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'Tis the season for mistletoe, mangers, menorahs and Mariah Carey. A lot of Mariah Carey actually.

Carey's 1994 song "All I Want For Christmas" ranks as the No. 1 Christmas tune on past billboard charts, Spotify and even local radio stations, proving its staying power as the most successful pop holiday song.

The fact that the most popular Christmas song is 24 years old left me wondering in an industry where change is the only constant, why is it so hard for new artists to break through with new holiday hits?

"Because (older artists are) what they heard. That's how they know that piece," said Dr. John Sinclair, who is a professor of music at Rollins College. "They welcome other arrangements, but for example, I want to hear Bing Crosby sing 'White Christmas.' I think we want to hear the (singer) that made it a classic for us. And there, you're talking some generational issues too."

Pop culture can make us shave the sides of our hair, shred our blue jeans' knee caps and become obnoxiously fluent in emoji, but it won't push us past our holiday nostalgia.

Just look at the top streaming songs on the Sunday after Thanksgiving when holiday music kicked into full speed.

Of the top five streaming holiday songs, only one came from a new artist in Ariana Grande's 2014 hit "Santa Tell Me." The other four songs were at least two decades old with Carey's song taking the top spot with 797,683 streams. Other sought-after songs making the rounds included: Brenda Lee's "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" (1958), Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock" (1957) and Andy Williams' "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" (1963).

Most of the top streamed songs were older hits sung by the likes of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin with a few newer covers of older pop Christmas songs by Michael Buble. Newer Christmas songs or new covers by Jessie J and Gwen Stefani, who have both released holiday albums within the past year, did not crack the Spotify charts this past weekend.

"I think a lot of that has to do with where you could say the R&B demographic has shifted to more hip hop and rap," said Dr. John Gennero, who teaches music history at the University of Central Florida. "Many of those artists might not want to do a Christmas album or contribute to that, per say. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just to say where their interests are or where they feel like they can and can't market themselves properly. So I think that's another thing that plays into it."

Popular Christmas songs outside the classic religious standards haven't changed much across the board in the past 50 years. But Gennero said certain genres like country music do have a more consistent path of selling newer holiday albums - even if some of the songs are covers - given the success of artists like Carrie Underwood, Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks.

And there have been breakthrough hits in other genres like rock n'roll (John Lennon's "Happy Xmas" is still one of the top charting holiday songs). One of the biggest alternative music Christmas standards still belongs to Wham's "Last Christmas" and then there is the hip hop classic from Run-D.M.C. "Christmas in Hollis."

The last modern genre to really produce consistent holiday hits that still have impact today would be Motown - making most of those songs at least 50 years old when you consider the mega-hit Jackson 5 holiday album came out in 1970.

Making new Christmas music or even covers of older holiday hits is really, really challenging.

The holidays don't just bring us back to a memory. They bring us back to an emotion.

Regardless of age, culture or class, there is just something transcendent about old school pop Christmas songs. No matter how many voices sang "chestnuts roasting on an open fire," Nat King Cole's 1946 version will always be the best - at least to me and the thousands of other folks out there streaming it this holiday season.

"I think it speaks to a lot of things, but I think it speaks to our familiarity and you know there are things that we want to have the same," said Sinclair, who from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day will have conducted 57 holiday concerts in Central Florida.

"Don't you think there are a lot of things that people are yearning for maybe a favorite time in our life and our music can help us recapture that? Music seeps into parts of the mind, heart and spirit that other things can't."

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Shannon Green writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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