Popular UK Christmas Songs That Are Rather Unknown in Europe

The UK have a various mix of Christmas songs that even include Rage Against The Machine

It’s already mid-December. It feels like we’ve just skipped over summer and somehow already ended up in winter. Even though Christmas feels very sudden every year, it’s somehow a pleasant change now as it represents some sort of activity that we can do while we are stuck at home during Covid-19.

Usually, we put up a Christmas tree at home around this time – however, we already decorated the flat a week ago as it felt exciting to change the style of the living room we spent the last eight months in. Our neighbours put up their tree in mid-November. That was too early, even for my taste.

Last year, my work created a Christmas playlist that we would play in the office – this year, that is obviously not possible. So my colleague created a Spotify list in which we all fired our favourite Christmas song, just to be played at home. I had already discovered last year that Melanie Thornton’s full version of “Holidays Are Coming” is a complete stranger to Scottish people. And also this year, there are still some songs that I didn’t know before.

So in case you want to get into a Christmas mood and learn some of the most popular songs in this country, we collected some of them in this article.


The Pogues – Fairytale of New York

This song took me a few attempts before I started to like it. It just sounded to me like some song I would potentially listen to in a pub, and I didn’t find it Christmassy at all. The song is about an Irish immigrant who sleeps in a prison cell after being drunk on Christmas Eve.

A song about lost youth and ruined dreams is probably not what you would listen to in Continental Europe. Most German songs are either highly conservative church songs or made for children in which we sing about baking cookies. And we certainly don’t shout “You’re an old slut on junk”. My Silesian great grandmother would roll over in her grave.


Elton John – Step Into Christmas

A song that can’t be missed on any Christmas playlist is Elton John’s “Step Into Christmas”. It was one of the UK’s most popular Christmas songs in the early 2000s despite being released in 1973.

Elton’s positive energy, powerful piano tunes and the unusual strong bass in the background make you dance around in the kitchen and is great to get you up from the couch.


Chris De Burgh – A Spaceman Came Travelling

Compared to Elton John’s powerful Christmas song, Chris De Burgh’s Spaceman is perfect for a hot chocolate on the couch. Although the title doesn’t seem to have a lot in common with Christmas, De Burgh imagined the star of Bethlehem being a spacecraft when he wrote the song. It never became a hit in the UK but is now a popular Christmas song every year.


Aled Jones – Walking In The Air

You may have come across the famous Irn Bru advert with the snowman and may have suspected some deeper storyline behind it. The advert is based on “The Snowman” which is an animated television film from 1982. A young boy becomes friends with a snowman, and together they fly above famous Scottish land sights. Halfway through, Peter Auty starts to sing the song “Walking In The Air”. Aled Jones covered it three years after the film came out and his cover reached the UK’s top 5 charts.

If you haven’t seen the snowman yet, you can find the Youtube video below – “Walking in the Air” starts at 15:25. And please don’t forget to watch the Irn Bru advert as well. Even though the drink tastes like chewing gum and will probably never be part of a Continental household, we must appreciate that the advert is pretty clever.  


Rage Against The Machine – Killing in the Name

Yes, you read that correctly. When my manager put that song in our playlist, I was probably equally confused as you are right now. After some research, I found out that “Killing in the Name” became the Christmas number one song in 2009. The reason why it peaked is one of the reasons I love the culture here.

Before Rage Against The Machine shook up the UK’s Christmas’ charts, X-Factor used to lead the charts for five years in a row. This was obviously enough for some folk. An English couple launched a Facebook group and encouraged people to download “Killing in the Name” so that X-Factor won’t win the charts again. Never forgotten will be the BBC 5 radio performance in which the band promised not to swear. You can probably imagine how that went.


Obviously, there are a lot more Christmas songs than the ones mentioned above – especially from the 50s. While Christmas songs in Continental Europe can sometimes be a bit cringeworthy, there are beautiful English ones for all sort of music tastes. Even when they were not intended to be for Christmas in the first place.

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