The Beatles' Christmas records: The story of the Fab Four's seasonal singles

24 November 2023, 10:10 | Updated: 24 November 2023, 10:17

The Beatles’ Christmas Records box set trailer

By Mayer Nissim

While they were a going concern, the Beatles gave their fans a special gift every Christmas.

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This year, fans of the Fab Four have been blessed with the gift of 'Now and Then', the last ever Beatles single, as well as a pretty snazzy Abbey Road-style Christmas jumper.

Back during the band's 1960s heyday though, their biggest supporters – dubbed "Beatle people" by the band – got an annual gift via their membership of The Beatles fan club, which was ably managed by Fifth Beatle Freda Kelly.

Even to this day, these records are incredibly difficult to come by, and they're not available on streaming, to download, or general sale in the shops.

For those who weren't on board at the beginning, an LP compilation was sent out to fan club members in 1970 – called From Then To You in the UK and The Beatles Christmas Album in the US – but they're not any easier to find today.

And while fans with quick fingers and deep pockets could buy a limited edition vinyl repressing of The Beatles Christmas Records Box in 2017, again, it's far from simple to get your hands on now.

But what actually were the Beatles Christmas records? Read on for the full story of the Fab Four's seasonal messages.

Did The Beatles release Christmas songs?

The Beatles - We Can Work It Out

In the 1970s, some of the biggest bands of the day (Slade and Wizzard, most famously), rolled up the sleeves of their Christmas jumpers and got stuck into the fight for the Xmas No. 1.

The Beatles themselves scored four Christmas number ones: the consecutive run of 'I Want to Hold Your Hand', 'I Feel Fine' and 'Day Tripper' / 'We Can Work It Out' from 1963 to 1965, and 'Hello, Goodbye' in 1967.

What you'll immediately notice is that none of these is even slightly a "Christmas song". No Jesus, snowmen, Santa, or sleigh bells, and you'll never find any of them on anyone's Xmas Playlist.

The Beatles - Hello, Goodbye

They were all just fantastic singles that happened to be topping the charts by the time December 25 came around.

Unlike some of their contemporaries (The Beach Boys and Elvis Presley to name but two), The Beatles didn't go in for recording "Christmas songs".

But as we've said, they did release Christmas records – an annual "Christmas message" to their most loyal followers, which included spoken-word messages, musical snippets, Goons-inspired comedy skits and Christmas carols, with even George Harrison getting involved.

What actually were the Beatles Christmas records?

The Beatles Christmas records - 2017 box set
The Beatles Christmas records - 2017 box set. Picture: UMC

The Beatles Christmas records were seven 7" flexi-disc vinyl records (either single or double-sided, depending on the year), released under the Lyntone label.

The official title of each release was:

  • 1963: The Beatles Christmas Record
  • 1964: Another Beatles Christmas Record
  • 1965: The Beatles Third Christmas Record
  • 1966: Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas
  • 1967: Christmas Time Is Here Again!
  • 1968: The Beatles 1968 Christmas Record
  • 1969: The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record

Good Ol’ Freda trailer – the Beatles secretary Freda Kelly

The first few of records were written and produced by Beatles press officer Tony Barrow, while George Martin produced the 1966 and 1967 efforts and Kenny Everett produced the 1968 and 1969 records.

The sleeves ranged from the basic monochrome "Christmas Card' style of the first record to Paul McCartney's own full-colour illustration for Pantomime and 1967's collage by John and Julian Lennon with Ringo Starr.

The shortest record was the second, clocking in at just under four minutes. The longest was 1968's, with its 7:48 spread over both its sides.

What songs were on The Beatles Christmas records?

The Beatles - Christmas Time (Is Here Again) (Free as a Bird Single Version)

As we've said, the Beatles didn't really record original "Christmas songs".

The closest they ever got was the title track of 1967's record, called 'Christmas Time (Is Here Again)'. The full take has still never been officially released, even though an epic 6:42 full version was mixed in 1976.

An edited version was released in the 1990s (more on that later), but in the main most of the music on the records was snippets of The Beatles hit music, Christmassy ad libs and sketch songs, as well as bits of traditional carols.

The main musical moments are as follows:

1963: The Beatles Christmas Record

  • 'Good King Wenceslas'
  • 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Ringo'

1964: Another Beatles Christmas Record

  • 'Jingle Bells
  • 'Oh Can You Wash Your Father's Shirt?'

1965: The Beatles Third Christmas Record

  • 'Yesterday'
  • 'Happy Christmas to Ya List'nas'
  • 'Auld Lang Syne'
  • 'It's the Same Old Song' (by The Four Tops)

1966: Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas

  • 'Everywhere It's Christmas'
  • 'Orowayna'
  • 'Please Don't Bring Your Banjo Back'

1967: Christmas Time Is Here Again!

  • 'Christmas Time (Is Here Again)'

1968: The Beatles 1968 Christmas Record

  • 'Happy Christmas, Happy New Year'

1969: The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record

  • 'This is to Wish You a Merry, Merry Christmas'

What other important moments can you hear on the Beatles Christmas records?

Happy Christmas and a very New Year, from The Beatles

Alongside the musical interludes, The Beatles offered their season's greetings to fans in their inimitable style.

Having previously admitted their fondness for Jelly Babies, The Beatles were regularly pelted with them (or Jelly Beans) at live shows by the end of 1963, so Paul McCartney took the opportunity to tell their hardcore fans: "We've gone right off Jelly Babies!"

As early as their first full year of success, Paul foreshadowed the group's later retirement from live performance to become a purely studio band.

“Lots of people ask us what we enjoy best – concerts and television or recording," said Paul on their first Christmas message.

George Harrison Comments On Jelly Beans

"We like doing stage shows, 'cos it’s great to hear an audience enjoying themselves. But the thing we like best – I think so anyway – is going into the recording studio to make new records."

The Beatles took two attempts to record their 1965 record, Rolling Stone has revealed.

The first failed version aimed to create a show for the fictional Radio Beatle People pirate network, and would be forgettable if not for a weird chat about dismembering babies.

Photographer Robert Whitaker was present for that session, and either consciously or unconsciously used that skit as inspiration for his infamous "Butcher Cover" for Yesterday and Today US album cover, which was swiftly withdrawn from shops on its controversial release.

The Beatles - Yesterday and Today with its original "Butcher Cover"
The Beatles - Yesterday and Today with its original "Butcher Cover". Picture: Getty Images

On the actual version of the record, the band references the Vietnam War in their parody of Barry McGuire’s 'Eve of Destruction', nodding at the group's more political future, especially Lennon's overt anti-war efforts.

The third record also featured a snippet of The Four Tops 'It’s the Same Old Song' cut off straight away with shouts of "Copyright!!". The song choice was perhaps a nod to the band's own desire to spread their creative and songwriting wings.

It's easy to see the content of the Christmas records mirroring The Beatles' history of the time: The Pantomime record was a technicolour production with a rambling narrative, that hinted at the upcoming Sgt Pepper album.

Like much of The Beatles (aka The White Album), 1968's effort was recorded individually by the separate members of the band, with comedian and friend-of-the-band Kenny Everett putting it all together.

Where can you buy the Beatles Christmas records?

The Beatles Christmas singles box-set
The Beatles Christmas singles box-set. Picture: UMC

Even though tens of thousands of Beatles Christmas records were pressed over the years, there are of course hundreds of MILLIONS of Beatles fans out there, and those original flexi-discs don't have the most longevity.

You can still find the odd record on eBay or elsewhere, and the same's true of the 1970 "album" collections (the UK one sells for a LOT more than the US version).

Even the 2017 release is only available second-hand, and you're currently looking at around £250 or so.

The Beatles- Rock Band video game trailer

So for many of us, we're back to the '60s and '70s, but instead of scouring the markets for bootlegs, there are illicit audio recordings available in the expected places.

Excerpts of The Beatles' Christmas records have been made available over the years.

Most strikingly, the 'Free As A Bird' single in 1995 featured a re-edited version of 'Christmas Time (Is Here Again), cut down to a two-minute version with a minute of spoken-word Beatles at the end.

2006's sensational Love remix/mashup album included snippers from the 1965 and 1966 messages, while there are elements from the original 1963 record available as unlockable bonus content in the 2009 The Beatles: Rock Band video game.