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3 Reasons Why the UK Loves Christmas Music More Than Any Other Country

Deck your ears with holiday tunes like the Brits do so fervently

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George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham perform in 1985. Wham's "Last Christmas" is the world's second most-streamed holiday song on Spotify. / Michael Putland/Getty Images

The United Kingdom streams Christmas music at a higher rate than any other country, based on Spotify streaming data compiled from the past three years. But why do the Brits consume holiday tunes more than people in the Netherlands (No. 2), more than Canadians (No. 3), more than Irish folks (No. 4) and more than Americans (No. 5)?


Various factors (one being a literal X Factor) push the UK to the top of the international rankings, and here’s a quick rundown of three of those main factors.

1. The ‘Christmas number one’ is a big deal

A certain allure of the “Christmas number one” started in 1952, the year the Official Charts Company began tracking sales for the top-selling music and compiling rankings into what is known as the UK Singles Chart. The obsession ramped up during the country’s tumultuous ’70s with fandoms battling to get their favorite artists to the top of the charts come Christmas Day as a way to distract themselves from the unfavorable real-world events surrounding them. The Beatles earned four Christmas numbers ones in the '60s, and in the '70s, acts like Slade, Queen, Wings and Pink Floyd each claimed the throne. The next repeat winners were the Spice Girls during a three-year span in the late '90s. Throughout the decades, not all winners have been Christmas-related; however, the annual fervor accompanying the race to the summit increases the overall music consumption in the UK, a huge reason why Brits are streaming and buying holiday tunes at a higher rate than any other country. One of the most memorable number ones, above, was "Do They Know It's Christmas?" from supergroup Band Aid (featuring Wham!).

2. Reality TV elevated the music chart mania

By the turn of the 21st century, as reality competition shows gained popularity globally, televised singing shows in the UK began massively influencing the Christmas number one year after year, starting in 2002 with Girls Aloud’s “Sound of the Underground” from Popstars. Another show, The X Factor UK, has completely owned the Christmas number one since 2005, when Season 2 winner Shayne Ward’s “That’s My Goal” reigned supreme.

 

Since then, X Factor has aired Christmas specials with the finalists, ramping up holiday music streams and sales in hopes of repeatedly snatching the Christmas number one crown. And it has worked, with a total of seven X Factor winners from 2005 to 2014 earning the Christmas number one, including Alexandra Burke's "Hallelujah" cover. The past two winners in 2016 and 2017 have come from non-reality show artists: Clean Bandit's "Rockabye" featuring Sean Paul and Anne-Marie and Ed Sheeran's "Perfect." That hasn’t stopped the X Factor from airing Christmas episodes and subsequently spurring interest in original holiday songs or reviving interest in classic ones.

3. The Brits just love Christmas, like a lot

People in the UK not only consume holiday music at a higher rate than the rest of the world—based on Google Search data from the past five years, the Brits also search for more festive terms during the Christmas season than any other country. Their interest in festive words clearly spills over into the music category, with searches for music-related things increasing immensely, particularly in the past seven days. For example, searches for "Christmas number one 2018" have spiked 1,950 percent, searches for "Christmas No. 1 2018" have risen 1,000 percent, and searches for "Christmas charts 2018" have risen 850 percent.

 

And there you have it, folks. Those are three reasons why the United Kingdom loves Christmas music. Here are the rankings for the top 10 countries that stream holiday music, based on the past three Christmas seasons:

 

  • United Kingdom
  • Netherlands
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • United States
  • Australia
  • Malta
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Belgium

And here are the top 10 streamed Christmas songs, globally:

 

  • Mariah Carey // “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
  • Wham! // “Last Christmas”
  • Michael Bublé // “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas”
  • Andy Williams // “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
  • Brenda Lee // “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
  • Bobby Helms // “Jingle Bell Rock”
  • Band Aid // “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
  • Bing Crosby // “White Christmas”
  • John Lennon // “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”
  • Frank Sinatra // “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

 

READ NEXT: The Milestones of Mariah’s ’All I Want for Christmas Is You’

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