Arming the Artists

HOW to sleigh your own Christmas song

Updated: 06 December 2022

Posted: 19 December 2019

Pretty much everyone and their dog has had a go at writing a festive hit. Slade, The Darkness and The Beach Boys have all released tunes to celebrate the holidays. Cliff Richard, Elvis and the Killers have even managed to sleigh whole albums.

Read time: 3 mins

Every year there’s a bunch of joyous jingles released by a wide range of merry musicians, all of whom are trying to share the festive spirit with the rest of us. Either that or trying to make a sled-load of Christmas cash. It’s estimated that in total almost a million Christmas songs are on Spotify, however each year you hear the same few tracks on the radio and being blasted out of every shop, so making sure your tune stands out above the rest can be tricky business.

So, we reckon yule be wondering ‘how do I write a Christmas cracker?’ Well lucky for you we’ve analysed some of the biggest festive songs ever and have created this fool proof guide of what you need to include:*

*Marshall takes no responsibility if your Christmas song is less ‘making it rein’ and more a case of ‘snow good’.


The biggest Christmas songs of all time aren’t exactly backwards in coming forward. The top 5 best-selling holiday songs ever mention Christmas in the very first line, but the majority don’t stop there and are packed full to bursting with jolly winter references at almost every turn.

But wait, there’s myrrh. Other key subjects to include are love, charity, and if you’re feeling bold you can even get away with a bit of misery and heartache. Stop the Cavalry, Do they know it’s Christmas?, 2000 Miles and Last Christmas all manage to pile on the doom and gloom but have each gone on to be Christmas classics.


John Lennon and Paul McCartney may have gone their separate ways by the time they each got around to releasing their tinsel wrapped tunes, but think about what Happy Xmas (War is over) and Wonderful Christmas Time have in common. Then when you add Wizzard, Elton John, Phil Spector and even Mrs Claus herself; Mariah Carey to the equation and you can see why nothing better sums up the sound of snow than sleigh bells.


(preferably children)

Hark back to the golden oldies and it’s difficult to find a Christmas hit that doesn’t feature a choir. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole mastered the evolution from traditional carols to pop songs by including choirs in the majority of their festive hits. Skip forward a few decades and this is still pretty common, with John Lennon, Wizzard and Cliff Richard still using the choir to good effect. Justin Hawkins of The Darkness even takes this a step further and says “Children singing on it is essential” when sharing his tips for writing a Christmas hit.

Key Change

Your song’s coming together nicely, but you need one big moment to really sleigh it… Well make sure to keep a key change up the sleeve of your Christmas sweater. The Perry Como classic Winter Wonderland set the blueprint for how to do this well, which has been perfected over the years and is now expected in almost every Christmas song.

So how do you stand out from the rest of the ‘key change carols’? You could follow in the footsteps of Cliff Richard who includes the oh-so-predictable key change, before inverting expectations to head back to the original key just a few bars later. Still not individual enough for you? Perhaps you need to take your inspiration from The Ronettes who manage to squeeze not one, not two, but a grinch-baiting FIVE key changes into their festive banger.