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57 Sad Christmas Songs

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.

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.

Reader Poll

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?

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

ActivityActivity

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 White T'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.

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.

Even More Sad Christmas Songs

Know a sad Christmas song that should be on this playlist? Leave a suggestion in the Comment Section below!

Song & Year ReleasedArtistSummary

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. Loneliest Time of Year

Mabel

The holidays make the narrator think of all the things she does NOT have in her life. Total bummer.

51. Christmas at Denny's (1989)

Randy Stonehill

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)

David Bazan

A divorced father is separated from his children at the holidays and not permitted visitation

53. This Christmas Day (2018)

Jessie J

The narrator is grieving the lost of a loved one at Christmastime

54. I Hate Christmas Parties (2003)

Relient K

All the narrator can think about this Christmas is the broken heart his love interest is giving him

55. Santa, I'm Right Here (1995)

Toby Keith

While Christmas shopping a man finds a homeless child's letter to Santa

56. Hard Candy Christmas (1982)

Dolly Parton

Faced with a breakup, a young woman looks at all of the good things in life she has before her

57. Christmas in Heaven (2012)

Scotty McCreery

A man asks a deceased loved one what Christmas in heaven is like

© 2018 FlourishAnyway

Comments

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 08, 2020:

Peggy - Especially if you've experienced loss or personal hardship, Christmas can be isolating and sad rather than joyful. It can draw attention to all the gulf between what you have and the ideal. I imagine this coming Christmas will be a tough one for many. Thanks for stopping by, especially during off-season!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 07, 2020:

Many people have a hard time during this season of the year when the focus is all about family gatherings and fun. I had no idea that there were so many songs addressing this subject.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 13, 2019:

Marc Salisbury - Sorry but the only trace of this song I could find is another person on a music messageboard (unanswered in 2006) asking about this same song, so at least you know you have company in looking for this haunting song. I grew up in the next town over from Union, SC and one summer worked there. Such a tragedy.

Marc Salisbury on December 13, 2019:

And still no mention of the very rare country song written years ago, with a video aired at least once on CMT, about Susan Smith's little boys. Part of it went something like "My little girl came downstairs and handed me her christmas list, on it she had written 'Dear Santa, send all my toys to heaven to those two little boys whose mommy didn't love them anymore' " My mom and I seem to be the only people in the world that remember seeing that music video in the middle of the night on CMT. The internet don't know it and nobody else remembers it. But that was the '90s everyone was asleep by midnight except for us barworkers.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 11, 2019:

b. Rock - I hope someone can help out with the name of this song.

b. Rock on December 10, 2019:

can anyone tell me the name of the song were a man's wife left him and took their daughter so he takes a job as a santa then his wife and daughter show up and his daughter tells santa that all she wants for cristmas is her father to come home

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 15, 2018:

Seth Austin - Thanks for your comment. I don't always use the original; covers are often used. Merry Christmas!

Seth Austin on December 15, 2018:

Hi, River is a Joni Mitchell song originally and its much better than Sarah M's.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 06, 2018:

Sam - Oh, that's a real bummer.

sam on December 06, 2018:

one i found while making my playlist is wish my kids were here by david bazan!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 29, 2018:

randomlychad - Whew, you're right. I added that song. Thanks for the suggestion. Merry Christmas to you!

randomlychad on November 28, 2018:

Not well known is Randy Stonehill's "Christmas at Denny's." I think it probably trumps all the others here in its sadness quotient.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on February 17, 2018:

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!

William Kovacic on February 17, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 11, 2018:

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

DDE on January 11, 2018:

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

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on January 10, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 10, 2018:

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

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 09, 2018:

"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 Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on January 09, 2018:

Hi Flourish,

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

Regards,

Suhail and my dog

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on January 09, 2018:

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.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on January 09, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 08, 2018:

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

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on January 08, 2018:

Great list!

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

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on January 08, 2018:

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

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on January 08, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 07, 2018:

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

Martie Coetser from South Africa on January 07, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 07, 2018:

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 Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on January 06, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 06, 2018:

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

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 06, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 06, 2018:

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

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on January 06, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 06, 2018:

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.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on January 06, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 06, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 06, 2018:

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 (author) from USA on January 06, 2018:

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.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on January 06, 2018:

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

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 06, 2018:

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 from Shelton on January 06, 2018:

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