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Home Songs The Top 5 Christmas Songs to Play on the Ukulele

The Top 5 Christmas Songs to Play on the Ukulele

With links to instructional videos and play-along tracks to help you master these songs

by Michael Vogelsang

There’s a reason why people refer to the Christmas season as, “the most wonderful time of the year,” and if you’re reading this, you definitely know why. It’s a time for celebration, a time for giving, and a time for gathering with loved ones. And, when it comes to gathering with loved ones, a great way to enhance these times is by learning how to play some fun and entertaining holiday songs on the ukulele that everyone loves.

Be sure to check out our collection of Christmas songbooks at our online store

Whether you choose to perform in front of your friends and family, or just have a fun sing-along, knowing how to play a few classic Christmas songs on your uke is a great way to kick every holiday gathering up a notch.

In this article, we picked our top 5 Christmas songs to play on the ukulele with links to instructional videos and play-along tracks to help you master these songs, and to help you ring in the sprit of the holidays. These tunes all have their own unique styles, but they are all fun, upbeat and definitely crowd-pleasing for children and adults of all ages. Don’t forget to take a look at our Ukulele Christmas Course

So, let’s get to our list of the top 5 songs to play on the ukulele!

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

This classic song is a traditional English Christmas carol that was made popular in the 1930s. Even though its original origins are unknown, it has gone on to become one of the most revered and recorded Christmas songs on the planet.

Learning The Chords

This song may seem a little intimidating at first because there are several chords to play, but it also has a very simple verse-chorus structure. Once you learn the chords in their correct order, you’ll find that the verse-chorus structure makes it easy to switch from one chord to the next.

So, the chords that you will be playing are G, C, A, D, B and E-minor. The order of the chords is different between the verse and the chorus, but the chords themselves remain the same throughout the entire song. For the verse, the order of the chords is G, C, A, D, B and E-minor, and then C, D and G for the last measure. When you get to the chorus, the order of the chords is G, D, E-minor, D, G, and then (just like with the verse), C, D and G fir the last measure.

Learning the Strumming

We Wish You a Merry Christmas is in 3/4 time, meaning that you are playing three downward strums (or beats) in each measure. You can also throw in an upward strum at half time in the last beat if you want to give the song a little extra personality, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

The only quick changes come at the end of the verse and the chorus because there are three chords to play as opposed to the other measures that only have two chords. Luckily, since the chords in this section are the same for the verse and chorus, it’s pretty easy to play and improve upon with your practicing. The first chord in the last measure is a C, which you play with a full, downward strum. The next two chords are D and G, which should both be played with a half-time downward strum.

Feliz Navidad

Written by José Feliciano in 1970, this upbeat Christmas song has sold millions of copies over the years. It may be considered to be a more modern Christmas song compared to other, more traditional Christmas carols, but its use of both the English and Spanish languages give it a widespread, global appeal.

If you want to learn more about this song, check this out: The story behind Feliz Navidad, the easiest ukulele song!

Learning the Chords

Even though Feliz Navidad is a classic, holiday song, it’s incredibly simple to play because it’s only three chords that repeat over and over again through its duration. The chords are F, G7 and C, and that’s it! The only slightly tricky part is that the fourth chord (the C chord) is strummed twice as long as all of the other chords. In other words, if you are breaking down the song into 4/4 time with a total of 16 beats, the F and G7 chords should be strummed four times each, and the C chord should be strummed for eight beats.

Learning the Strumming

As with many ukulele songs, Feliz Navidad is most commonly played with the island strum technique, which consists of two long downward strokes for the first two strums, and then a half-downward strum, a half-upward strum, and finally another half-downward strum. (The half-strums are basically the same rhythmic pattern as a classic Cha-Cha beat.) Also, to add a little more flare to the song, at the end of every other C chord strum, you can let the chord ring out until it’s time to begin the next section of the song.

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Jingle Bells

One of the more playful, classic Christmas songs in history, Jingle Bells originated in the early 1800s and is consistently one of the most recognized holiday songs in the world. It’s not a difficult song to play or sing along with, and it is always a crowd-pleaser in every setting.

Learning the Chords

Jingle Bells is not a complicated song to learn, but that doesn’t necessarily make it an overly simple one. There are only five chords to play, but the trick is to know when and how long to play them. That being said, the chords basically repeat themselves throughout the song, so you can easily get the hang of it with a little practice. So, in order, the chords are C, F, G7 and then back to C. Also, at the end of every other verse or chorus, you add in a D shortly before starting a new verse or chorus.

Learning the Strumming

Jingle Bells is in 4/4 time, and if you’re a beginner, you might want to play it by simply strumming downward for every chord on every beat. However, if you’re a more experienced player, you can easily throw in some short, upward strokes here and there to give the song some more flavor. It’s also an easy song to experiment with when it comes to tempo, so you can definitely have some fun learning different ways to play it. Regardless, make sure that the chords are played for the correct duration, which is C for 12 beats, F for 8 beats, G7 for 8 beats, and then C for 16 beats for the first segment of the song. When you repeat these chords for the second segmen, shorten the G7 to 4 beats, then play the C for 2 beats, and finally, D for two beats.

Jingle Bell Rock

When you think of the song Jingle Bells, it’s hard not to immediately think of Jingle Bell Rock. First released by Bobby Helms in 1957, Jingle Bell Rock is a more contemporary Christmas song compared to most of the older carols due to its modern instruments, but it is in no less way a hugely popular song to sing and play during the holiday season.

Learning the Chords

Now, Jingle Bell Rock has a good amount of chords in it, but the great thing about this song is that, even though the song has the word “rock” in its title, you can play it slowly and it will still sound good. So, the chords are, C, D-minor, G7, D7, F and A-minor. This song requires you to change chords pretty often throughout the song but, again, it still sounds good when played slowly, and you should definitely take your time when you are first learning it.

Learning the Strumming

Jingle Bell Rock is played in standard 4/4 time and, it’s recommended that you play it with only downward strums when you are first learning it. Once you get more and more comfortable with your playing you can add in some short upward strums here and there to give the song some additional fullness.

The chords for the first section are C for 12 beats, D-minor for 2 beats, G7 for 2 beats, D-minor for 2 beats, G7 for 2 beats, D-minor for 2 beats, G7 for 2 beats, D7 for 4 beats, and then G7 for 4 beats. In the second section, the chords are mostly identical until you reach the last eight beats, which are D7 for 2 beats, G7 for 2 beats, and then C for 4 beats. For the next section of the song, the chords are F for 8 beats, C for 8 beats, A-minor for 2 beats, D7 for 2 beats, A-minor for 2 beats, D7 for 2 beats, and finally G7 for 8 beats.

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

In keeping with the whimsy and playfulness of the holiday season, I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas was released in 1953 by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey, and is considered one of the greatest novelty Christmas songs of all time. Because of its childlike wonderment, playing it on the uke is very fitting.

Learning the Chords

As kooky as the song may be, there aren’t very many chords to learn, and the chord changes don’t happen very quickly. So, despite the fact that it’s an upbeat song that sounds great when played with a quick tempo, it’s still a very easy song to play. For the verses, the chords are G, D, D7, A, and then back to D7. For the middle section, the chords are G7, C, G7, and then back to C before you begin the next verse.

Learning the Strumming

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas was written in 4/4 time, but it’s very easy to also play with the island strum style. And, because the chord changes aren’t very quick or complicated, it’s easy to develop your own style of playing it at whatever tempo or strumming style you like. So, with 4/4 time in mind, and playing all of the chords with a downward strum at first, the chords for the first two verses are G for 12 beats, D for 4 beats, D7 for 8 beats, A for 4 beats, and then D7 for 4 beats. When you get to the next section, play G7 for 4 beats, C for 4 beats, G7 for 4 beats, and then back to C for 4 beats. At the next section, strum D7 for 4 beats, G for 4 beats, A for 4 beats, D for 2 beats, and finally D7 for 2 beats.

Practicing and Mastering the Songs

Christmas songs are always popular during the holiday season, and playing them on the ukulele is a great way to enhance the holiday spirit in everyone. Some songs may seem more complicated than others, but even if you’re a beginner, you’ll find that all of these tunes are easy to play and eventually master over a surprisingly short amount of time.

So, while you are learning how to play them, be sure to take your time, focus on your strumming and chord changes, and above all, make sure that you enjoy your learning experience.

Also, be sure to check out our collection of online lessons, books, and our online store for all your ukulele needs.

And become a patreon member to get the backing tracks sheet music for all of these songs to enhance your ukulele playing experience.

Enjoy your playing!

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