7 of Our Favourite Christmas Special Songs

Can you feel it? Christmas is less than a week away! And like every year, it’s time for our televisions to be overtaken by those magical cartoon and stop-motion specials of our youth. If you’re anything like me, it won’t be long before you’re humming or even outright singing those catchy and memorable songs! It just can’t be helped; they’re terrible dated, yet still somehow feel fresh, they’re quaint and hokey, yet utterly influential. Just try to listening along and drown out the nostalgic feelings that are sure to come welling up.

With that very feeling in mind, this week we’re going to take a look back at some of our favourite songs from those TV specials of yesteryear. Check out our selection below, and relearn those old lessons that teach that there’s always enough holiday spirit around to warm every heart, even if you’re an oddball, miser, or misfit.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964): We’re a Couple of Misfits

“We’re a Couple of Misfits” was originally featured in the 1964 Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, produced by holiday special giant Rankin/Bass. The simple little ditty is sung by Rudolph and Hermey, the elf who wants to be a dentist, after they decided to be independent, together, and strike out on their own. The song was replaced due to the inclusion of a “special extended ending” from 1965 to 1998, but recent airings have reintroduced it.

We love the song’s message that being different is okay, especially when you have friends that accept you.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965): Christmas Time is Here

Written by Lee Mendelsen and composer and jazz man Vince Guaraldi, “Christmas Time is Here” is the opening song from the holiday classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The tune was sung by the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church choir, and plays as we watch Charlie Brown and Linus trudge through the snow on their way to meet up with the rest of the Peanuts gang as they skate on a small frozen pond. It’s an idyllic scene of childhood during the holiday season. The soundtrack has two versions of the classic Christmas carol, the vocal version heard in the opening scene, as well as a six-minute instrumental version that plays in the background during the special.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966): You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

What list of holiday special music would be complete without “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch?” The song’s uniquely hilarious lyrics were penned by none other than Dr. Suess himself. Boris Karloff, who narrates and provides the Grinch’s voice, was originally supposed to sing the song, but for some reason the studio decided to have Thurl Ravenscroft sing it. You might not recognize that incredibly epic name, but you know his work; he’s best known as the voice of the Frosted Flakes mascot, Tony the Tiger!

The song, with its silly lyrics, struck (and continues to strike) a chord with children and adults alike, and has become a classic favourite of all Grinch fans.

Frosty the Snowman (1969): Frosty the Snowman

Did you know that the song “Frosty the Snowman,” written by Steve “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson, and recorded by Gene Aurty and the Cass County Boys, actually came before, and inspired the cartoon special? The original was recorded in 1950, and is usually considered a Christmas tune, even though it doesn’t mention the holiday at all.

The idea first came about after Nelson and Rollins saw the kind of success Autry was having singin Rudolph’s song in 1949. Once they decided to write their own catchy, silly Christmas song it took them months to decided on a living snowman as the subject. Lucky for them, they still managed to have it ready in time for a 1950 release, and Autry was delighted to to ride his own coattails back to the top of the charts.

While it may not talk about Christmas at all, this cute children’s poem has that wonderful feel-good spirit that makes it feel right at home with the rest of our holiday favourites.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970): Santa Claus is Coming to Town

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is another case where the song came much earlier than the TV special. This Christmas song was originally written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, and first sung on Eddie Cantor’s radio show, in November 1934. As you can guess, it became an instant classic, with over 100,000 orders of the sheet music the very next day, and more than 400,000 copies sold by Christmas alone!

The animated special came in 1970, with S.D. Kluger and the Westminster Children’s Choir providing the iconic vocals.

Since then, the song has been rerecorded hundreds of times. The most popular versions include the Andrew Sisters with Bing Crosby, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Cyndi Lauper with Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, the Pointer Sisters, Rachel Crow, Mariah Carey, and of course, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Jack Frost (1979): Jack Frost is Here

Arguably the last of the great, vivid Rankin/Bass holiday specials, “Jack Frost” is narrated by Pardon-Me-Pete, a groundhog voiced by comedian Buddy Hackett. Hackett also provided Pete’s singing voice for the tune “Jack Frost is Here,” which appears both at the beginning and the end of the special.

Another example of a song that has become a Christmas classic without mentioning Christmas at all, this little ditty is all about the coming of winter and the little changes that go on to let you know Jack has come. The final rendition of the song is a bit melancholic, given Jack’s situation at the end of the story, but as his little buddy Snip says, the winter wouldn’t be the same without him.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): What’s This?

I’m going to cheat a little on this last one. It’s not really a Christmas special, so to speak, but it is one of my all-time favourite Christmas movies (I will always insist that it is a Christmas movie rather than a Halloween movie!). In any case, the film boasts an incredible soundtrack written by the talented Danny Elfman. Mr. Elfman also provided Jack Skelington’s singing voice!

“What’s This?” may be a relatively new Christmas song when compared to many others on this list, but its message of wonder and discovery make it fir tight in with all the classics we love from years before.