What Makes the Perfect Christmas Number 1 Single?

20th October 2022

What Makes the Perfect Christmas Number 1 Single?


Want to know what makes the perfect Christmas number 1 single? Having analysed every official UK festive chart-topper released since 1952, Jackpotjoy has work out the ideal formula for hitting the seasonal top spot!

Make it about love

With 183 mentions, "love" is by far the most popular lyric appearing in Christmas number 1s from the 1950s until 2019. "Time" is in second place with 118 mentions. Amazingly, the word "Christmas" doesn't even make it into the top three - it's in fourth with 104 mentions.

Top genre: go pop

While there have been plenty of rock anthems getting the party started over the years, pop consistently makes for the most popular seasonal sound. It has dominated the top spot in every single decade.

Be like The Beatles

Given that they notched up a fab four Christmas hits in their collective stockings, it's well worth emulating the style of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Christmas lyrics by popularity

Much like "Christmas" itself, some festive words appear a lot less in festive number 1s than you might think. We measured the total number of times the following words could be found amongst the lyrics of all Christmas numbers 1s.

Festive Word
Number of Mentions
"Santa"5 mentions
"Jesus"5 mentions
"Christ"5 mentions
"Stocking"4 mentions
"Bethlehem"4 mentions
"Reindeer"3 mentions
"Holy"2 mentions
"Present"2 mentions

What were the biggest changes throughout the years?

The secret ingredient to becoming a Christmas music star hasn't remained constant over time. Traditional phrases such as "hallelujah" (22 mentions), "angel" (19 mentions), and "merry" (16 mentions) used to be far more commonplace but have taken a backseat since the '90s. Instead, you're now much more likely to find words such as "blobby" and "sausage roll" - courtesy of Mr Blobby and LadBaby, respectively.

"Mistletoe" peaked in popularity for smooching romantics in the late '80s and early '90s, with eight mentions during that time.

"Angel" boomed in use in the late '90s and early '00s, with seven mentions, but it has not appeared at all since.

What was the most Christmassy decade?

The most quintessentially festive era was officially... the '80s! Back then, Christmas number 1s had 52 mentions of the word "Christmas" - far more than any other decade. There were also 49 mentions of "love", the most popular Christmas subject.Chart-topping songs were also much more likely to feature fun seasonal staples such as "mistletoe" (appearing 8 times).

The '80s were the decade where 'Do They Know It's Christmas' flew off shelves, becoming the second-biggest selling single of all time.

Christmas Number 1s - some festive factoids

  • "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the only song sung by the same performers to be Christmas number 1 twice. It first topped the charts back in December 1975, and then achieved the same feat 16 years later following the death of Freddie Mercury.
  • "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston is the biggest-selling festive chart-topper by a female solo artist. It reigned for 10 weeks and sold 1.66 million copies. Eat your heart out, Mariah Carey!
  • "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid is the only Christmas hit ever to sell more than three million copies in the UK - 3.82 million to be exact. It raise £8 million within 12 months of being released and has since gone on to raise over £200 million for famine relief in total.