The True Story Behind Mariah Carey’s Christmas Staple


Madeline Shapiro

Senior Priyanka Umamaheswaran listens to Mariah Carey’s iconic holiday song during class.

Diana Wawrzonkiewicz, Staff Writer

The epitome of Christmas music, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is a classic in its timeless capture of the holiday spirit. The joyous anthem goes all the way back to 1994, and it has warmed hearts and vocal cords every year since.
Carey said she was initially hesitant about releasing the song and almost considered not writing it in the first place. It was not common for a singer to issue a Christmas album of original music so early in their career, and so she planned on solely covering beloved holiday songs. Though her record label encouraged her to go this route, Carey decided to release the original single anyways.
It only took Carey fifteen minutes to co-write “All I Want for Christmas is You” with Walter Afanansieff. According to Carey, as she was decorating her New York home with ornaments she was overwhelmed with inspiration and cheer, so the writing of a classic Christmas song came naturally to the pair.
Carey says she was inspired by music from earlier decades and wanted the song to exude feelings of bliss and excitement. “We would write the nucleus of the song, the melody’s primary music, and then some of the words were there when we finished writing it,” said Affansanief of the songwriting experience. “That one went very quickly,” he said.
As Carey added her final touches, they wrapped it up in the summer of 1994. The two got together in New York, recorded the music video partly on the side of a highway, and the rest was in the hands of the general public.
At first, the song was nowhere near close to the success that it currently is. It did not chart in Billboard’s Hot 100 until the 2000s, six years later (this is partly because it was considered ineligible to be released commercially as a single in 1994).
When rules changed and it was allowed to be downloaded and streamed, the song’s fame skyrocketed. Ever since 2007, it has re-entered the top 40 annually. The song has peaked multiple times at No. 2, but it wasn’t until 2019 that the song became the No. 1 on the Hot 100 for the first time and reached No. 1 on Spotify’s global top 200 charts.
Having sold over 16 million copies globally, it is Carey’s greatest international hit to this day. It has earned over $60 million in royalties, and it has been adapted into a book and even an animated movie starring Carey herself. The song is a gift that just keeps on giving with its tremendous success every year.
If one delves into the teenage population of Stamford High, they will find that almost every student is familiar with the song sensation. Senior Priyanka Umamaheswaran said, “When I think of holiday season, I think of listening to Mariah Carey’s 10-hour version of “All I Want for Christmas is You,” drinking hot cocoa, and decorating the tree. No holiday season is complete without the voice of my Christmas angel.”
As Umamaheswaran breaks into song, senior Leonora Lipson says, “That’s where I draw the line,” and scoots away from the tunes of Carey’s song. Evidently, not everyone is a fan. But love it or hate it, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is a shoo-in for iconic holiday anthems. Nothing quite confirms the start of Christmas season like hearing the lively runs of Mariah Carey and the instrumental melodies of Walter Afanansieff on the radio again.