Recently Christmas songs are often introduced in theater, television, film, or other entertainment media. Popular Christmas songs tend to be specifically about Christmas or have a wintertime theme. They are typically not overtly religious. The most popular set of these titles has been composed and performed from the 1930s onward. Heard over airwaves, on the Internet, in shopping centers and elevators, even on the street during the Christmas season. “Jingle Bells,” “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,” and “Up on the House-Top,” however, date from the mid-19th century.
The largest portion of these songs in some way describes or is reminiscent of Christmas traditions. In other words how Western Christian countries tend to celebrate the holiday. For example, with caroling, mistletoe, exchanging of presents, a Christmas tree, feasting, jingle bells, etc. Celebratory or sentimental, and nostalgic in tone, they hearken back to simpler times with memorable holiday practices. In essence, expressing the desire either to be with someone or at home for Christmas.
Many titles help define the mythical aspects of the modern Christmas celebration. For example, Santa Claus bringing presents, coming down the chimney, being pulled by reindeer, etc. New mythical characters are created, defined, and popularised by these songs. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” were both introduced by Gene Autry a year apart (1949 and 1950 respectively).
More recent, copyrighted carols about the Nativity include “I Wonder as I Wander” (1933), “Mary’s Boy Child” (1956), “Little Drummer Boy” (1941), “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (1962), and “Mary, Did You Know?” (1984).