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The Most Famous Irish Christmas Song

Do you know Ireland’s most famous Christmas song? 

Ireland has long celebrated Christmas and, being such a musical nation, it’s only natural that would result in countless Christmas songs, both traditional and modern.

However, one song stands out amongst all others.

Over the years Fairytale of New York has risen to become Ireland’s most famous Christmas song and we thought we’d take a look at the story behind it…

Fairytale of New York

Without a doubt, Ireland’s most famous Christmas song is Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

Fairytale of New York is a tale of two Irish immigrants, a man and woman in a relationship blighted by drink and drugs, reminiscing and quarreling over the good and bad times they’ve had together. It’s somber, funny, romantic and touched with nostalgia and features a call and response style between the male and female leads.  

The Pogues, an Irish-British Celtic punk band originally from London, and MacColl, an English singer-songwriter, might seem like the unlikely creators of Ireland’s most famous festive song but it came about through accident, trouble, sickness and more…

Reports are mixed but the idea to write and release a Christmas song supposedly came from either Elvis Costello, The Pogue’s producer at the time, or Frank Murray, the band’s manager.

From this point, in 1985, to the point of release just before Christmas in 1987, the song was blighted with rewrites, record companies going into administration, Pogues’ singer Shane MacGowan falling ill, and more!

When it finally came together the lyrics and musical composition were the works of MacGowan and the band’s banjo player Jem Finer. Interestingly, the song is named after the J. P. Donleavy novel “A Fairytale of New York”, which Finer was reading at the time.

At the point of recording in August 1987 producer Steve Lillywhite took materials home and enlisted his then wife Kirsty MacColl to test the lyrics and melodies. The Pogues were so impressed with her that they asked MacColl to become the female lead and the rest is history…

Modern Legacy

Fairytale of New York might now be over thirty years old but its legacy lives on year after year.

If you’re ever lucky enough to spend the festive season on the Emerald Isle you’ll end up hearing the song on repeat in bars, cars and homes.

Interestingly, upon its first release, it was piped to the coveted “Christmas Number One” spot by the Pet Shop Boys but has become timeless ever since. 

Since the original release in 1987 the song has been purchased or legally downloaded over 1.5 million times in the UK and Ireland alone! Over the years it has become even more popular and since 2005 has featured in the Christmas top 20 every year! 


If you’ve never heard Fairytale of New York before then today is your lucky day! Simply click on the video below and enjoy! 

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