You’ve heard “All I Want for Christmas is You” approximately 150 times since your last plate of Thanksgiving leftovers, Hulu has a new crop of Christmas movies every time you log in, and your holiday playlists are on heavy rotation. But you may not have noticed that some of the most iconic songs of the season never actually mention decking the halls or trimming the tree.
So how do those tunes make it sound a lot like Christmas? It’s because many of those wintertime favorites are also part of some serious holiday movie magic. Whether part of an original soundtrack or playing in the background of a pivotal scene, here are some classics that have become synonymous with Christmas.
“Pennies from Heaven” – Elf (2003)
Louis Prima’s croony tune might not say much about the North Pole, but whenever you hear “shoob doobie,” there’s a good chance that visions of Buddy the Elf hopping across New York City crosswalks will dance in your head.
“God Only Knows” – Love Actually (2003)
The finale of this holiday fave featuring a collage of sentimental characters at Heathrow airport is enough to make any grinch’s heart grow three sizes. It only makes sense that The Beach Boys’ soul-warming tune has become just as associated with the holidays as the film itself.
“Heat Miser/Snow Miser Song” – The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
“Whatever I touch starts to melt in my clutch” might not seem very aligned with the joyous spirit of December, but the Miser brothers’ bickering is the perfect (and unshakably catchy) comic touch to a beautiful Christmas story about the importance of believing in yourself.
“Put a Little Love in Your Heart” – Scrooged (1988)
This call for kindness highlights the end scene of Richard Donner’s modern take on Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. Although it never mentions the holiday or time of year, the song appears on many a Christmas playlist.
“My Favorite Things” – The Sound of Music (1965)
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” has become a December-feeling tune, despite the fact that the song is not linked to Christmas at all. But woolen mittens, sleigh bells, and snowflakes … when you’re feeling sad, this does the trick.
“Catch My Disease”– Just Friends (2005)
Don’t let the name fool you—this upbeat tune accentuated the holiday romcom with its consistent, festive, jingle bell beat. And you can’t say that interlude at 2:20 doesn’t sound at least a little bit like Christmas.
“The Polar Express” – The Polar Express (2004)
It’s a movie about a train chugging through the cold on Christmas Eve, but the melody of “The Polar Express” reminds everyone that you’re never too old to believe in Santa.
“Thankful Heart” – The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
The lyrics, “With an open smile and with open doors I will bid you welcome, what is mine is yours” might not say “Christmas,” but the sentiment is the same.
All of these are classics—but if you’re looking for something different to stream this Christmastime, check out our New Music Holiday playlist.