The ukulele at Christmas time is a beautiful thing, don’t you think? The instrument is small enough that you can take it with you to gatherings, play for friends and family, and even teach them how to play. These are ten of the very best Christmas songs for the ukulele. Some songs have many chords but don’t be scared by that…they are still beginner-friendly! One song has only two chords!
Let’s take a look at the list!
Classic Christmas Ukulele Songs
1 – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Can you believe the melody to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” actually ended up in the trash? One of the songwriters had to get it out of the trash can after realizing it was too good to throw away. You can read the full backstory here. The song was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine for the movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis” featuring Judy Garland. There have been many people who have covered the song including Bob Dylan, Tori Amos, Garth Brooks, and more.
The chords you will need to play the song are C, Am, Dm, G7, Em, and F. In this version by Terry Carter, you will use a “mute” in the strum pattern. The mute is easier to get down than you may think, too. Follow and play along with Terry and if you’re more advanced, you can play with some variations he will show you and add in some jazz chords.
2 – Jingle Bells
“Jingle Bells” is another classic Christmas song and it’s easy to play. Terry Carter has a fun version here. The chords you will need are G, C, D7, Am, A7, and D. You will actually be using a “calypso” strum pattern. He has a great backing track that will help you with the rhythm and feel of the song. You will use a “palm mute” and count in 2’s using a special rhythm called “cut time”. This is a very upbeat version of Jingle Bells that you can definitely impress people with! They probably have never heard Jingle Bells quite like this on the ukulele!
There are many interesting facts about the song “Jingle Bells” that you can read about here including the fact this was the first song broadcast from space in 1965 thanks to two astronauts aboard the Gemini 6. They played a prank that involved the song, some actual jingle bells, and a harmonica along with a report that they saw an unidentified object in the sky close to Christmas. Hmmm, I wonder what that could have been…Santa??
3 – O Christmas Tree
“O Christmas Tree” is an easy, festive song with only two chords: D and A7. It is a German song also known as “O Tannenbaum”. You can use all down strums! This song was unrelated to Christmas when it was first written and focused on a relationship. But over the years it became a Christmas carol after Christmas trees became popular. Sing this tune around your own Christmas tree with friends this year. You can even show them how to play the two easy chords.
Fun and Upbeat Christmas Ukulele Songs
1 – Carol of the Bells
Can you believe you can play “Carol of the Bells” on the ukulele? It’s a fast, upbeat song that you can impress everyone with. You can make this song very interesting by changing the tempo (how fast or slow you strum) and dynamics (volume) of the song as you play it.
The chords you need are Em, G, Am, and B. This song is based on a Ukrainian folk chant called “Shchedryk”. It was written in 1914 by Mykola Leontovych.
2 – I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
“I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is also another great song for the ukulele that you can have a lot of fun with. Gayla Peevy was only 10 years old when she performed this song written by John Rox. There are a lot of lyrics but as Terry explains in this video tutorial, it will be a lot of fun with the strum pattern you will incorporate. The chords you’ll need are G, G6, D7, A7, G7, C, Am, Dm, Em7, A, Am7, Do7 (D diminished 7th), and C#o7 (C sharp diminished 7th). Don’t let that long list scare you away! This song is too fun to pass up.
3 – Mele Kalikimaka
And we can’t forget the beautiful “Mele Kalikimaka” Hawaiian song written in 1949 by Robert Alexander Anderson and made popular the following year when Bing Crosby sang it. In Terry’s version here, you will learn the strum pattern and the chords needed which include F, Abdim, C7, F7, Bb, D7, G7, and Am7b5.
Contemporary and Alternative Choices
1 – Christmas All Over Again
Tom Petty, the late rock icon, released a Christmas album in 1992, “A Very Special Christmas 2” and included a song he wrote titled “Christmas All Over Again”. This song draws on his memories of past holidays. He simply wanted to capture the joy and spirit of the season and celebrate it. The melody is catchy and there is beautiful Christmas imagery throughout the song.
The chords you will need for this song are G, Em, Am, D, Fm, and A. A strum pattern you can use is Down – Down Up, Up Down-Up commonly referred to as the “island strum” pattern. You can play along with Munson’s version on his YouTube channel here.
2 – Happy XMas (The War is Over)
“Happy XMas (The War is Over)” by John Lennon is from 1971. It was written and released to protest the Vietnam War, which John Lennon and Yoko Ono were very passionate about. Today, the song is still loved and has been covered by many artists including Neil Diamond, Melisssa Ethridge, Diana Ross, and more.
The chords you will need to play this song include D, Em, A, G, Am, and C. You can use this strumming pattern: Down – Down Up – Down Up – Down – Down Up – Down Up. You can check out this tutorial by You Can Uke to play the song.
Read More: Know the Ukulele Fretboard Notes
Religious Christmas Ukulele Songs
1 – It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
We can’t forget about including some religious songs in our ‘best of’ list. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is a beautiful song written by Edmund Sears in 1849. Katie Denure has a great tutorial and play-along on the One Music School YouTube channel here. This song doesn’t actually focus on the birth of Jesus, but rather on the angels who appeared that night. You will need the chords C, F, D7, D, G, E7, and Am. You can either do all down strums or do a Down Down – Up- Down Up.
2 – We Three Kings
There are a couple of popular ways to play our last song, “We Three Kings”. You can strum it like Lisa, The Ukulele Fool plays it in her tutorial here. The chords you will need are Am, E7, G, Dm, F, C, and G7. This song goes all the way back to 1857! Uke Like the Pros’ Terry Carter also has a beautiful chord melody version here. For this version, you’ll use Dm, A7, C, F, Gm, and Dm7. It will sound great with a low G string but if you only have a high G, that’s ok, too.
Whether you like traditional, fun and silly, or religious songs at Christmas, this list is sure to keep you busy practicing and playing over the holiday season. Do a search on YouTube for other versions of each song to get inspiration on how you can make the song uniquely your own.
Do you have any questions about the songs, chords, or strum patterns? You can visit the Uke Like the Pros Community Forum. It’s a fun and friendly community of ukulele players who discuss a range of topics and can offer tips, tricks, and advice for playing these Christmas songs. Uke Like the Pros offers a variety of membership packages that can suit your needs, too! Give yourself the gift of ukulele lessons this year! Merry Christmas and Happy Strumming!