12 Secular Christmas Songs that are Actually About Advent

Your no-guilt Advent playlist!

David Zellaby / Flickr

While a lot of people start listening to Christmas music as soon as Advent begins, there are others who prefer to wait to listen to it until the actual Christmas season begins.

Growing up my family never listened until we put the tree up on the Fourth Sunday of Advent or Christmas Eve, whenever we got to it. So, we spent most of December wishing all the stores and radio stations would wait as well.

Since I have been running my own household with my husband, I have become a little more lenient. We have a great selection of Advent music on CD, including several concerts sent to us by Christian colleges and Advent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles. We listen to the Advent music to prepare our hearts for Christmas and to remind ourselves that as we wait for Christmas, we are also waiting for Christ to come again.

A couple years ago, we noticed that a number of the secular (not about the birth of Jesus) songs called “Christmas” music should be classified as winter themed music or even Advent music. If you look at the lyrics of many popular secular Christmas songs, you will discover that they are actually about getting ready for and waiting for Christmas.

[Read next: The 20 Best Religious Songs for Advent]

Here are 12 examples of secular Christmas songs that are actually about Advent:

1) It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go

This song does not proclaim it to be Christmas, but that it is starting to look like Christmas. Stores are having sales, people are shopping and decorating, but it is not in fact Christmas day.

2) Silver Bells

“Silver bells silver bells, It’s Christmas time in the city, Hear the bells go ring-a-ling, Soon it will be Christmas day”

This song is in fact not appropriate for after Christmas, because the line about it being Christmas soon would no longer work. Again we hear of people shopping and preparing for Christmas. They are waiting and preparing.

3) Santa Claus is Coming to Town

“You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Now we know that the real reason for Christmas is Jesus’ birth, but the songs about Santa Claus coming are definitely more appropriate for Advent than Christmas. We should all take the penitential part of Advent seriously and shape up, and one could argue that the songs are irrelevant after St. Nicholas Day on December 6. My children actually call Santa, St. Nicholas.

4) All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, see my two front teeth!

Again we have a song preparing for Christmas. Maybe the sentiment of needing ones two front teeth is a little bit silly, but still this child is clearly still in Advent.

5) All I Want for Christmas is You

“All I want for Christmas is you, You baby, Oh, I won’t ask for much this Christmas, I won’t even wish for snow, And I’m just gonna keep on waiting, Underneath the mistletoe

This love song is really about waiting. It is about waiting for the one that the singer loves. We too are waiting for the One that we love to come on Christmas and at the end of time.

6) Last Christmas

“Last Christmas I gave you my heart, But the very next day you gave it away, This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special

Here we have another song in the theme of disappointed love. The song anticipates Christmas as a better time and is ready to be done with past sorrows.

7) I’ll Be Home for Christmas

“I’ll be home for Christmas, You can plan on me, Please have snow and mistletoe, And presents ‘neath the tree

There are a number of Christmas songs about wishing for a place or a person, and these all are symbolic of our Advent longing for Jesus to come as a little baby and to come again.

8) White Christmas

“’I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know”

Again a song that dreams of Christmas, and anticipates it. This one is more eschatologically focused since it remembers happy Christmases of the past but is hoping for the ultimate end of another white Christmas. We remember the first happy Christmas in Advent as we wait for the second coming.

9) Frosty the Snowman

The version that end with “I’ll be back on Christmas Day.”

Frosty is in one way merely a winter song, but when the version speaks of coming back on Christmas day, it must be taking place in Advent. (Unless it happened in Minnesota where we get snow in November).

10) We Need a Little Christmas

“But Auntie Mame, it’s one week past Thanksgiving Day now, But we need a little Christmas, Right this very minute, Candles in the window, Carols at the spinet

The setting of this song takes place during Advent. It is not taking on a very good spirit of waiting. It is sympathetic to those who like to decorate at the beginning of Advent.

11) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Had a very shiny nose, And if you ever saw it, You would even say it glows, And all of the other reindeer, Used to laugh and call him names, They never let poor Rudolph, Join in any reindeer games”

We all are familiar with the story of poor Rudolph who did not fit in with the other reindeer because of his shiny nose. However, there is Christian symbolism in his waiting and suffering to be accepted, and finally on Christmas Eve his light is symbolic of the light of Christ coming to each and every home.

12) It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

“It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, There’ll be much mistltoeing, And hearts will be glowing, When love ones are near”

Lastly, we have another song anticipating all the joys of Christmas. It talks about everything that is going to be done during the Christmas season, and it is waiting for those joyful things to happen.

So, this Advent, keep in mind as you hear preemptive Christmas music on the radio, in the stores, or even if you cannot resist in your home, that some of it actually is Advent music. This list is not exhaustive of all Christmas music, so we would love to hear if you can think of any others!

Read next: The 20 Best Religious Songs for Advent

Susanna Spencer
Susanna, after earning her MA in Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband and four children. She spends her time going to beautiful liturgies, cooking, reading literature, home schooling her children, and writing all about it at her blog Living With Lady Philosophy.