An Answer To The Eternal Question: What is the Best Christmas Song?


It’s the holiday season. That most wonderful time of the year when our hearts are full of love, our mouths full of peppermint and our ears full of carols. Be it “Carol of The Bells” or Adam Sandler’s timeless “Hanukkah Song,” everyone has a favorite. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve been anxiously awaiting November 8th, the first day when it’s morally acceptable to start listening to these holly-jolly bangers. 

Now, there’s no accounting for personal taste, and I’m sure your favorite is different from mine. But I’m not here to tell you my favorite. I’m here to tell you about the Best. There is only one song that is objectively the cream of the Christmas carol crop.

It’s a song that fills you with holiday cheer no matter what time of year. A song that says to you, “life is hard, but we’ll get through it together.” A song that makes you laugh. A song that makes you cry. A song that makes you nod solemnly like when your friend gives you really good dating advice that you’re only going to ignore.

What is that song?

“Ho, Ho, Ho, and a Bottle of Rhum” by none other than the Mozart of Florida: Jimmy Buffett. 

I hear you shouting, Parker, No! Surely it can’t be! 

But it can. 

And it is. 

In this little ditty--first heard on the “Christmas Island” album, released in 1996--the sultan of sunshine, James Buffett, offers up a salt-sprayed tune about the big red man himself kicking back with a glass of that sweet dark stuff. 

The song opens with a catchy drum beat, an adorable slide whistle and the ting-ting-ting of a steel drum, with a secondary beat that echoes the style of more classic carols. This is quickly followed by the sultry voice of the parrot prince himself. 

James sings:

Santa's stressed out as the holiday season draws near

He's been doing the same job now going on two thousand years

He's got pains in his brain and chimney scars cover his buns

He hates to admit it, but Christmas is more work than fun

He needs a vacation from bad decorations and snow

Mr. Claus has escape plans, a secret that only he knows

Beaches and palm trees appear night and day in his dreams

A break from his wife, his half frozen life

the elves and that damn reindeer team

And you know what? He’s right. How often do you find yourself overworked, overstressed and overstretched come holiday season? It’s supposed to be our time of the year, a break from the rat race of life to indulge a little and find some comfort in the cold winter months. But no, it’s holiday parties at work, it’s seeing relatives that you have to pretend aren’t homophobic, it’s making a list of all the people you need to buy gifts for and finding it  pages and hundreds of dollars long.

Santa is just like you and me. He’s tired.

Plastic creations and crass exploitations aren't good

He wants to go back to simple toys made out of wood

Just for the weekend he'd like to be Peter Pan

Get out his long johns and dance with a sword in the sand

Not only is this song a call to action for all of us that have been beaten down by life, it points the finger at the culprit. Capitalism. Jimmy Buffett, the caribbean czar, laments the holiday’s turn from simple pleasures to a tinsel-tinged commercial nightmare. It’s not about who gets the biggest, gaudiest gift. It’s about who has the most fun. It’s about pouring a cup of hot chocolate under the twinkling lights and feeling like a kid again.

And finally, the chorus, which echoes a simple but powerful mantra throughout the course of the ballad: 

Ho Ho Ho and a bottle of rhum

Santa's run off to the Caribbean

He thinks about boat drinks and fun in the sun

Ho Ho Ho and a bottle of rhum

Santa’s done what we all dream of. He’s taken time for himself. He’s cast aside the shackles of responsibility placed on his wrists by an unfair system and made for the golden shores of a better tomorrow. 

“Ho, Ho, Ho, and A Bottle Of Rhum” is a manual for happiness that can be enjoyed year round. Its upbeat tunes and island vibes make it perfect for a day at the beach in the middle of summer, and its powerful message of holiday joy is exactly what you need in the deep dark of winter.

We should all strive to live like this Santa. To indulge in self-care. To take that vacation. To have that drink. To choose ourselves over the world. Life, afterall, is a Jimmy Buffet.

written by
Parker Sublette
December 24, 2019