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The best-selling Christmas records of all-time

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I reserve an inordinately large space in my heart for most Christmas music. From traditional evergreen standards to more recent entries in the holiday music field, there is something magically warming about Christmas music. We all have our favorites but what are the biggest-selling Christmas songs and albums ever released? You might be surprised. 

Last month, Billboard Magazine compiled a list of the best-selling Christmas albums using both RIAA certifications (sales data from the Record Industry Association of America) and point-of-sale data from Nielsen SoundScan. Introduced on March 1, 1991, Nielsen SoundScan compiles sales information from 14,000 traditional and non-traditional merchants worldwide who submit point-of-sale data.

Best-selling Christmas albums of all-time

  1.     Elvis Presley – Elvis’ Christmas Album (RCA; 1957) 10,000,000 (an RIAA Diamond award winner for 10 million sales)
  2.     Kenny G. – Miracles: The Holiday Album (Arista; 1994) 7,370,000
  3.     Nat “King” Cole – The Magic of Christmas (Capitol; 1960) 6,000,000
  4.     Mannheim Steamroller – Mannheim Steamroller Christmas (American Gramaphone; 1984) 6,000,000
  5.     Mannheim Steamroller- A Fresh Aire Christmas (American Gramaphone; 1988) 6,000,000
  6.     Josh Groban – Noel (WEA/Reprise; 2007) 5,890,000
  7.     Mariah Carey – Merry Christmas (Columbia; 1994) 5,500,000
  8.     Celine Dion – These Are Special Times (Columbia-Epic; 1998) 5,440,000
  9.      Barbara Streisand – A Christmas Album (Columbia; 1967) 5,370,000
  10. Johnny Mathis – Merry Christmas (Columbia; 1957) 5,240,000

One of the fascinating figures on the above list is the record at number one. Elvis’s 1957 Christmas album was the first of two holiday-themed albums recorded by Elvis and the songs from both have been endlessly recompiled in various configurations in the decades following their initial release.

It’s important to note that the 10 million in sales figure refers only to copies sold in the United States. Worldwide, the record has sold another 5 million copies. Technically, the record has sold 13 Million copies in the US as it was reissued on the “budget” RCA Camden label in 1970 and the el-cheapo Pickwick label in 1975. (Pickwick was notorious for using poor quality vinyl in the manufacturing process. Still, they sold millions of Elvis albums in the 1970s.)

The best-selling Christmas song of all time is also the best-selling single in the history of the music business.

Introduced with a live version on a radio program sponsored by Kraft on Christmas day 1941, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” was recorded during an 18-minute session on May 29, 1942 and introduced later that year in the Christmas musical film “Holiday Inn” starring the song’s vocalist, Bing Crosby.

“White Christmas” (the original recording and the 1947 re-recording which was necessitated by deterioration of the original master) has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the top-selling record of all time with 50 million worldwide sales. Some industry experts have stated that the song has actually sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million global copies but that figure cannot be verified with absolute certainty.

If you check the RIAA website (www.riaa.com), you’ll see that they have certified four million sales for “White Christmas” since August 1, 1977. It’s a good bet that the song has sold far more than four million units since 1977 as the RIAA hasn’t updated the figure since 2004.

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Best-selling Christmas singles since 1991

Using information compiled by Nielsen/SoundScan, these are the top-selling holiday songs of the last 25 years. Digital download sales data has been tracked by SoundScan since 2003 and is included in these figures. The biggest surprise on this list is probably the song at number two. The success of Disney’s “Frozen” has moved a lot of copies of “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?”

  1.     Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You (Columbia; 1994) 3,200,000
  2.     Kristen Bell, Agatha Lee Monn and Katie Lopez – “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” (Walt Disney; 2013) 1,600,000
  3.     Trans-Siberian Orchestra – “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” (Lava; 1996) 1,300,000
  4.     Justin Bieber – “Mistletoe” (Island; 2011) 1,100,000
  5.     Brenda Lee – “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” (Decca; 1958) 1,000,000
  6.     Trans-Siberian Orchestra – “Christmas Canon” (Lava; 1998) 918,000
  7.     Faith Hill – “Where Are You Christmas?” (Interscope; 2000) 897,000
  8.     Jose Feliciano – “Feliz Navidad” (RCA; 1970) 808,000
  9.     Bobby Helms – “Jingle Bell Rock” (Decca; 780,000)
  10.     Wham! – “Last Christmas” (Columbia; 1984) 751,000

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