50 Sad Christmas Songs

Updated on August 10, 2018
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FlourishAnyway believes there is a playlist for just about any situation and is on a mission to unite and entertain the world through song.

When Christmas Isn't What It's All Cracked up to Be

You're not the only one who feels down at Christmastime.  This long list of sad Christmas songs features people who are lonely, poor, homeless, separated from family, or feeling rejected and unloved.
You're not the only one who feels down at Christmastime. This long list of sad Christmas songs features people who are lonely, poor, homeless, separated from family, or feeling rejected and unloved. | Source

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.

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Tell the truth: During the holidays, do you ever feel sad or lonely?

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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.

Isn't it sad that no one sends Christmas cards anymore?
Isn't it sad that no one sends Christmas cards anymore? | Source

10 Activities to Try If You're Feeling Sad During the Holidays

Activity
Activity
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.

This Grinch tossed his tree in the trash!  Fortunately, however, as many as 93% of live Christmas trees are recycled through a community recycling program.  In the United States, 35-40 million natural Christmas trees are sold each year.
This Grinch tossed his tree in the trash! Fortunately, however, as many as 93% of live Christmas trees are recycled through a community recycling program. In the United States, 35-40 million natural Christmas trees are sold each year. | Source

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.

Not everyone enjoys Christmas.  Poinsettias and mistletoe can be toxic.  Glass ornaments break.  People give gaudy gifts they can't afford.
Not everyone enjoys Christmas. Poinsettias and mistletoe can be toxic. Glass ornaments break. People give gaudy gifts they can't afford. | Source

Even More Sad Christmas Songs

Song & Year Released
Artist
Summary
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)
Red Sovine
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)
John Eddie
A lonely man describes the details of his Christmas without the ex he loves
24. If We Make It Through December (1974)
Merle Haggard
A man is laid off from his factory job and can't afford Christmas for his family
25. My December (2003)
Josh Groban
Among snow-covered trees in December, the lonesome narrator has regrets about ending his love relationship
26. Dear Mr. Jesus (1987)
Powersource
An abused child writes a letter to Jesus asking Him not to allow parents to hurt their children
27. Someday at Christmas (1967)
Stevie Wonder
The narrator envisions a future without today's wars, hunger, and strife
28. I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas (2005)
Aimee Mann
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)
Marvin Gaye
While sitting in his cell, a prisoner of war wishes he could be released in time for Christmas
31. Just a Lonely Christmas (1965)
The Supremes
A lonely woman wishes she had her ex back at Christmastime
32. Christmas Is the Saddest Day of the Year (1998)
Jill Sobule
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)
Skip Ewing
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)
Taylor Swift
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)
Travis Tritt
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)
Dwight Yoakum
A divorced couple have an altercation involving Santa in front of their children on Christmas Eve
42. Christmas Will Break Your Heart (2014)
LCD Soundsystem
Christmas can be soul-crushing if you're feeling old, tired, disconnected, or depressed
43. Stay Another Day (1994)
East 17
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)
Vince Gill
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)
Rosie Flores
Christmas feels empty for the narrator without her ex
46. Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS (1985)
Tiny Tim
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)
Jim Croce
Christmas makes the narrator feel nostalgic for his former lover
48. Pretty Paper (1979)
Willie Nelson
A disabled street vendor tries to interest passersby in the wrapping paper he has for sale
49. Christmas Makes Me Cry (2016)
Kacey Musgraves
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)
Jim Croce
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.
Know a sad Christmas song that should be on this playlist? Leave a suggestion in the Comment Section below!

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 FlourishAnyway

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      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        6 months ago from USA

        William Kovacic - Thank you for that addition. It's #50. I agree that Jim Croce was talented and died too young, depriving us all of his gifts. Have a wonderful weekend!

      • profile image

        William Kovacic 

        6 months ago

        I think my all-time favorite, sad Christmas song is It Doesn't Have to Be That Way by Jim Croce. He wrote some amazing things in his short lifetime.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Devika - If someone is missing a loved one at Christmastime, oftentimes that tends to overshadow everything else.

      • profile image

        DDE 

        7 months ago

        Songs can give one a negative vibe. You enlightened me on sad here. Especially from music.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        MsDora - It's pretty sad. Although some negative people pick it apart for various reasons (e.g., Why does the low income boy have to be dirty? Why does she have to have shoes to meet Jesus? Why isn't he home with his dying mother? Where is an adult chaperone?), I like the song. It chokes me up and I pay more attention to the message. Thanks for stopping by.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Suhail - You're welcome! Have a happy and healthy 2018.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        7 months ago from The Caribbean

        "Christmas Shoes" is beautiful! Heard the story before but first time hearing the song. I agree with your perspective on all these songs. Good job!

      • Suhail and my dog profile image

        Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

        7 months ago from Mississauga, ON

        Hi Flourish,

        Thank you for responding to my rather long post and for your kind feelings!

        Regards,

        Suhail and my dog

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Heidi - I hope you had a fantastic holiday season. I was late with this sad Christmas list, or perhaps just super early for next year. Have a fantastic 2018. Adding your suggested song.

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        7 months ago from Chicago Area

        A little late to this Christmas party, but catching up on my HP reads.

        I'd add "Pretty Paper" by Roy Orbison or covered by Willie Nelson. (I like Willie Nelson's version better.)

        Hope your New Year is starting off great!

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Larry - Thanks for stopping by. I especially enjoy "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Have a fabulous 2018.

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 

        7 months ago from Oklahoma

        Great list!

        I think "Blue Christmas" and "I'll be Home for Christmas" are probably my favorites.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Rasma - Glad you stopped by. Have a happy 2018!

      • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

        Gypsy Rose Lee 

        7 months ago from Riga, Latvia

        Many I didn't even know. Usually, I try to keep positive during Christmas so I don't listen to too many sad ones.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Martie - Thanks for stopping by! Have a wonderful 2018!

      • MartieCoetser profile image

        Martie Coetser 

        7 months ago from South Africa

        What an excellent variety of Christmas songs! Thanks a lot for putting all of this together, dear Flourish!

        Happy New Year to you and your beloveds. Keep on flourishing!

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Suhail - These sentiments were absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your beliefs and your resolution. May 2018 be the most fulfilling year yet for you and the rest of our world, and may you be successful in bringing justice, comfort, and strength to those you come across who need it. I wish more people who think they fear Muslims could break down the barriers in their hearts and minds and seek a common understanding.

      • Suhail and my dog profile image

        Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

        7 months ago from Mississauga, ON

        Hi Flourish,

        I love Christmas and Holidays season. I love the joyful spirit behind the celebrations. Therefore, I don't think I may have listened to any sad Christmas songs. Since I am a Muslim, Christmas reminds me of the following from the life of Jesus or Eisa as he is called in Islam (May peace be upon him):

        1. According to the Quran, when the people raised questions about the chastity of Mary, he spoke from his cradle and siad, "And He (God) has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and charity as long as I remain alive, and has made me dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant, and peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive."

        2. Christmas is the time for renewal of my resolution for new year: I will always stand with those who are weak and oppressed and with any and all of his creation that cannot speak for itself against human's persecuting them and that I will continue to dislike rituals associated with religion.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Linda - Concentrating on others or treating oneself well are good ways to help. Thanks for stopping by.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        7 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        I'm glad you gave some suggestions for cheering people up at Christmas time, Flourish. The song descriptions are interesting, as always, despite the sadness that they mention.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Oh, dear Linda - I am so sorry about the reminder. Big hugs across the internet.

      • Carb Diva profile image

        Linda Lum 

        7 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Flourish, it was difficult to even look at this article. If you know me, you know my story and the sadness that comes with the holiday. But as you said, with children, we power on. I look forward to the Heavenly reunion where there will be no more tears.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Mary - While the whole notion of being away from loved ones didn't surprise me as a common theme for these sad Christmas songs, I was surprised by the raw topics addressed by other songs -- Santa having AIDS, orphans, dying parents, homelessness, and alcoholism. Pretty sad indeed. So many people are dealing with problems larger than ugly Christmas sweaters. Sigh. Glad it's January. Have a happy week ahead.

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 

        7 months ago from Brazil

        I thought these would only be modern ones as some people seem disillusioned with the holidays. I was surprised to see you've listed one from the 60's.

        I hate to think of people being unhappy anytime but even more so during the holidays.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Kari - Christmas can bring out the saddest emotions for some people by highlighting what one doesn't have. My initial bout of multiple sclerosis hit 15 years ago right before the Christmas season so I spent the entire holiday housebound with optic neuritis and a painful aversion to red. I would have called off the whole thing had it not been for having a young child at the time. It's made me aware how not everyone is having a joyful time when they "should" be.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Bill - There were a lot more sad Christmas songs than I anticipated. Seems like folks want to sing about how depressed they are. Go figure.

      • FlourishAnyway profile imageAUTHOR

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 months ago from USA

        Frank - Looking back on Karen Carpenter and what ultimately happened to her, almost all of her songs have a sad undertone to them to me. So sad that we couldn't save her from herself. I think her internal state pervades the song. Thanks for stopping by to comment on my tardy Christmas playlist. I look on it as a head start for next year. Have a great 2018.

      • k@ri profile image

        Kari Poulsen 

        7 months ago from Ohio

        When I read the title I thought, "Sad Christmas song?" You showed me. There are much more than I ever thought, lol.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        7 months ago from Olympia, WA

        Thank you for giving me an easy one. Blue Christmas instantly popped in this old brain. It was nice to actually think of one quickly. :)

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 

        7 months ago from Shelton

        I think the Carpenters Christmas song just sound the saddest.. no matter which song.. just sad.. do you agree? great list my friend

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