There’s no better time to play the piano than during the holidays. When you think about the piano at Christmas, you conjure up images of families and friends gathered around the piano, singing Christmas songs.
There are so many choices of songs for Christmas. Ask your family and friends which is their favorite tune and they will probably come up with two or three. From traditional carols like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, to more modern tunes like “Last Christmas”. We’ve put together what we think are 22 of the most popular Christmas songs on the piano.
All of the songs we have chosen are easy to play, even if you are a beginner.
So jump in and learn how to play these popular holiday songs on the piano. They will last you throughout the whole holiday season.
Want more Christmas songs? Check out these posts.
1. Jingle Bells – James Lord Pierpoint
What better place to start our Christmas round-up than with “Jingle Bells?”
Jingle bells was originally called “One Horse Open Sleigh” when it was written way back in 1857, and it was a song that was sung at Thanksgiving.
The song still includes the lyrics ‘one horse open sleigh’ but today “Jingle Bells” is known the world over as a Christmas tune. It is a very easy song to play and is often one of the first Christmas songs a child will learn on the piano.
Both this video tutorial and piano sheet music are incredibly simple versions of Jingle Bells.
2. The Christmas Song – Robert Wells and Mel Tormé.
You might know the Christmas Song as “Merry Christmas to You” or “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.”
Written in 1945, the song was allegedly written in under 40 minutes. It was originally recorded by Nat King Cole and it’s probably his velvet voice you can hear singing it in your head. Since then it has become one of the most-played pieces of music about Christmas ever and has been recorded by numerous artists.
Watch the video tutorial as you play along with the lead sheet.
3. White Christmas – Irving Berlin
This must be one of the most well-known and much-loved Christmas songs ever recorded. Written by Irving Berlin for the Bing Crosby musical Holiday Inn, it won an Academy Award for best original song in 1942 and is the best selling single of all time.
The video teaches the melody in the right hand and the chords in the left hand. You can read the lyrics and follow the music here.
4. Carol of the Bells – Peter J. Wilhousky
Carol of the Bells began its life as a Ukrainian folk song called Schedryk which tells the story of a swallow. When the English lyrics were later added by Peter J. Wilhousky it became a popular Christmas carol in the west.
It’s an easy tune to learn, with the melody repeating throughout. The Bb emulates the sound of the ‘Bell’ as it rings out throughout the entire song.
The Carol of the Bells sounds just as good without the lyrics and makes a great song for a piano solo.
Click here for the piano sheet music.
5. Last Christmas – George Micheal
Written and produced by George Micheal in 1984, Last Christmas was a huge hit for WHAM! The song is about someone remembering his lost love from the previous Christmas. For a Christmas tune the lyrics aren’t too cheerful.
WHAM! was a duo made up of childhood friends George Michael and his musical partner, Andrew Ridgely. They were one of the biggest pop duos of the 80s. Unfortunately, Last Christmas didn’t make it to Number 1 in the UK when it was released. This was due to Band-Aid topping the charts with “Do They Know It’s Christmas”?
Last Christmas has been covered by a variety of artists including Carley Rae Jephson and The Crazy Frog! It’s also been featured in numerous movies and TV shows about Christmas.
It’s a great song to learn as it uses simple and repetitive chord transitions throughout the piece.
6. Let It Snow – Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn
Or to give it its correct title “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”. Written in 1945, this classic Christmas tune doesn’t actually mention the holiday season at all and despite the wintery theme it was written in California during a heatwave! Despite all of this, it has been adopted as a Christmas tune.
Play it with a swing or jazz it up. The jazz version does have some more challenging chords, but with practice, you’ll be playing it in no time.
Click here for the free sheet music.
7. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Meredith Wilson
Although this Christmas song has been made popular in recent years by Micheal Bublé, it was written in 1951 and was popular with crooners of the time.
Perry Como recorded it first and was quickly followed by good old Bing Crosby. Although it’s Perry Como’s version that you’re more likely to hear than Bing’s.
But it was Micheal Bublé who gave the song a new lease on life when he recorded it in 2011 for his Christmas album. You can really go to town when you play this one and jazz it up as much as you like.
8. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
It wouldn’t be Christmas without Mariah Carey. She recorded All I Want For Christmas Is You, back in 1994 and since then it has earned more than $60Million in royalties. It is also the best-selling Christmas single by a female artist.
This song may sound impressive, but when you watch the video tutorial, you can see how straightforward it is. The left hand plays a simple pattern of broken chords up and down the bass notes while the right hand plays the melody. Put it all together and you have one of the best holiday songs ever!
Click here for the lead sheet.
9. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Bob Geldof and Midge Ure
Written in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, the sales of the single raised money for the Ethiopian Famine crises of that year. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure got some of the most famous British musicians together at the last minute. One November Sunday morning in 1984, BandAid was formed.
The single and the video famously featured Boy George, Sting, Bono from U2, and many more. Following the huge success of the song, We Are The World by USA for Africa was released. Less than a year after the release of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, Live Aid happened. Some of the world’s biggest acts in the UK and America performed live on the same day. Phil Collins famously performed at both the London and Philadelphia shows.
Do They Know Its Christmas is an easy song to learn and is written in the key of C major.
Chords and Lyrics here.
10. I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Kim Gannon and Walter Kent
This is another piece of Christmas music in the key of C major and yet another hit for Mr. Christmas himself, Bing Crosby.
It was written in 1943 for the troops stationed overseas during the second world war and has become a standard tune at Christmas time. The song tells the story of a soldier writing a letter to his family. He tells them to prepare snow, mistletoe and gifts. It ends on a melancholy note, as the soldier sings “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams”
Click here for the sheet music.
11. Happy Christmas (War is Over) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John Lennon and Yoko Ono released this song in 1971 and it has increased in popularity since John’s death in 1980. It was written during the height of John and Yoko’s peaceful protests against the Vietnam war.
This video tutorial demonstrates how to play the chord accompaniment. Playing chords only means you can add your own flourishes or sing while you play it.
Chords and Lyrics are here.
12. Fairytale of New York – Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan
“Fairytale of New York” was recorded by The Pogues in 1987 and features Kirsty MacColl in a duet with The Pogues lead singer Shane MacGowan.
The song borrows from the sounds of traditional Irish folk songs and blends it with a Broadway melody. Since its release, it has become one of the best-loved and most well known Christmas songs. In the UK it was voted the nation’s favorite Christmas song.
The lyrics are not typical for a Christmas tune. Shane MacGowan sings of drinking, gambling, and destroyed dreams. It’s certainly different from Jingle Bells!
The video tutorial features the entire song.
13. Holly Jolly Christmas – Johnny Marks
Holly Jolly Christmas is a simple Christmas tune to play on the piano. It was written in 1964 and is synonymous with the entertainer Burle Ives who made the song famous.
It is played in the swing style which was popular in the 50s and 60s.
In this version the left hand keeps time with some simple chords while the right hand produces the melody.
14. Christmas Lights – Chris Martin
Written in December 20o8 by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, this was originally released as a digital download in December 2010.
“Christmas Lights” is a slightly harder song that is best suited to a piano player with some experience.
The tune is written in the key of G major, and is unusual in that most of the melody is played with the left hand.
The sheet music is written for a guitar but can be easily adapted for piano.
15. Deck the Halls
Now we’re getting into the realms of traditional Christmas Carols. The melody for this popular Christmas carol can be traced back to Sixteenth Century Wales. The lyrics were added in 1862 and refer to eating, drinking, and being merry.
This version is played in the key of F, so watch out for the Bb.
Find the lead sheet here.
16. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was first heard in the 1944 film Meet Me in St Louis.
It was first sung by Judy Garland and despite its melancholy arrangement and lyrics it went on to become one of our most popular Christmas songs.
In 1957, Frank Sinatra was due to record a version for his album A Jolly Christmas. He was concerned about the lyrics and asked that some be re-written to cheer the song up a bit. The line “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” was changed to “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”
Find the chord sheet and lyrics here.
17. O Holy Night – Adolph Adam and John Sullivan Dwight
O Holy Night is a popular Christmas carol based on a French poem written in 1843.
In 1847, the composer Adolph Adam set the poem to music, and in 1855 John Sullivan Dwight wrote the English language version.
The carol is about the night that Jesus is born and how he can save mankind. It’s traditionally sung in France at the beginning of Midnight Mass.
The vocal range required to sing the song to its fullest can make it challenging for untrained singers.
Fortunately, playing the song is not as hard as singing it.
Click here for the sheet music
18. Joy to the World – Isaac Watts
“Joy to the World” is an uplifting Christmas carol. It was written in 1719 by the Englishman Isaac Watts and the accompanying music was composed by the American Lowell Mason .
It’s a fun song to play on the piano, especially the chorus, which starts very quietly and builds in a crescendo.
This version has just three chords. C, G, and F with the right hand mostly playing the ascending and descending C scale.
The sheet music is an easy read and also includes a chord sheet.
19. Santa Baby – Joan Javits and Phil Springer
The song Santa Baby was made famous by Ertha Kitt back in 1953. The song centers around an extravagant Christmas list that includes diamond rings, yachts, and fur coats.
The lyricist Phil Springer was disappointed with the song and was recorded as saying “I hope its OK, it’s the best I could do.” His best has so far sold over 620,000 copies of Ertha Kitts’s version alone.
It was considered a very suggestible song when it was first released and some parts of the United States even banned it. As a result of the ban, it became the best-selling song of 1953.
Since then it has been recorded by a host of female artists including Madonna, Ariana Grande, and Taylor Swift. Although Micheal Bublé’s version is considered the worst Christmas song ever recorded!
20. Winter Wonderland – Felix Bernard and Richard Bernhard Smith
This is another of those piano tunes that can be played jazzed up and remember to include plenty of swing.
Written in 1934, it’s one of those pieces of music that is considered a Christmas song and yet it doesn’t even mention Christmas. It was in fact written about a couple out walking in the winter.
“Winter Wonderland” has been recorded by many big artists including Perry Como, Johnny Mathis and, of course, Micheal Bublé
The piano arrangements for this tune definitely have a jazz feel. This version is really jazzy and is a perfect Christmas piano song.
21. We Wish you a Merry Christmas
“We Wish You a Merry Christmas” began its life as a sixteenth-century English carol from England’s West Country.
The origin lies in the English tradition of wealthy people giving Christmas treats to the local carolers on Christmas Eve. Although there are no records of the writer of the song, it became popular in 1935. British composer Arthur Warrell arranged the tune and performed it with the Bristol Madrigal Singers.
“We Wish you a Merry Christmas” also mentions the New Year celebration and is traditionally the last song that carolers sing. Its message wishes everyone good tidings at Christmas time.
Follow the easy sheet music here or play a simple version using the Chords G, C, A, D
22. O Christmas Tree – Ernst Anschütz
O Christmas Tree was originally called O Tannenbaum and doesn’t actually have anything to do with Christmas.
A Tannebaum is a fir tree and The song describes the tree’s evergreen leaves and hardiness in winter. As the popularity of Christmas trees grew in the nineteenth century, so the song began to represent a Christmas tree.
In this version the left hand plays three chords that repeat through the song while the right hand plays the melody.
Other Christmas Songs.
There’s so much fantastic Christmas music to choose from that we had to include some more.
- The First Noel: Here is a YouTube video
- Auld Lang Syne – Robert Burns: Here is a YouTube video
- Twelve days of Christmas – Frederic Austin: Here is a YouTube video
- Away in a Manger – William J Kirkpatrick: Here is a YouTube video
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Lyrics by Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. Music by Felix Mendelssohn: Here is a YouTube video
- Jolly Old St Nicholas: Here is a YouTube video
- O Come all Ye Faithful: Here is a YouTube video