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) catalogue, according to a top 30 list released by the performance rights organization Friday. 

The list comes as part of ASCAP’s 100th birthday celebration, following in its annual tradition of releasing a list of each year’s most performed songs. 


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“Music reminds us that the holidays are supposed to be about togetherness and good cheer,” said ASCAP president and chairman Paul Williams in a statement. “These 30 ASCAP classics perfectly capture those themes and for many are a bridge to wonderful memories of days gone by. The list is a testament to the enduring importance of great songs and songwriters.”

“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” was written by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie when radio star Eddie Cantor was needed a holiday song to sing on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade radio broadcast, according to a press release. The song became an unexpected hit, selling 30,000 copies of Cantor’s rendition and another 100,000 copies of the sheet music within a day of the broadcast. Since, it’s been covered by everyone from Perry Como to Justin Bieber.

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There are a number of more recent pop hits that stand out on the list, including Wham!‘s George Michael-penned “Last Christmas” from 1984, Paul McCartney‘s “Wonderful Christmastime” from 1979 and Mariah Carey‘s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” from 1994 that was written with Walter Afanasieff. 

Carey’s Merry Christmas modern classic off is enjoying its 20th anniversary this year with plenty of recognition, including her performance at this year’s Christmas in Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony on NBC. 

See ASCAP’s full list of its 30 most-performed holiday songs of all time here, with songwriter credits and the year that the song was first released, performed or published:

1. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1934)
Written by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie

2. “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” (1944)
Written by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells

3. “White Christmas” (1941)
Written by Irving Berlin

4. “Winter Wonderland” (1934)
Written by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith

5. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1944)
Written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin

6. “Sleigh Ride” (1948)
Written by Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish

7. “Jingle Bell Rock” (1958)
Written by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe

8. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1949)
Written by Johnny Marks

9. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (1945)
Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne

10. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (1943)
Written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent

11. “Little Drummer Boy” (1941)
Written by Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone

12. “Silver Bells” (1950)
Written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston

13. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958)
Written by Johnny Marks

14. “Frosty the Snowman” (1950)
Written by Steve Nelson and Walter E. Rollins

15. “Blue Christmas” (1964)
Written by Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson

16. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (1963)
Written by Edward Pola and George Wyle

17. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (1951)
Written by Meredith Willson

18. “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)” (1947)
Written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman

19. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (1962)
Written by Gloria Shayne Baker (SACEM) and Noël Regney (SACEM)

20. “Carol of the Bells” (1904)
Written by Mykola Leontovych and Peter Wilhousky

21. “Feliz Navidad” (1970)
Written by Jose Feliciano

22. “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” (1965)
Written by Johnny Marks

23. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (1952)
Written by Tommy Connor (PRS)

24. “Last Christmas” (1984)
Written by George Michael

25. “Home for the Holidays” (1954)
Written by Robert Allen and Al Stillman

26. “Wonderful Christmastime” (1979)
Written by Paul McCartney (PRS)

27. “Happy Holidays” (from Holiday Inn) (1942)
Written by Irving Berlin

28. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1994)
Written by Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey (BMI)

29. “Santa Baby” (1953)
Joan Javits, Philip Springer and Tony Springer (SOCAN)

30. “This Christmas” (1970)
Written by Donny Hathaway and Nadine McKinnor