The holiday season is the most nostalgic time of year, so it only makes sense that the most popular Christmas songs are from the 1940s and '50s. To really put a retro spin on the season, we gathered up 15 songs from even earlier—the '10s, '20s, and '30s. And while they might not be coming directly out of a record player, they're sure to put you in a very merry sepia-tinted mood.
1. "Hail! Hail! Day of Days" by the Edison Mixed Quartet // 1913
Perhaps the most traditional song on this list, its performers—the Edison Mixed Quartet (also sometimes referred to as the Edison Concert Band)—also recorded a few similar-sounding Christmas tunes during the early 20th century.
2. "Santa Claus Hides In the Phonograph" by Santa Claus Himself (Ernest Hare) // 1922
OK, this isn't a song—but we just had to include this 1922 bit that does end with a rendition of "Jingle Bells."
3. "At the Christmas Ball" by Bessie Smith // 1925
If you're a music lover, you know (and love) Bessie Smith, but you might not have heard this holiday track, which combines Smith's soaring vocals with delightfully jazzy horns and piano.
4. "The Santa Claus Crave" by Elzadie Robinson // 1927
We've included a few blues tracks here, because, hey: The holidays are the best time to be cheerful—and depressed.
5. "Santa Claus, That’s Me" by Vernon Dalhart // 1928
Vernon Dalhart was an important figure in the early days of American folk and country music—even with a background in opera. He auditioned for Thomas Edison and, over the course of several years, recorded hundreds of songs for Edison Records under a number of pseudonyms. After that, Dalhart began to record country songs, becoming a household name with 1924's "The Wreck of the Old 97."
6. "Christmas in Jail—Ain’t That A Pain?” by Leroy Carr // 1929
If the name didn't tip you off, here's another blues track. And if you find yourself in need of more, click on over here, here, here, and here. Yes, there are a surprising number of great blues songs about the holidays, and these somber tunes will definitely bring you joy.
7. "I Told Santa Claus to Bring Me You" by Bernie Cummins and His Orchestra // 1930
While the Christmas music of the '40s and '50s would start to make its way into the studio, much of the earlier music of the holidays still had that live, big band sound—including this 1930 recording.
8. "The Santa Claus Express" by Henry Hall featuring Dan Donovan and the BBC Orchestra // 1933
This is the kind of song you might expect to hear in a Christmas special for kids (which is a total compliment).
9. "Does Santa Claus Sleep With His Whiskers Over or Under the Sheet?" by Jack Jackson and His Orchestra // 1933
A very cheeky song honoring the age-old question you've never thought to ask: "Does Santa Claus sleep with his whiskers over or under the sheet?"
10. "In a Merry Mood" by Barnabas Von Geczy and His Orchestra // 1934
An instrumental track that's perfect for you if orchestra swells are what really get you in the holiday spirit.
11. "Swingin’ Them Jingle Bells" by Fats Waller // 1936
"Swingin" might actually be the best way to describe this 1936 jazz carol.
12. "What Will Santa Claus Say?" by Louis Prima & His New Orleans Gang // 1936
This song is sometimes listed as "What Will Santa Claus Say? (When He Finds Everybody Swingin')," which is a pretty fun image to conjure if you ask us.
13. "The Fairy on the Christmas Tree” by Three Sisters // 1936
This 1936 Christmas song sounds a bit like a scene out of an old Disney movie—and tells the tale of all the little girls who dream of being the fairy on top of the tree. (It's OK, we've never had that dream either.)
14. "I Want You for Christmas" by Russ Morgan // 1937
Before "All I Want For Christmas Is You," there was "I Want You For Christmas."
15. "The Only Thing I Want for Christmas" by Eddie Cantor // 1939
Don't let that creepy preview image above fool you: This 1939 song is a sweet ode to all the things we already have (with some not-so-subtle nods to the turmoil happening around the world at the time).