LONDON - Ed Sheeran and Sir Elton John have unveiled the song they hope will become the UK Christmas number one this year. Titled Merry Christmas, it’s a bittersweet track that celebrates the season while remembering “the ones who have gone” in a painful year.

Complete with sleigh bells, ding-dongs and celestial choirs, it is one of three songs the stars wrote after Sir Elton pitched the idea last Christmas.

But the duo face stiff competition in the charts from Adele and LadBaby.

(Scroll down to read more about this year’s contenders)

Sheeran already has one Christmas number one to his name with the Beyoncé duet, Perfect. Sir Elton’s rollicking Step Into Christmas is also a festive staple, returning to the UK top 40 every year since 2017. It was the continued success of that single that prompted the star to suggest a Christmas collaboration with Sheeran.

“He was so buzzed that Step Into Christmas gets a higher position each year,” Sheeran told US chat show host Jimmy Fallon.

“So he’s like, ‘I want to do another Christmas song, do you want to do one with me?’” However, Sheeran was initially cool on the idea. “I’ve always been against it,” he said. “Not that I don’t like Christmas. I love Christmas. But in terms of doing a Christmas song, you need to chuck the kitchen sink at it.”

In the end, the duo hurled more than a sink at the song. They chucked in the washing machine, the television, a sleigh full of Christmas bells, several terrified reindeer, five gooooold rings, four gallons of brandy butter, three packs of AA batteries, two sparkly pianos, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Their song contains every Christmas cliché you could imagine, from gathering around the tree to kissing under the mistletoe. 

And yet, it just works - sounding instantly familiar and refreshingly new at the same time.