For many people, being asked to name their favourite Christmas song is not a fair question. Christmas is a time for people to come together, and there's nothing that brings them together quite so fervently and in such numbers as a shared dislike for Christmas songs.
From the Royals Guardsmen's "Snoopy's Christmas" to Katy Perry's "Cozy Little Christmas" (that "z"!) , there is no song so harmless or well-meaning that it will not inspire unseasonal homicidal rage in at least some of its hearers.
Christmas songs as a genre get a bad rap – and there aren't many musical genres worse than a bad rap.
• Premium - Paul Little: It's a miracle any of us is alive
• Premium - Paul Little: What do white men know?
• Premium - Paul Little: We don't need police with guns on our streets
• Premium - Paul Little: Okay, everyone - let's fix this together
But look a little more closely at the phenomenon and you will find it's not the songs that are the problem, it's what we do with them. A lot of the seasonal anguish is driven by the twin evils of repetition and Christmas creep, and by "Christmas creep" I don't mean the large red-suited effigy that until this year has loomed intimidatingly over Queen St on an annual basis. I do mean the tendency for large stores to switch on their Christmas playlist earlier and earlier in the cycle, to the point where in 2020 you can expect to hear "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" cranking up just after Easter.
But Christmas songs – even the most loathed – do much more than convey the sentiments of the season. Many of them provide learning opportunities that would not otherwise be available.
Standards such as "White Christmas" or "O Tannenbaum", for instance, allow baby boomers to introduce younger generations to the classical vocal stylings of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. "White Christmas" itself may soon need considerable annotation for younger listeners as snow becomes a thing of the past.
This year Mariah Carey's schlock musical stocking filler "All I Want for Christmas" has reached number one the Billboard charts for the first time in its 25-year history. What a great reminder that Christmas is not just about buying stuff – because Carey is richer than God and if you could buy a number one she would have bought it for this tune years ago.
Parents, sit your kids down with "Do They Know It's Christmas?", Bob Geldof's famine relief fundraiser of 1984, for a potted history of 80s music: "That's Boy George. He was in a band called Culture Club and they had a big hit called "Karma Chameleon" and to this day no one has the faintest idea what that means." "That's Bono when he was almost bearable." "No, mullets weren't compulsory, just very common."
And given questions about how effectively those funds were applied it's a great opportunity to teach the importance of being careful who you donate to.
Christmas songs can also teach young people about organising as a group in order to achieve results – for instance, by using the example of Rage Against the Machine fans in 2009. They bought the band's song "Killing in the Name" in sufficient numbers to make it the Christmas week number one in the UK, a position which for several years has automatically been taken by whoever won the X Factor television show that year. This particularly annoyed the show's producer Simon Cowell, so that was a win all round.
The unavoidable conclusion is that there is no such thing as a bad Christmas song. After all, in almost every case, right down to the last chorus and sleigh bell, they are merely trying to pass on a simple message of peace, goodwill and a happy Christmas to all.