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The Xmas Factor: Analysing every UK Christmas No. 1

10 Dec | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
The Xmas Factor: Analysing every UK Christmas No. 1

From Band Aid to Slade, our festive infographic breaks down every single Christmas chart-topper by subject matter, genre and origin.

Ho, ho, ho. It’s that time again.

Make sure you’ve left the mince pies out, your presents are under the tree and the turkey’s ready to go because the most hotly-contested chart battle of the year is upon us.

The Christmas No. 1 has been a feature of the UK Singles Chart since 1952, after the week’s best-selling singles was first published in the New Music Express.

But the modern fascination with the race for the festive No. 1 started in 1973, thanks to glam rock bands Slade and Wizzard.

Their respective singles, Merry Xmas Everybody and I Wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday, went head to head as the public pledged support to one or the other.

Slade eventually won the race, but both songs remain mainstays of any respectable Christmas playlist.

Today, the chart comprises sales and streams of singles for the week before Christmas Day, with Ariana Grande {ODDS:346060135:1/2} the current favourite in the online betting this year.

But what is the blueprint for a hit Christmas song? We analysed all 66 Christmas number ones to find out.

Subject matter

There’s more to Christmas music than jingle bells and reindeer.

Just 12 out of 66 number ones are actually about Christmas.

The most successful of these was Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid in 1984, which has gone on to sell over three million copies – more than any other Christmas single.

Bob Geldof and co. beat Last Christmas by Wham! to top spot, though the latter has gone on to become the best-selling UK single never to reach number one.

The most recent Christmas-themed No. 1 was Band Aid 20’s effort at Do They Know It’s Christmas? in 2004.

Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to 1990 for a festive-themed chart-topper, courtesy of Cliff Richard’s Saviour’s Day.

Love is the most popular subject, with 22 of the 66 number ones dedicated to matters of the heart.

Heartbreak is next with six. Included in this category is 1994’s Christmas No. 1, Stay Another Day by East 17, beating off competition from Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, which was named holiday song of the decade in 2010 in the UK, despite never reaching top spot.

Personal struggle, hope and novelty are all tied as the next most-popular subject with four No. 1s apiece.

Included in the novelty category is Can We Fix It? by Bob The Builder from 2000, which was later voted 42nd in the top 100 worst singles of all time in 2003.

The remaining No. 1s are about lust (3), family (3), nature (2), war, education, loss, music and rebellion, while Let’s Have Another Party by Winifried Atwell in 1954 was entirely instrumental.


Unsurprisingly, there have been more pop songs (30) than any other genre to scoop Christmas number one.

Rock songs account for 11 Christmas number ones, including Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, which took the title in 1975 and 1991 and is the UK’s third-best selling single of all time with 2.53m sales.

Easy listening is the next most-popular genre, with crooners having claimed number one seven times between 1952 and 1976, the most recent of which being Johnny Mathis’ When A Child Is Born.

There are four novelty songs that have topped the Christmas charts, as mentioned previously, and three rhythm and blues songs.

There have been three choral songs to reach Christmas No. 1, most recently A Bridge Over You by the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir in 2015.

The other represented genres are soul (2), dance (2), instrumental, folk, disco and a cappella.

Where is the song from?

Originality isn’t always the best way to go when it comes to Christmas singles, given that covers account for 23 of the 66 festive number ones.

Reality television contributed eight Christmas number ones between 2002 and 2014, with Sound of the Underground by Girls Aloud and That’s My Goal by Shayne Ward the only outliers.

There have been six charity singles to reach number one, including three releases of Do They Know It’s Christmas? from Band Aid, Band Aid II and Band Aid 20 in 1984, 1989 and 2014 respectively.

A Bridge Over You by the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir is the only entry that is a mash-up of two different songs: Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel and Fix You by Coldplay.

Multiple winners

There have only been four acts to have had more than one Christmas number one: the Beatles, Cliff Richard, Queen and the Spice Girls.

The Beatles were the first group to top the festive charts three years in a row between 1963 and 1965, with I Want To Hold Your Hand, I Feel Fine and Day Tripper.

Just two years later Hello, Goodbye became their fourth Christmas number one – a total that is yet to be beaten.

The Spice Girls are the only others to have had three consecutive Christmas number ones, topping the charts between 1996 and 1998 with 2 Become 1, Too Much and Goodbye.

Cliff Richard’s first came in in 1960 alongside backing band The Shadows with I Love You, although he later returned on his own in 1988 and 1990 with Mistletoe and Wine and Saviour’s Day respectively.

Queen are the only band to have had the same song reach Christmas No. 1 twice, with Bohemian Rhapsody earning top spot in both 1975 and 1991.