The holiday season has officially begun! And for us holiday fanatics, this also means the beginning of seasonal celebrations – good food, great presents, and of course, cheerful holiday music. For those with an old-fashioned Caribbean Christmas in mind, we’ve rounded up our favorite reggae Christmas songs for your holiday playlist. With a mix of traditional carols and classic roots rhythms, feel free to play these tunes well into January. You can play them directly from our YouTube playlist here if you like. Happy holidays!
Mek the Christmas Catch You in a Good Mood
Written in 1981 by Mikey Bennett, “Mek the Christmas Catch You in a Good Mood” continues to be a well-loved song that is played year after year in Jamaican households. The holiday jingle, performed here by Home-T, has become a classic reggae Christmas song that evokes an immediate sense of happiness and joy when heard. Throw on this tune and prepare to dance, sing along and just have a good time.
Mary’s Boy Child: Boney M
Though written by American songwriter and composer Jester Hairston, this song’s infectious calypso beat made it an instant hit with generations of Caribbean performers. Harry Belafonte recorded this tune first in 1956, backed by an ethereal orchestra. Many other have followed him, but we love this disco-tinged version by the pan-Caribbean group, Boney M. This version bring the group’s classic combo of Caribbean folk classics with electro beats.
Santa Ketch Up Inna Mango Tree
With playful lyrics, this catchy reggae tune was released on Faith D’Aguilar’s 2001 Sweet Reggae Christmas album. The jolly song follows Santa’s journey from stuck in a mango tree, to riding through town on a donkey to deliver presents to all the boys and girls on Christmas day. The melody is the same from beginning to end, which makes it a great song to share and sing along with children this holiday season.
Santa Claus, Do You Ever Come to the Ghetto
Remastered by Naomi Cowan in 2021 from gospel and reggae legend Carlene Davis’ hit, “Santa Clause (Do You Ever Come To The Ghetto)” is one of the trademark Jamaican songs of the holiday season. This version, which features the mother and daughter duo, perfectly captures the emotion of the lyrics through both the singers’ passion and the scenes in the music video. Despite the song’s catchy tune, the meaning is much deeper, touching on social issues like inequality and financial hardships crippling the island’s poor communities.
Joyful, Irie Christmas in the Sun
Originally released in Jamaica in 1989, “Christmas in the Sun” by The Stage Crew was internationally released by popular Jamaican record label VP Records in 1994. The song accurately describes what Christmas is like in Jamaica where there’s no snow, ice, or roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Instead, the band confesses that the perfect recipe for a “joyful irie Christmas” is to spend it in the sun with warm, friendly people.
Sound The Trumpets: The Wailers
We love this tune, which is one of the few holiday songs recorded by The Wailers (Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and of course, Bob Marley). Recorded in the band’s early days, the song has an infection ska rhythm and amazing lead vocals from Marley. Recorded at the legendary Studio One, the track echoes a “Deck the Halls” melody and a lovely trumpet solo from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Santa Claus Never Comes To The Ghetto: Yellowman
Yellow Man’s re-take on Carlene Davis’ 1981 song (Read our special interview with Davis on her 2018 album here) offers a dancehall twist. Among the season’s decadent festivities, this song also reminds us of social inequality, and what we owe each other.
Santa Claus Is Ska-ing To Town: The Granville Williams Orchestra
Sometimes you need a big full sound for a reggae Christmas carol. So we love this classic cover of this holiday tune by The Granville Williams Orchestra, released in 1964. Big band saxophones and trumpet fill out the luscious melody, as a classic ska rhythm keeps the beat. This beautiful arrangement was also all done by Jamaican ska legend, Ernest Ranglin. It’s the perfect background instrumental for this year’s classy Caribbean Christmas party.
Happy Christmas: Toots & The Maytals
At the high of their roots reggae powers in 1974, Toots and The Maytals released this stunning track for the holidays. Tinged with their classic gospel sound, the song also features a passionate vocal performance from Toots. All proof positive that the legendary singer is one of reggae’s best front men. The result is a cheerful Christmas tune beaming with raw joy and positivity.