Every year, thousands of people take to the roads for a Christmassy drive back home, to see relatives, or if they’re lucky, to the airport for a festive break.
And, by UK law (it’s official) listening to anything other than Christmas music during these drives is very illegal indeed. Luckily, around this time, most radio stations will be playing nothing but Christmas crackers, but if you fancy collating your own playlist — or avoiding the ads — we’ve rounded up the best tunes to drive home to.
Driving Home for Christmas — Chris Rea (1988)
The name says it all, doesn’t it? The raspy croon of Chris Rea signals the beginning of many a fine drive home, and though it does paint a rather romantic picture of a traffic jam it’s truly unmissable. There’s also a real sense of community fostered between you and the hundreds of others inevitably caught in the same tailback – ♫ “I take a look at the driver next to me, he’s just the same…” ♫
It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas — Perry Como & The Fontaine Sisters (1951)
For a lot of those who spend Christmas away from home, the drive is often when the festive feeling really sets in. Yearning for the ‘holly that will be on your own front door’ is a proper allegory for those of us who don’t bother decorating, knowing our parents will have done a far better job, too. And though this song has been covered many times, the Perry Como original is still the superior version.
Fairytale of New York — The Pogues (1987)
Got a full car for the drive home? Put this on. Rarely has a greater crowd pleaser been recorded — and no song sounds better when yelled by a bunch of rowdy, probably drunk passengers. Works equally well as a duet – even better if you and your partner have been arguing.
Silent Night — 1818
This one’s a bit contemplative – save it for once you’re off the M1 and onto silent, rural lanes with just the occasional car and the glow of your headlights as you crunch over fresh snow. We think the eerie and very traditional choir of King’s College, Cambridge does a spectacular version.
All I Want For Christmas Is You — Mariah Carey (1994)
This one’s capable of turning a single person in a car into a full-on party. Make sure you keep at least one hand on the wheel while your other simultaneously plays the keyboard and conducts a full-on steering wheel drum solo. Don’t worry about overplaying it either, Mariah never gets old.
Do They Know It’s Christmas? — Band Aid (1984)
Everyone knows the Band Aid story — a supergroup put together by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, and consisting of plenty of the UK’s most popular musicians, it raised over £8 million for charitable causes in Africa within 12 months of release. In other words, don’t illegally download it. It enjoyed a resurgence after a star turn on sitcom ‘Gavin and Stacey’, where Smithy sang it in his battered Volvo estate, and remains one of the few Christmas songs everybody knows the words to.
Last Christmas — Wham! (1984)
Loved and loathed in equal measure, we couldn’t leave George Michael’s crowning glory off this list. Made more moving by Michael’s sad passing on Christmas Day 2016. Perfect for a spot of in-car karaoke and not in the least bit depressing.
Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy — Bing Crosby and David Bowie (1982)
The ’80s is sure proving the era for Christmas hits, right? This legendary duo paired up just five weeks before Crosby’s death to record this tune, overlaying a new counterpoint on top of the traditional ‘Little Drummer Boy’ after Bowie reportedly asked: “I hate this song, is there anything else I can sing?” Playing it in the car means you don’t have to watch the slightly awkward video, though it does mean you miss out on Uncle Bing’s remarkable cardi.
Stop The Cavalry — Jona Lewie (1980)
If you’ve ever wanted to hear a car full of adults impersonating a brass band, stick this on. Lewie’s plodding and thought-provoking tune was never intended to be a Christmas single, but it’s certainly been adopted as one.
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday — Wizzard (1973)
We’ll finish up with a real floor-filler, and another one bound to get all of your passengers grooving. It’s also one of the few instances where the inclusion of singing children in a song isn’t a reason to dig your eardrums out with your fingernails. The perfect tonic to get you in the Christmas spirit as early as October, if necessary.