Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, but sometimes you’re not feeling the cheer.
Or maybe you just love sad music and want to get in the holiday spirit. Whatever your reason for listening to melancholy music, there are plenty of devastating Christmas songs to help you cozy up with a cup of spiked cider and the blues. From indie gems to old classics, are our favorites.
1. McCarthy Trenching — Christmas Song
This song (which was later covered by Phoebe Bridgers) is simply devastating.
Phoebe Bridgers – Christmas Song (Official Audio)
2. Julien Baker — Decorated Lawns
Truly, this is sad Christian queer folk in its highest form.
Julien Baker – Decorated Lawns (REMASTERED)
3. Brent Butler — Brooklyn Christmas Eve
Punk Christmas never sounded so good.
Brooklyn Christmas Eve
4. Sufjan Stevens — Sister Winter
Our Lonely Man of Winter has millions of options, but this apologetic and devastating song has to take the cake for Stevens’ saddest holiday anthem.
Sufjan Stevens – Sister Winter
5. Elvis Presley — Blue Christmas
Elvis’s delivery is so blue, so dreary, so lugubrious, you feel like you’re falling into a snowdrift of sadness just hearing him belt out the chorus.
Elvis Presley – Blue Christmas (Audio)
6. Wham! — Last Christmas
“This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special” has to be one of the sickest burns ever to exist in a Christmas song.
Wham! – Last Christmas (Official Video)
7. Taylor Swift — Christmases When You Were Mine
Taylor stabs you right in the heart with this saccharine song about missing an ex-lover.
Taylor Swift – Christmases When You Were Mine (Lyrics)
8. Joni Mitchell — River
Joni Mitchell’s mournful reinterpretation of “Jingle Bells” is seasonal depression distilled into sound, and it’s four minutes and nine seconds of glittering, devastating brilliance.
Joni Mitchell – River (Official Audio)
9. NewSong — The Christmas Shoes
It’s “Christmas Shoes.”
NewSong – The Christmas Shoes
10. The Everly Brothers — Christmas Eve Can Kill You
Wait, it can?
EVERLY BROTHERS – Christmas Eve Can Kill You (1971)
11. 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night — Simon and Garfunkel
This song is just “Silent Night” placed over a recording of the news, but as we all know, the news can be hard to listen to—and hearing it played against the soft sounds of Christmas makes the reports of violence and injustice even more difficult to tune out than usual.
7 O’clock News / Silent Night
12. Prince — Another Lonely Christmas
Another lonely Christmas? How long has this been going on? Plus we all miss Prince.
Another Lonely Christmas
Though it has no words, it’s almost universally agreed that this song just sounds sad. That’s actually because the human brain is literally wired to hear the blues in minor chords, and this song has plenty of them.
Greensleeves – best version
14. Elmo & Patsy — Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer
Is Grandma ok??? Are Elmo & Patsy ok? Are any of us ok considering we made this into a Christmas classic?
Elmo & Patsy – Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer
15. The Carpenters — Merry Christmas Darling
Everyone’s favorite California dreamers got extra wistful on this dreary, exquisite number about heartbreak over the holidays.
Merry Christmas, Darling – The Carpenters
16. Tom Waits — Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis
This song gets very real very quickly, but it does contain glimmers of hope.
Tom Waits- Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis (Studio Version)
17. Marvin Gaye — I Want to Come Home For Christmas
Possibly the saddest song ever written, according to NPR.
I Want To Come Home For Christmas
18. Darlene Love — Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
What could be sadder than this plea to a lost love?
Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby please come home)
19. Miley Cyrus — My Sad Christmas Song
The title alone is just so sad.
Miley Cyrus – My Sad Christmas Song
20. LCD Soundsystem — Christmas Will Break Your Heart
So apparently if Christmas Eve doesn’t kill me, then Christmas Day will break my heart, even though last Christmas, I gave you my heart but the very next day you gave it away. This year, to save me from tears, maybe I just won’t celebrate Christmas… or maybe I’ll start listening to happy music instead.
LCD Soundsystem – Christmas Will Break Your Heart video
So there you have it — the twenty saddest Christmas songs we know of. However, despite these songs, we hope you have a very merry holiday.