52 Sad Christmas Songs
When Christmas Isn't What It's All Cracked up to Be
Because Sometimes You're Just Not Feeling Like Christmas
Bah humbug. While everyone else is gleefully decking their halls, are you just going through the motions? Are "The Little Bummer Boy" and "The Worst Noel" playing in your head? Are you delaying gift shopping as long as possible, hoping Christmas obligations will disappear? (Save the trouble and opt for gift cards.)
There are those among us who just don't have the joy of Christmas in them some years. I've been there. During the Christmas season several years ago, a loved one died after a protracted illness, so I didn't enjoy the magic of the season for awhile. Others struggle because of broken relationships, financial strains, their own health problems, or not being together with loved ones.
Popular Christmas music reflects many of these situations, and there are plenty of sad Christmas songs to help you commiserate. If you're looking to make a playlist of sad Christmas songs, then we have a long list to start you out.
Tell the truth: During the holidays, do you ever feel sad or lonely?
1. "Christmas Shoes" by NewSong
If you're not all choked up before listening to this 2000 song, you will be afterwards. A poor young boy, dirty from head to toe, has saved up enough money to buy his terminally ill mother some special shoes she covets. He waits in the checkout line, and the narrator, a stranger, waits behind him.
Unfortunately, the child does not have enough money to complete the purchase. The stranger is motivated to help him after the boy explains that his mother is near death. She wants to be presentable when she meets Jesus. The song is meant to convey the true meaning of Christmas.
2. "Please Come Home for Christmas" by Charles Brown
The sad sack in this holiday song from 1960 has been left by his beloved, and all he can think about is reuniting with her. While his heart is heavy now, he hopes that she'll magically find her way home in time for the holidays:
Then won't you tell me, you'll never more roam
Christmas and New Year's will find you home
There'll be no more sorrow, no grief and pain
'Cause I'll be happy, happy once again.
3. "Christmas Lights" by Coldplay
Peace and joy be damned. The reality of this guy's life is that his Christmas night is filled with yet another nasty argument. (Sounds like a divorce might be on the horizon.)
The couple in this 2015 song shed tears, and his sweetheart flees into the cold night that has yet to snow. No, it doesn't feel like Christmas at all.
4. "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley
Elvis sure knows how to deflate the Christmas mood in this 1957 classic. He and his girl can't spend the holiday together, and that's a true bummer. However, instead of reliving their happy memories and looking forward to reuniting, he drags down his girlfriend's spirits by concentrating on how miserable he'll be alone.
Hey, buck up, buddy. A situation is what you make of it.
5. "Last Christmas" by Wham!
The man-baby in this 1986 modern Christmas classic is still b*tching and moaning about a heartbreak that happened last year. Get over it already, dude.
He gave his heart to someone during the Christmas season who promptly rejected him. Now she treats him like a stranger. (That's a surprise.) Dwelling on the past is no way to attract someone else.
6. "Every Year, Every Christmas" by Luther Vandross
This poor guy is stuck in a time warp, unable to form other relationships after his love affair several years ago fizzled. He returns each year at Christmastime to the same street corner where he met his sweetheart and where they promised to meet annually at Christmas.
It's 1995, so they have do have telephones and even email, so you have to wonder what kind of funny business is going on with repeatedly getting stood up at once-a-year meetings. And who meets the love of their lives at a street corner?
7. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Michael Buble'
In this 2003 cover, Michael Buble' offers a downer of a tune by recalling all of his favorite things about Christmas at home: snow, mistletoe, and presents by the tree. But he reminds you he won't be enjoying those with you because he's so far away, and he'll only be dreaming about them. Feel guilty yet?
8. "What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas?" by The Emotions
In this 1989 song, a man who is without his honey at the holidays points out how happy everyone else is. Kids play with their toys, lovers kiss under the mistletoe, and choirs sing joyously. Not him however:
But what is left, oh, for me to do
Now that it's Christmas and I don't have you?
9. "Where Are You Christmas" by Faith Hill
The laughter and music of Christmas has disappeared, according to this 2000 holiday song. It's from the soundtrack of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
The narrator feels her world changing and wonders if that means that she is changing as well. It's the perfect song for an empty nester to play when they're waiting for a call from the kids at the holidays.
10. "Lonely This Christmas" by K.T. Tunstall
Since her darling left her, their house is not a home, and the glum lady in this holiday song from 2007 is forecasting a depressing Christmas. She'll be alone with no place no go and she expects that her tears will melt the snow.
Curl up with a cat and a good book and forget stop ruminating about him! Pity won't bring him back, and you didn't need him anyway.
11. "Get Me Through December" by Alison Krauss & Natalie MacMaster
There's a deep aching and a feeling of sincere loss in this 1999 song. December brings back too many raw memories and the narrator just wants the pain to be over. She seeks to somehow make it through to the other side of December where she'll find redemption and renewal:
No divine purpose brings freedom from sin
And peace is a gift that must come from within
I've looked for the love that will bring me to rest
Feeding this hunger beating strong in my chest.
10 Activities to Try If You're Feeling Sad During the Holidays
Volunteer at a soup kitchen or animal shelter
Try recipes you've always wanted to make for yourself
Learn a new hobby or skill
Visit residents at a nursing home
Bake goodies for neighbors or coworkers
Take a walk, camera optional
Enjoy a movie marathon or other favorite activities
Seriously clean house
Start a gratitude chain
Talk to someone who will listen
12. "Joel, the Lump of Coal" by The Killers & Jimmy Kimmel
What the hell is going on in the North Pole? It wasn't enough that Rudolph was bullied for a physical disability. Now Joel the Lump of Coal is also mercilessly ridiculed by the elves before Santa gives him away to a naughty child as a booby prize.
The saving grace is that this sad 2014 song has a happy ending that makes it worthy of a listen. Joel is extra empathic in the hands of his sad new owner and ends up transformed into a diamond. Thank goodness for small miracles.
13. "It's Not Christmas Without You" by Katherine McPhee
When you're separated from the one you love, you can either make the best of it or wallow in your misery. The girl in this 2010 tune chooses the latter, deciding not to send out Christmas cards and ignoring Christmas carolers in the distance. She ruminates over memories from last year when she and her lover spent the holiday together.
Apparently, repeatedly telling him it's not Christmas without him works because her lover has a last minute change of plans. He surprises the sad lady with a visit.
14. "Christmas Won't Be the Same Without You" by Plain WhiteT's
In this 2008 Christmas song, the narrator's love interest has to leave, but he's laying the guilt trip as thick as peanut butter. (The guilt trip doesn't change things. It just makes both partners more miserable.) He swears that the only gift he needs is for her to stay and hold him tight.
15. "River" by Sarah McLachlan
There's a reason the woman in this 2006 Christmas song is in a relationship time-out. The protagonist cheated on her lover with someone who made her feel naughty and weak in the knees. That indiscretion was a deal-breaker, and now, as everyone around her is happy, she regrets causing so much heartache. Lesson learned.
16. "Merry Christmas Darling" by The Carpenters
The pace of this 1970 song drags because it's a depressing tune about a woman who regrets being away from her partner at Christmas. She's pulling up those knee socks and making the best of it, however, by sending out Christmas cards and going through all the other motions of the holidays. At least she holds out a glimmer of hope that they can be together someday soon.
17. "Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas" by Alan Jackson
Yep, this is actually a Christmas song. I like Alan Jackson's 1993 rendition of it better than the original by John Denver, although both are depressing. A seven year-old begs his alcoholic father not to come home drunk again this Christmas because it makes his mother cry. If you think you have it bad, then this is one that will give you perspective.
18. "Better Days" by Goo Goo Dolls
Forget the fancy boxes and designer gifts. They're just empty "stuff." In this 2006 Christmas song, the narrator only wants better days ahead. The sad part about this song is that in wishing for peace, the narrator contrasts it against the reality of today's endless conflict and millions of children, forgotten in poverty.
19. "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg
Have you ever run into an old lover and spent time catching up on where life has taken each of you? This bittersweet 1981 song recounts a long-standing friendship between two former lovers who happen to bump into one another one Christmas Eve.
They share several drinks, toasting both the past and the present. As they catch up, they realize that neither is as content as they imagined they would be. Finally, the two run out of things to say and return to their lonely, respective worlds.
20. "Christmas Just Ain't Christmas Without the One You Love" by The O'Jays
According to this narrator, spending the holidays in the absence of your sweetie simply sucks. In this 1964 song, the man recalls how last year the couple pledged their unending love to one another, spent time shopping, and smooched under the mistletoe. But this holiday season, he has way too much alone time on his hands.
Even More Sad Christmas Songs
Song & Year Released
21. Cold December Nights (1993)
Boyz II Men
Lonely and scared, the narrator spends Christmas without his ex-lover and there are no gifts or celebration without her there
22. Billy's Christmas Wish (1978)
A sick, homeless, runaway boy sees Santa on a busy street and climbs upon his lap, asking if he could go to Jesus' house for Christmas
23. Another Lonely Christmas (1997)
A lonely man describes the details of his Christmas without the ex he loves
24. If We Make It Through December (1974)
A man is laid off from his factory job and can't afford Christmas for his family
25. My December (2003)
Among snow-covered trees in December, the lonesome narrator has regrets about ending his love relationship
26. Dear Mr. Jesus (1987)
An abused child writes a letter to Jesus asking Him not to allow parents to hurt their children
27. Someday at Christmas (1967)
The narrator envisions a future without today's wars, hunger, and strife
28. I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas (2005)
Four weeks before Christmas, the narrator considers cleaning up his substance abuse before dying by suicide
29. The Fairytale of New York (1988)
The Pogues (featuring Kirsty MacColl)
This bleak song describes how life can fall apart around you but you still have one another
30. I Want to Come Home for Christmas (1972)
While sitting in his cell, a prisoner of war wishes he could be released in time for Christmas
31. Just a Lonely Christmas (1965)
A lonely woman wishes she had her ex back at Christmastime
32. Christmas Is the Saddest Day of the Year (1998)
Christmas is sad because it will remind you of how you're an adult with responsibilities instead of a kid. Bummer.
33. Christmas Carol (1996)
A parentless four-year-old girl asks Santa for a family
34. Christmas in L.A. (2016)
The Killers (featuring Dawes)
A man who has moved to L.A. misses Christmas the way it used to be for him back home
35. Another Lonely Christmas (1984)
Prince and the Revolution
This awful song features the narrator memorializing a lover who died on December 25
36. Christmas Eve Can Kill You (1972)
The Everly Brothers
A cold stranger walks in the icy weather on Christmas Eve and tries in vain to get a ride
37. Christmases When You Were Mine (2007)
The narrator feels lonely without her ex to hold during the holidays. It seems like everyone has someone to love except for her
38. The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot (1962)
Nat King Cole
A fatherless boy wishes in vain for soldiers and a drum, but Santa leaves him empty-handed
39. Xmas Time (It Sure Doesn't Feel Like It) (2010)
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
It's the holiday season but it doesn't feel like it for this guy who is cold, has no place to go, and might end up sleeping on the sidewalk in downtown Boston
40. Christmas Just Ain't Christmas Without You (1992)
The narrator recalls the emotions and traditions of years past, but without his ex he's just going through the motions
41. Santa Can't Stay (1997)
A divorced couple have an altercation involving Santa in front of their children on Christmas Eve
42. Christmas Will Break Your Heart (2014)
Christmas can be soul-crushing if you're feeling old, tired, disconnected, or depressed
43. Stay Another Day (1994)
The narrator begs a loved one not to go, just to stay one more day
44. It Won't Be the Same This Year (1993)
The narrator's brother died during the previous year, so celebrating Christmas won't be the same
45. My Christmas Tree Is Hung With Tears (2017)
Christmas feels empty for the narrator without her ex
46. Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS (1985)
Santa won't be around this year because he's sick. (Although supposedly the song was about the diet supplement Ayds, that seems doubtful.)
47. It Doesn't Have to Be That Way (1973)
Christmas makes the narrator feel nostalgic for his former lover
48. Pretty Paper (1979)
A disabled street vendor tries to interest passersby in the wrapping paper he has for sale
49. Christmas Makes Me Cry (2016)
This single lady is suffering from a broken heart and can't make it home, but even if she could she'd be sad. Total Debbie Downer.
50. It Doesn't Have to Be That Way (1973)
A man strolls down a crowded street during the Christmas season and it makes him sad that his relationship ended. He'll be dropping by his ex's house and hopes they can reunite.
51. Christmas at Denny's (1989)
A homeless man spends the wee hours of Christmas at Denny's and describes the tragedies that led him there.
52. Wish My Kids Were Here (2013)
I long to hand them presents / And watch their faces glow / The judge says if I call them / Then I'll go straight to jail / But I can send them presents through the mail
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