So here it is, our Merriest Christmas songs

PRS for Music takes a closer look at those Christmas songs that were never Number One and surveys the nation’s favourite Christmas songs. 50% of Brits think Mariah made it to Number One with All I Want For Christmas Is You – but kept at No.2 by East 17’s Stay Another Day.

christmas songs

The debate of when it is acceptable to turn up the Christmas tunes has finally been settled, as new research by PRS for Music reveals that 10th of December is when most Brits officially feel the Christmas spirit and four in ten (41%) say festive music is a key factor in feeling Christmassy.

With music playing such importance in the run up to the big day, PRS for Music has analysed data from radio stations up and down the country and found Fairytale of New York by The Pogues Feat. Kirsty MacColl is the most played Christmas song.

And it’s no hardship that the anthem about bickering lovers and lost dreams blasts out of speakers everywhere, as Fairytale of New York also sits at No.1 in the nation’s Top 20 favourite festive songs.

The oldies are definitely the goodies, as the most recent hit to make the list is Cliff Richard – The Millennium Prayer which topped the charts in 2000.

PRS for Music also quizzed Brits on their festive pop chart knowledge and discovered we can’t tell the No1s from the near misses. Over half of us (57%) assume The Pogues classic hit the top spot, yet it was beaten by Pet Shop Boys’ Always on my Mind.

Half of us (50%) wrongly assumed The Darkness topped the charts with their tongue in cheek tune Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End), when in fact, Gary Jules sailed to the top spot with his sombre cover of Mad World in 2003.

And while the same number (50%) believe Mariah Carey warbled her way to No.1 with All I Want For Christmas Is You, it was Walthamstow’s finest, East 17 that took the glory that year with Stay Another Day.

Matching the Christmas No1s to the right year also proved to be stickier than a figgy pudding – although over half (52%) assume Paul McCartney took home the title in 1979 with festive favourite – Wonderful Christmas Time, it only reached number 6 as Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall made Number One that year.


I’ve done different things with Stay Another Day over the years. For its 25th anniversary this year it’s been an honour to work with Waltham Forest Borough to release a charity version to support CALM, a cause very close to my heart. Songs take on different meanings for different people. I’m incredibly humbled that my lyrics can continue to touch people, to have longevity and possibly help someone at this time of year. It’s not all about being Number One.

Songwriter and PRS for Music member Tony Mortimer, East 17

It’s great to see that the nation’s favourite Christmas songs are penned by homegrown talent, with the majority of the Top 20 written by British songwriters. There is definitely something particularly special about Christmas lyrics; more than any, they evoke a sense of home, family and spending time with our loved ones. It takes a very talented songwriter to pen a Christmas classic and while some didn’t reach Number One when they were first released, they make a return to our hearts and charts year after year.

Andrea C. Martin, CEO, PRS for Music

Research: An online survey was conducted by Atomik Research among 2006 UK Adults aged 18+ who celebrate Christmas. The research fieldwork took place on 22nd – 23rd November, 2019. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code.

* According to PRS for Music data analysing radio airplays on 50 regional BBC stations in the UK

About PRS for Music

PRS for Music represents the rights of songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK and around the world. As a membership organisation it works to ensure that creators are paid whenever their musical compositions and songs are streamed, downloaded, broadcast, performed and played in public. With over 100 representation agreements in place globally, PRS for Music's network represents over two million music creators worldwide. In 2018, 11.2 trillion performances of music were reported to PRS for Music with £746m collected on behalf of its members, making it one of the world’s leading music collective management organisations.

PRS for Music’s public performance licensing is now carried out on PRS for Music’s behalf by PPL PRS Ltd, the new joint venture between PPL and PRS for Music.

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