HAPPY XMAS (WAR IS OVER). John and Yoko, The Plastic Ono Band with The Harlem Community Choir.

Listen to the brand new 2020 Ultimate Remix of 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' and discover the story behind the song in the words of John & Yoko.

Available on:


Ultimate Mix (2020) from GIMME SOME TRUTH.

Alternate Mix (2018) from Imagine The Ultimate Collection.


Yoko Ono’s moving and controversial music video for ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ (restored, above) contains footage of children and families affected by warfare.
First released on the Lennon Legend DVD in 2003; remastered to HD, October 2020.


Happy Christmas Kyoko
Happy Christmas Julian

So this is Christmas and what have you done?
Another year over and a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one, the old and the young
A very merry Christmas and a happy new year
Lets hope it’s a good one without any fear

And so this is Christmas for weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones, the road is so long
And so happy Christmas for black and for white
For yellow and red ones, let’s stop all the fight
A very merry Christmas and a happy new year
Lets hope it’s a good one without any fear

And so this is Christmas and what have we done
Another year over and a new one just begun
And so happy Christmas we hope you have fun
The near and the dear one, the old and the young
A very merry Christmas and a happy new year
Lets hope it’s a good one without any fear

War is over if you want it
War is over now.

Written by John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Copyright © 1971 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Yoko: I think that every artistic effort – music or art or films or any of… well, even a florist – anybody who is participating in the Peace Industry is making the world better. Anybody who is participating in the War Industry is making the world worse. And so we just have to be not too critical about each other in the Peace Industry and just get together, be gentle to each other, be gentle and loving to each other and try to create a big Peace Industry and make it bigger than the War Industry. (Moscow, 2004)

The ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ single front and back covers with photos by Iain Macmillan.
Led by Yoko, John and the musicians with the Harlem Community Choir are singing the chorus of the song.
Record Plant, New York, 31 October 1971.

John: ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ we wrote together. Nothing more to say on that. It says it: ‘War is over if you want it.’ Because it was still that same message, the idea that somebody is either going to give us power or [has] taken our power or has made us go to war or not made you go to war or the president did this to us. We are just as responsible as the man who presses the button. It’s that idea of God in the sky is a separate thing, you know? It’s all that separation. It’s all the same thing: nationalities, religions, authority. It’s all the same garbage. As long as we or as long as people imagine that it’s something people are doing to them, they have no control, then. They have no control.

Yoko: It was July 1971 in New York City. We were having our morning coffee in a hotel room facing the park. Then, still in the middle of our breakfast, we got this idea to write an Xmas song. We were fast workers, so the song was born by the time we finished our last morning coffee. That made John feel better. ‘This is going to be bigger than “White Christmas”, you’ll see.’ He wiggled his nose again, this time with satisfaction. In November, John remembered the song and called the manager to release it as a single for Christmas. ‘John, it’s too late… printing the cover… advertising.’ ‘Well, try.’ The single was out, but the manager was right: it was too late for anything and it bombed. ‘Happy Xmas’ only became big after John’s passing in 1980.

John: What we wanted to do was have something besides ‘White Christmas’ being played every Christmas, you know, and there’s always war, right? There’s always somebody getting shot, so every year you can play it and there’s always somebody being tortured or shot somewhere, so the lyrics stand in that respect…. I’ve always wanted to write something that would be a Christmas record that would last forever, you know?

John: The basic idea of the poster event was Yoko’s. She used to do things like that in the avant-garde circle, you know. The poster was a sort of medium.

'War Is Over', San Francisco Chronicle, 27 July 1953

We had one idea to do something specifically at Christmas, which was a bit too vast. We wanted to do it, but we couldn’t get it together in time.

There’s a little shop somewhere in Times Square New York, where you can have your own newspaper headline. We were wondering how to get it in the newspapers as if it had happened and it developed from that. We couldn’t get the front page of each newspaper to say ‘War Is Over’ or ‘Peace Declared’. We wanted… – remember the Orson Welles thing, where he did something like that on TV or something? – but it was too hard to get together.

And then it got down to, well, if we can’t do that event, what we’ll do is a poster event. And then how do you get posters stuck all around the world? It’s easier said than done. So we just started ringing up to find out.

John & Yoko launch the WAR IS OVER! poster campaign at the Apple Offices in London

We are against all forms of violence. That includes my own violence, Yoko’s violence, violence on the street, any form of violence. Vietnam and Biafra are like manifestations of all our violence. That’s why we say it’s everybody’s responsibility. We really believe that those wars are manifestations of the whole world’s violence, not just America’s or just the communists. We laugh at America’s fear of communists. The Americans aren’t going to be overrun by communists. They’re gonna fall from within.

People say, ‘why have you got long hair?’ or, ‘why did you give the MBE back?’ I worded it ‘I’m returning this MBE because of Britain’s part, in protest against Britain’s participation in the Biafra Nigeria thing’ – that’s the way I speak. I just wrote it as I speak – ‘and Britain’s policy supporting the USA in Vietnam and Cold Turkey slipping down the charts’.

A lot of people now say, ‘if you had only done it straight, it would have been much more effective’. And it’s the same as if you’d only get your hair cut and wear a straight suit, you’d be more effective.

One, I wouldn’t be myself.

Two, I don’t believe people believe politicians, especially the youth. They’ve had enough of short hair and suits saying this is, as if every priest a holy man just because he’s got a dog collar on. Nobody believes that anymore. And we do this intuitively. But after we’ve done it for a few times, we always had some irrelevancy or something in the campaign.

Yoko’s been telling me about this ancient Chinese book (The Art Of War by Sun Tzu) that tells you how to conduct a battle. And it says the castle always falls from within. Never from without, you know, hardly ever – like America.

And it also says, don’t have all the doors closed when you’re fighting. Because the enemy will put all the pressure on and you might crumple. Always leave one door open and the enemy will concentrate their fire there and then you’ll know where it’s coming.

So our door open is long hair, nudism, nudity whatever the word is, mentioning Cold Turkey in such a serious thing as Biafra and Vietnam, you know, and let the people point their finger – ‘Oh he’s… they’re naked, they look like freaks!’ But it doesn’t interfere with the campaign. Nobody attacks peace.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon of The Beatles perform on stage at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California, United States, on the last show of their final tour, 29th August 1966.
Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images. From the new Thames and Hudson book JOHN & YOKO/PLASTIC ONO BAND.

The Beatles made it. We had all the fame and the money we wanted when we gave up touring. And we sat back on it and thought, ‘Well, we’ve made it, now what you do?’

Twenty-six is something. What are you gonna do for the rest of your life? My aunty Mimi always said, ‘It’s better to be miserable in luxury’ but there was nothing to do. There didn’t seem to be any reason behind it or any hope. Then we hid away for two years. No press. Nobody saw us for two years. And then we started coming out. We’re just coming out of a two year depression.

When I met Yoko, we started to pool our resources and say, ‘What do we have in common besides being in love?’ Because she came from a completely different world from me. And we decided it was love and peace. So what are we gonna do about it? And then we got this letter from this guy, which was saying, ‘All you people with access to communication media. It’s your duty to do something about it to try and change the world.’

And I was saying, well, I’ve sang ‘All You Need Is Love’ to twenty million people on live TV. And the Beatles were always for love.

And Yoko was saying, well, ‘I was in Trafalgar Square in a black bag for Peace’.

And we try to rationalize what we can do about it. I mean, we’re only us, no matter how much publicity we could get. And what can you do? What’s the point? It’s been going on for millions of years. And we decided it’s better to do something rather than nothing. So we started doing something and here we are, you see?

Yoko: It makes more sense when we do it together. John has much more access to communication, so we’re using that. Both of us come up with ideas together and it’s easier that way.

John: In these interviews in the press obviously they direct more questions towards me because I’m the famous Beatle. But any shows where we get into any depth, I have a hard time keeping up with that. I rely on her, because she’s a highly intelligent, very strong woman. And I think a few times, I’m more of a pessimist than she is.

Yoko, John, Phil Spector and Roy Cicala mixing 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' at The Record Plant, New York, 31 October 1971.

Jack Douglas: When we did the ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ record, Phil seemed much happier, more relaxed and more in control than he did on the Imagine sessions. Possibly because it was just a single. It had lots of acoustic guitars in a circle around one microphone, which was one of Phil’s recipes. And lots of backing vocals and kids and sleigh bells! John & Yoko wanted to create a Christmas standard better than ‘White Christmas’ and they sure did. Every Christmas, there it is. I was so happy to be a part of it. It was so much fun to watch John & Yoko work with the kids, who were so excited. It was funny, because they didn’t quite know who John was, which was kind of cool.

John & Yoko, musicians and friends sing 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' with the Harlem Community Choir are singing the chorus of the song. Record Plant, New York, 31 October 1971.

Arlene Reckson: By then, I was then the studio manager at The Record Plant. The night before the session, I got a request to get in a kids’ choir. Dee Lee, our African-American night-time receptionist said, ‘All those churches in Harlem have choirs.’ The very first Harlem church that I called said ‘OK’. I said to Yoko and John, ‘Can I get a limousine to take me up there to talk to the vicar?’ and I went up.

The next day I hired a bus and went up to get the kids. I had to have each one of them provide a signed release form from their parents and they got on the bus with the woman who was the choir leader. I remember getting them all Happy Meals and I think that the donation John & Yoko made to the church was $500, which was a lot of money then. Roy Cicala told John that I had organized all the kids, and he was really pleased and they got me in when they took that great group photograph. I’m standing to the right of Phil Spector.

Find out more about the WAR IS OVER! campaign and download posters in over 100 languages here.


To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the revolutionary albums
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band
comes the prequel to the 2018 book Imagine John Yoko – also from Thames and Hudson.

JOHN & YOKO/PLASTIC ONO BAND is the definitive exploration of John Lennon’s first major solo album after the break-up of the Beatles, Yoko’s accompanying album and the three singles that preceded it (‘Give Peace A Chance’, ‘Cold Turkey’ and ‘Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)’).


Get ‘Cold Turkey’ and thirty-five more John Lennon tracks on JOHN LENNON. GIMME SOME TRUTH. THE ULTIMATE MIXES – the very best of John Lennon.

Executive Produced by Yoko Ono Lennon and Produced by Sean Ono Lennon, thirty-six much loved John Lennon classics, completely remixed from the original multitracks by Paul Hicks and Sam Gannon using brand new first-generation multitrack transfers, painstakingly restored and sonically upgraded, and then remixed using all the genuine vintage analogue effects at Henson Studios in Los Angeles, and finally mastered in analogue by Alex Wharton at Abbey Road Studios.

The Deluxe Edition includes High Definition 24-96 mixes in stereo, 5.1 and Dolby Atmos. The 4LP Vinyl Box Set includes 4 LPs, all mastered and cut at Abbey Road Studios. Also available: 2LP, 2CD, 1CD, Download and Streaming.