Quiz: Can You Name These Vintage Christmas Tunes?: HowStuffWorks
Can You Name These Vintage Christmas Tunes?
By: Beth Hendricks
7 Min Quiz
Image: Paramount Pictures
About This Quiz
The ham's in the oven, and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. Isn't it about time to break out your holiday playlists? You know, "White Christmas," "Frosty the Snowman" and "Santa Baby?" You can't rock around the Christmas tree to just any old song.
Regardless of where you live — be it cold and snowy or humid and tropical — there's nothing like a little Christmas cheer delivered through your speakers to get you in a holiday mood. We can almost envision waking up to a fresh blanket of snow with "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" We instantly get a snuggly vibe when hearing Nat King Cole sing "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, anyone?) We can't help but giggle when we're shopping and "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" comes on.
Yes, we love them. Christmas tunes are the backdrop to all of our holiday activities. And they're the focal point of this quiz. We're giving you 35 clues; think of them as hints about what presents are under the tree! Identify the vintage tunes and then step back, crank up your speakers, and get ready to ring in the season!
More than 200 singers have tried their hand at recording this cute Christmas song that admonishes, "You better watch out ... You better not cry." What is its name?
If anybody but Santa Claus were to see you "when you're sleeping" and know "when you're awake," it would be downright creepy. Of course, a fat guy in a red fur suit makes it OK. Wait ...
81a/Photolibrary / Stockbyte / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images
You can thank Saks Fifth Avenue for this song, which was originally condemned by the Catholic church, for lyrics like, "Oh, what a laugh it would have been/If Daddy had only seen ... " Which song are we talking about?
When "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" first came out, a commissioned work by the department store Saks Fifth Avenue, the Catholic church in Boston took issue with the idea of Christmas and "kissing" being intermingled. The song's writer was able to clear up the song's intent and, as they say, the rest was history.
H. Armstrong Roberts / Retrofile RF / Getty Images
You can get a sneak peek of Christmas Eve in this song, detailing the scene "right down Santa Claus Lane." What is its name?
"Here Comes Santa Claus" was written by Gene Autry, known as the "Singing Cowboy," in the late 1940s. Autry is said to have been inspired by a horseback ride during a parade, which helped him craft the lyrics to this popular childhood tune.
No, the original version of this song does not include a reference to Batman, but it does say, "Oh, what fun it is to ride/In a one-horse open sleigh." What song is it?
There have been plenty of, ahem, modifications made to "Jingle Bells" over the years, including "The Simpsons" version that goes, "Jingle bells ... Batman smells." Hey, we didn't make it up. In fairness, the original version, one of the world's most popular Christmas songs ever, dates back to the 1850s.
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This holiday song gets used a lot, even in back-to-school commercials, thanks to these lyrics, "It's the hap-happiest season of all." Which song are we referencing?
We all have our own definitions of when the most wonderful time of the year is. In this song, it's the holiday. In television commercials for Staples, it's the back-to-school season. For us, it's when football starts. Hey, to each their own.
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"The weather outside is frightful/But the fire is so delightful" in which of these holiday tunes?
Would you believe this tune was actually written during a California heatwave? What better way to deal with the temperatures than to imagine a bit of cold and snow! One of the best-known versions ever sung was recorded by Frank Sinatra.
There's no mention of Christmas at all in this song's original lyrics that include, "He was made of snow/But the children know how he came to life one day." Which one are we talking about?
When the lyrics to "Frosty the Snowman" were first written, there was no mention of Christmas at all. Of course, that's probably appropriate since snowmen can be built at any point in the year when there's enough snow.
We hate to call Mariah Carey "vintage," but here we are. Which of these tunes, with these words, "I don't care about the presents/Underneath the Christmas tree" is attributed to her?
In fairness, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was released in 1994 — a full 25 (25!) years ago now. It remains one of Carey's most enduring holiday songs, from a Christmas album that was packed full of good ones.
Fox 2000 Pictures / Regency Enterprises
Nothing says Christmas like a song sung by rodents. What tune, with the words, "Me, I want a hula hoop," are we talking about?
OK, maybe we gave this one away a bit with the clue, but the holiday season isn't complete with "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)." Just one listen to it, though. Any more than that and you'll lose your mind.
Barbara Taeger Photography / Moment / Getty Images
Originally written to honor soldiers fighting during World War II, which of these Bing Crosby hits was a "Top 10" of its day, with these lyrics, "Please have snow and mistletoe/And presents on the tree?"
"I'll Be Home For Christmas" was originally written in honor of soldiers overseas during the holidays, fighting in World War II. Since then, it has become an anthem for anyone or anyplace we're missing at the holidays.
svetikd / E+ / Getty Images
The singer of this Christmas song was just 13 years old when it was recorded. Which song's lyrics include, "Have a happy holiday/Everyone dancin' merrily/In the new old-fashioned way?"
Can you believe it? Brenda Lee was just 13 years old when "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" was first recorded. All these years later, we're still listening to Lee's iconic 13-year-old voice on this Christmas classic.
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You might recognize this song as much by its sound effects — the clip-clop of a horse walking and a whip — as its melody, which says, "Our cheeks are nice and rosy and comfy and cozy are we ... " Which of these is it?
It stands to reason if you're going on a "Sleigh Ride," there's probably going to be a horse. "Sleigh Ride" has been performed both instrumentally as well as vocally, with Johnny Mathis' being the most popular.
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This song asks Santa to "slip a sable under the tree for me." Which tune are we talking about?
Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby," released in 1953, was a song about a woman who knew what she wanted for Christmas. Among her requests: "Slip a sable under the tree" and "fill my stocking with a duplex and checks." Chump change for Santa!
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Elvis Presley famously recorded this song, but with a bad attitude. He reportedly said, "Let's just get this over with." What song featured these lyrics, "Decorations of red, on a green Christmas tree/Won't be the same dear, if you're not here with me?"
Elvis Presley did eventually record "Blue Christmas" and enjoyed widespread commercial success with it. But numerous reports in the years since have claimed Presley didn't actually want to do the song. Maybe he was ... um ... blue?
If you can keep the various birds in this song straight, you're better than us. What tune has lots of winged things like "two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree?"
Whoever wrote "The Twelve Days of Christmas" had a thing for birds. The song mentions a partridge (in a pear tree, no less), turtle doves, calling birds, French hens, geese and swans. We prefer our Christmas gifts without feathers, please. Unless it's a pair of turtle dove ornaments like the ones Kevin splits with the Pigeon Lady in "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York."
A song about this guy was based on a Montgomery Ward-created character, including the lyrics, "You'll go down in history." What is it?
Did you know that the red-nosed character, Rudolph, was created for retailer Montgomery Ward? It was a few years later before the song came along, the work of Rudolph's creator's brother-in-law.
Proof that drinking too much eggnog and trying to walk home can lead to disaster. Which song details it, with the words, "And she staggered out the door into the snow?"
Apparently, even though grandma got run over by a reindeer, it was her fault for drinking too much eggnog and WWE (Walking While Eggnogged). This cute classic was first released in 1979.
Ariel Skelley / DigitalVision / Getty Images
This song asks a lot of questions and we mean A LOT, like "Do you know what I know?" What Christmas tune is it?
It may be called, "Do You Hear What I Hear?", but this song asks plenty of other questions as well, such as "Do you see what I see?' and "Do you know what I know?" The song goes on to detail what is heard, seen and known.
Judy Garland sang these lyrics for the first time in "Meet Me In St. Louis": "From now on your troubles will be out of sight." Which song is it from?
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was first performed by Judy Garland of "The Wizard of Oz" fame in the 1944 film, "Meet Me In St. Louis." For the record, most people consider "Meet Me In St. Louis" a vintage Christmas flick.
"__________ ___________, I gave you my heart/But the very next day you gave it away," are the opening lyrics to which of these tunes?
"Last Christmas" was recorded in the mid-1980s by Wham!, a two-person group made up of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. The song is so iconic that its lyrics inspired the 2019 movie "Last Christmas," starring Emilia Clarke.
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"All is calm" and "all is bright" in this popular Christmas carol. What is its name?
This popular Christmas carol sung the world over has its origins in Austria. The lyrics to the song, "Stille Nacht," were written in the early 1800s and later set to the melody we know today.
If you watched the televised special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as a child, you probably heard this song sung by a snowman indicating, "It's the best time of the year." Which song is it?
The voice behind that snowman, Burl Ives, was the one who made "A Holly Jolly Christmas" popular as a holiday favorite. This song was actually written by the same person who wrote "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
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Don't feel guilty if you play this tune well after Christmas. Its lyrics, "Later on, we'll conspire/As we dream by the fire," work throughout the winter months. What is it?
"Winter Wonderland" is a bit more about the snowy landscape than Christmas itself, although we associate the song with the holiday. If you look at the lyrics, it tells the story of a couple building a snowman.
Copyright Artem Vorobiev / Moment / Getty Images
A big hit for Perry Como, which of these songs is a veritable walk into the holiday season with the lyrics, "everywhere you go?"
We don't know about you, but "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas" is one of our favorite just-entering-the-season holiday tunes. Something about the singer talking about "toys in every store" and the holly "on your own front door" just warms our heart.
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Which song's chorus wishes you, "Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness" in these lyrics, "Prospero año y felicidad?"
You've heard "Feliz Navidad" on the radio, and we're guessing you probably don't understand all the lyrics. That's OK; we're here to interpret. The chorus, specifically, is quite positive, wishing you a merry Christmas, happiness and a prosperous year. How thoughtful!
Step aside, Elton John, Guinness World Records calls this song, which sings, "Where the treetops glisten and children listen/To hear sleigh bells in the snow," the "best-selling single of all time." What is it?
Despite being released before the official charts that keep track of this sort of thing, Guinness World Records declared Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" the all-time best-selling single with more than 50 million copies. It beats out Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" by roughly 15 million copies.
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"The stars are brightly shining" in this Christmas carol, authored by a wine merchant. What is its name?
"O holy night, the stars are brightly shining" is the first line from this widely-performed Christmas carol. Written by a wine merchant in the mid-1800s, "O Holy Night" has been sung by everyone from Nat King Cole to Josh Groban.
Which of these holiday classics, with the words, "Snowflakes in the air/Carols everywhere," was recorded specifically for "A Charlie Brown Christmas?"
"Christmas Time Is Here" was written in 1965 for the televised event, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," released the same year. Many artists have performed the song since, including Sara McLachlan, Michael W. Smith and LeAnn Rimes.
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Though this one gets its share of criticism, it's a bonafide holiday hit. Which song stirred controversy with words that include, "My mother will start to worry?"
We'll keep our opinions to ourselves, but for some, the lyrics to "Baby, It's Cold Outside" are suggestive of bad behavior. You be the judge. It's still a rather catchy Christmas tune, written in the 1940s.
Philippe Sainte-Laudy Photography / Moment / Getty Images
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" sounds like a fire hazard to us, but it makes for a great opening line to which of these tunes?
We know; you're shocked. You thought this song was called "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire." Alas, it is not. It is known, quite plainly, as "The Christmas Song." The part about chestnuts, however, is frequently used as a sub-title for the song.
This song is a bit demanding, asking for some holiday spirit "right this very minute." Which tune are we talking about?
The song, "We Need a Little Christmas," actually got its start on Broadway. No, really! It was first performed on stage at the production of "Mame," originally by none other than five-time Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury. Lucille Ball took on the role in the 1974 movie.
Some Christmas songs are a bit melancholy. In this one, Karen Carpenter longs for her love, singing, "We're apart, that's true/But I can dream and in my dreams/I'm Christmasing with you."
In the 1970s, the Carpenters were synonymous with Christmas. Karen and Richard Carpenter released the original version of "Merry Christmas Darling" in 1970 and a second version in 1978 on "Christmas Portrait," their first holiday album. The sister/brother duo also hosted multiple TV Christmas specials.
Darlene Love used to perform this song every year on David Letterman's show, singing, "Pretty lights on the tree/I'm watching them shine/You should be here with me."
Released in 1963 on "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector," this bittersweet holiday song has gone on to become one of the most iconic holiday tunes. "Rolling Stone" even gave it the number one spot on its list of the greatest rock and roll Christmas songs. Darlene Love performed the hit for years on David Letterman's show. After he retired, the annual tradition moved to "The View."
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If you listen to this Christmas tune, you'll hear references to "Rock Around The Clock" as well "Jingle Bells." What song are we referencing, with this mention, "Now the jingle hop has begun?"
If you were clever enough to mash up the referenced songs' titles, you'd come up with "Jingle Bell Rock," a popular tune first recorded in 1957. "Jingle Bell Rock" was written by two professionals in the public relations and advertising professions.
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It took a Beatle to release this tune, with the lyrics, "The moon is right/The spirit’s up/We’re here tonight/And that’s enough." What song are we talking about?
Paul McCartney recorded "Wonderful Christmastime" in the late 1970s and has enjoyed both success and criticism of the work. Despite some remarks that the song's composition is not up to McCartney's usual standards, it is estimated he's made more than $15 million on it alone. We'd call that a success.
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