What’s on your Christmas (play)list?

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, many, including myself, already are in the Christmas spirit, which means it’s time to blast some Christmas music and that means once again sharing some selections from my massive Christmas music collection. Many a Christmas song deal with gifts, both the kind we want and maybe even the kind we don’t. Below you’ll find a small array of tunes dealing with all sorts of Christmas wishes.

A man and a woman walk carrying a massive pile of presents. A pale green background has red snowflakes all over it. Red script reads "What's On Your Christmas (play)list?"

“Twelve Gifts of Christmas” Allan Sherman

I’ve often mentioned that my love for weird Christmas songs stemmed from my dad introducing me to Dr. Demento’s Christmas album, which is where I first heard this number by Allan Sherman. Sherman was a man of many talents – comedy writer, TV producer, actor, and of course singer. He is best known for his song parodies, with his biggest hit being “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” which was set to the classical piece Ponchielle’s Dance of the Hours. While Sherman’s career may have been short lived, he went on to influence another parody song writer, “Weird Al” Yankovic. “Twelve Gifts of Christmas” can be interpreted as a modern (well, at the time) take on “Twelve Days of Christmas” with its list of updated, and ridiculous gifts, which in the end it turns out, were never wanted.

“I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” Gayla Peevey

Perhaps “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” may be a classic these days, but it was also on the Dr. Demento album I grew up with and quickly became a favorite. Peevey was only ten at the time of recording in 1953, and the popularity of the song resulted in her performing on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Over the years “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” as been covered many times, including The Three Stooges, and three different country artists, Gretchen Wilson, LeAnn Rimes, and most recently by Kasey Musgraves. A mild parody, “I Want a Snuffleupagus for Christmas” was performed by Big Bird and Anne Hathaway on Sesame Street.

“I Want an Alien of Christmas” Fountains of Wayne

Many of you may know Fountains of Wayne from their 2003 hit “Stacy’s Mom” but they also did this little number that harkens back to “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” where the singer talks about wanting an alien and how he will take care of it.

Band member Adam Schlesinger is also responsible for the title song to my favorite movie, That Thing You Do! and sadly passed away on April 1 earlier this year from COVID-19. As a result of his death, many fundraisers occurred, including a “reunion” of The Wonders where the cast did a live commentary of the film.

“I Want a Monkey for Christmas” The Barbary Coasters

Also taking a cue from “Hippo” this bopping tune follows the same formula, and adds a bit of fun to the regular Christmas melodies you may have grown tired of hearing on the radio.

“All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” Spike Jones & His City Slickers

Like songs mentioned earlier, this version of “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” was another one I first heard on the Dr. Demento album, and like “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” it has become a bit of a staple these days.

The song has a sweet and humble origin, back in 1944 a music teacher in Smithtown, New York, named Donald Yetter Gardner asked his students to finish the sentence “All I Want for Christmas Is…” Out of his 22 students, 16 responded that they wanted one or both of their front teeth. Inspired, Gardner wrote the song in only 30 minutes. For several years it was sung annually at the school’s Christmas pageant, before a woman introduced Gardner to her boss at Witmark Music Company, and it was then published in 1948. Spike Jones, a popular spoof and comedy musician, was the first to record it and did it in the voice of a child struggling with their missing front teeth.

Again, like “Hippopotamus” this song has been covered many times, including by a more classical take by Nat King Cole, another funny version by actor Danny Kay and Patty Andrews, as well as The Chipmunks, The Platters, and even Sesame Street’s The Count gave his own spin on it. Gardner admitted that Cole’s was his favorite.

“Mister Santa” The Lollipops

A parody of “Mister Sandman” this song talks about all of the joys Santa brings to children and asks Santa not to forget them.

“I Wanna Spend Christmas with Elvis” Marlene Paula

I absolutely love this number, because I’m sure many a gal wanted Elvis for Christmas, and it is full of references to Elvis songs.

“I Want a Man for Christmas” Joan Shaw

Marlene may have been very specific in wanting Elvis, but Miss Joan Shaw simply wanted a man. Something I think many of us can relate to.

“All I Want for Christmas is Halloween” Happy Fangs

Perhaps you aren’t the biggest fan of Christmas and would rather have another Halloween? Then this is the song for you. It even includes a brief interlude offering its own version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

“A Chainsaw for Christmas” Zombina and the Skeletons

Another tune for those who love Halloween a bit more than Christmas, from the Liverpool horror themed band Zombina and the Skeletons. I fully appreciate the Evil Dead references in it.

“I Want a Rock n Roll Guitar” Johnny Preston

Here the singer sees a little boy who wants nothing more than a guitar for Christmas so he can be a big star.

“That’s What I What for Christmas” Nancy Wilson

So far I’ve listed a lot of funny tunes, but here is a more gentle, mature and romantic number by “The Girl with the Honey-Counted Voice” Nancy Wilson. The song was later covered by the country band SheDAISY.

“Christmas Kisses” Ray Anthony

This cute, romantic number from 1961 is attributed by band leader Ray Anthony, but just two did the vocals is unclear. You’ll spy the cover of the Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails album in the video above, one of three, all of which I highly recommend if you want a fun, but more mature soundtrack to your Christmas holiday.

Ray Anthony played in the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1940 to 1941 (today he is the last surviving member), served in World War II and then struck out on his own. He’s responsible for “The Bunny Hop,” “The Hokey Pokey” and the iconic theme from Dragnet. Oh, and he was briefly married to Mamie Van Doren.

Want more Christmas music? Check out other annual Christmas playlist posts!

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