The Story of... 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree' by Brenda Lee

16 December 2022, 12:29 | Updated: 19 December 2022, 14:53

Brenda Lee's 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree' is an all-time Christmas classic.
Brenda Lee's 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree' is an all-time Christmas classic. Picture: Getty/Decca Records

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

Christmas just wouldn't feel the same without it.

As soon as we hear the iconic rockabilly song 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' it puts everyone in a festive mood.

But who wrote the song? When was it first released? Who else has recorded the song?

Here's all you need to know about Brenda Lee's legendary Christmas track:

Who wrote ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’?

The Christmas classic about a teenage yuletide dance party was written by Johnny Marks, who specialised in writing Christmas songs.

He'd also written other Christmas staples like 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' for Gene Autry, and 'A Holly Jolly Christmas'.

This was despite the fact that Marks didn't celebrate Christmas himself, given that he was of Jewish faith.

Given that Marks was nearly 50 years old when he wrote it, the song feels like an older man writing about teenagers which is why some feel the lyrics haven't dated too kindly.

It takes place at the "Christmas party hop," a festive "sock hop" where teenagers would take off their shoes and dance which was popular during the 1950s.

The song also evokes quaint traditions like Christmas carolling and kissing under the mistletoe, but it all adds to the song's festive charm.

How old was Brenda Lee when she recorded ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’?

Brenda Lee&squot;s nickname was "Little Miss Dynamite".
Brenda Lee's nickname was "Little Miss Dynamite". Picture: Getty

Although Brenda Lee sounds like an adult singing the song, she was in fact only 13 years old when she recorded the vocals.

Her nickname at the time was "Little Miss Dynamite" because of her powerful voice, her attitude, and the fact she stood at just 4'9".

In a 2019 interview, Lee recalled that she had no clue as to why Marks chose her specifically to sing the song he'd written.

"I was only 12 and I had not had a lot of success in records, but for some reason he heard me and wanted me to do it. And I did."

And her iconic, raspy voice has echoed throughout the ages when it's played each Christmas.

When was ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ originally released?

The original single cover for 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree'.
The original single cover for 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree'. Picture: Decca Records

'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' was first released in 1958, but didn't make a dent in the charts that year or the next.

In 1960 however, Brenda Lee scored a few hits and was slowly becoming a recognised star so the song caught on and went to No.14 in the US.

It charted again in 1961 and 1962, and continued to sell well during subsequent holiday seasons, peaking as high as No. 3 on Billboard's Christmas Singles chart in December 1965.

Lee said, "It was magic, and I think we all knew it. It took a few years to take off, but once it did, it really did."

As we know went on to become a Christmas all-time classic, and Brenda Lee's version has gone on to sell over 25 million copies worldwide.

Who else has recorded ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’?

It's more of a question of who hasn’t recorded ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’..

The likes of Cyndi Lauper, LeAnn Rimes, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Carrie Underwood, The Osmonds, Stella Parton, Kim Wilde, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Kelly Clarkson, and even The Wurzels have given it a go.

Which films has ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ famously appeared in?

Undoubtedly the most famous use of Brenda Lee's 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree' is in Home Alone as Macauley Culkin's character Kevin hosts a fake party to confuse the thieves attempting to break into his house after his parents leave him behind for their annual Christmas holiday.

The track is used frequently in films set around Christmas and has also appeared in Last Christmas, Jingle All the Way, Cheaper by the Dozen, Reindeer Games, Enemy of the State, and The Long Kiss Goodnight.