It doesn't take Christmas carols to get into the spirit; pop songs have made their mark too. Jayashree Arunachalam listens in

The stage is set: Christmas trees wreathed in streamers and shiny baubles, sideboards groaning with the weight of too many good things to eat, mysterious packages being hidden in nooks and corners till the big day. The cherry on the cake of Christmas spirit is the music, so turn up the — is that George Michael?

Christmas carols will never go out of style, but pop songs have also come to carve their own space in the songs of the season. The songs might not be specific references to Christmas, but they now make an appearance on every CD compilation of Christmas songs. The songs range from the evergreen Last Christmas by George Michael's Wham!, which is actually more about a failed love affair than the season itself, to Winter Wonderland, covered by icons like Dean Martin, Bob Dylan, Arethra Franklin and even Dolly Parton.

“My personal favourite has always been I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” admits 21-year-old Sarah Thomas. “I don't even know whom it's originally by, but I remember listening to the Jackson 5 version when I was very young, and I loved it. I assumed it was a Christmas carol until I heard a spoof of it called I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus. That sort of woke me up.”

For 24-year-old software engineer Anita Devi, watching the movie Love Actually always gets her into the Christmas spirit. “It's the movie's soundtrack that just pulls me in,” she says. “Bill Nighy's Christmas Is All Around, a spoof of Love Is All Around by Wet, Wet, Wet is such a classic now! It's hilarious and silly and it's perfect to beat any holiday blues.” Anita also has a soft spot for All I Want For Christmas Is You, originally by Mariah Carey and also covered in Love Actually by teenager Olivia Olson. “It's uplifting and soulful and it has great vocals,” says Anita. “What's not to like?”

Both Anita and Sarah also cite Band Aid's 80s hit Do They Know It's Christmas?, sung to raise awareness for the 1984 Ethiopia famine. A Christmas song featuring a star ensemble that included Phil Collins, Bono, George Michael, Paul McCartney, Sting — how could it go wrong? The song was reincarnated first in 1989 and then again in 2004 by Band Aid 20, a group that comprised Chris Martin, Snow Patrol, Sugababes and Estelle, among others — making the song a veritable anthem through the ages.

Moving away from Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas and the epic Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer by Elmo and Patsy, and you find the newer kids on the block: where rap and rock have created their own Christmas specials. “I love Blink 182's I Won't Be Home for Christmas and Yule Shoot Your Eye Out by Fall-out Boy,” says 23-year-old Rachel D'Souza. “Even if they are unlikely Christmas anthems, they have their own charm. Even Don't Shoot Me Santa by The Killers is a fun way to get into the spirit of things.”

So whether it's Bruce Springsteen's cover of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Kanye West's rap song Christmas In Harlem or South Park's irreverent Christmas specials, ring out the blues with the music of the season.