How to play ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ on guitar, piano and ukulele

The winner (by almost 6000 votes!) of our Songs Explained holiday edition is “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In this blog post we’re going to turn this track inside out, so that you can learn to play along with this Xmas classic in no time. As always, we have included chord progressions, chord diagrams, and video tutorials.

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

Main takeaway

In this blog post, you will find all the tools you need to jam along with “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Starting with the song structure, we will take you by the hand and walk you through the abstract of the song. 

After that, we will introduce the chord diagrams that you need to play for each part of the song structure. This way you will learn the song part for part. And to make it easier, we created a video tutorial to guide you through the different parts.

Once you know how to play the Intro, Verse, Chorus and Outro, we will bring the whole song together in one chart, in which you’ll find the chords and lyrics. This way, you won’t have to scroll up and down to connect all the parts.

This principle goes for each instrument: piano, ukulele, and guitar. So before you start, just scroll through the next few paragraphs, and after that, choose your weapon for massive holiday jamming. 

‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ – John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Last year, the winner of the Songs Explained holiday edition was Silent Night. A great song with a 3/4 time signature. This year, the winner of our holiday contest is “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, a cool song by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. But guess what? This tune also has a 3/4 time signature. Coincidence? Who knows….

If you’re scratching your head, thinking: “Hey, what does a 3/4 time signature mean?”, we have a short explanation. Have you ever heard of a waltz?  The waltz is a classical example of a 3/4 time signature. You count like this: “one – two – three – one – two – three”. This is the pulse. It means that in every bar you have only three beats.

Enough talk, time to dive head first into “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”!

Song structure

This song has 3 different parts: Verse, Pre-Chorus and Chorus. And these parts are repeated 3 times. At the end of the song, you hear the Outro part with the choir. The Outro is based on the harmony of the Verse.

Now choose your favorite instrument – guitar, piano or ukulele – and read further.

‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ on guitar

Welcome, guitar players. It’s time to rock the holiday season with “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”. As already shown in Figure 1, this song has 3 different parts. We are going to take you by the hand and check out all the parts individually. When you can play each part, it’s just a matter of putting them all together. Ready? Let’s rock!


The Verse part is built out of four chords:

Here is the chord progression for the Verse:

Video tutorial – Verse of ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’


As you can see, the Pre-Chorus consists of four chords:

Here is the chord progression for the Pre-Chorus:

Video tutorial – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” Pre-Chorus


The Chorus part has five chords:

Here is the chord progression for the Chorus part:

Video tutorial – ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)‘ Chorus

Chords and Lyrics

‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ on piano

Hello masters of the keys. Are you ready for some Xmas jamming? As we mentioned before, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” has 3 different parts. Let’s check each part separately, and see which chords are important. After that we’ll put all the parts together, and before you know it you’ll be jamming along. Let’s get started!


The Verse is constructed of four chords:

Here is the chord progression for the Verse:

Video tutorial – Verse for piano


The Pre-Chorus consists of four chords:

Here is the chord progression for the Pre-Chorus part:

Video tutorial – Pre-Chorus for piano


The Chorus has five chords, as you can see below:

We’re topping it off with the chord progression for the Chorus:

Video tutorial – Chorus for piano

Chords & Lyrics ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

Happy Xmas (War Is Over) on ukulele

Hi there ukulele players. Time to jam into the holiday season. Remember what we said in the beginning? “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono consists of 3 different parts. We’ll walk you through each part separately. When you can play the Intro, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus and Outro, you can put them all together into one whole Xmas jam. Let’s dive in.


The Verse consists of four chords:

Here is the chord progression for the Verse:

Video tutorial – Verse for ukulele


The Pre-Chorus has four chords:

Video tutorial – Pre-Chorus for ukulele


The Chorus part consists of five chords:

Here’s what the chord progression for the Chorus looks like:

Video tutorial – Chorus on ukulele

Chords & Lyrics ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’

Trivia for ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ 

Congrats on a great achievement! You can spontaneously sit behind your grandma’s piano, pick up your uncle’s ukulele or your mom’s guitar, and start playing at the family dinner. But what if there are no instruments around? Well then you’ll have to impress the fams with some hardcore John Lennon and Yoko Ono trivia.


Did you know that this song is built around Lennon and Ono’s conviction that a person can determine his, hers, or their life by imagining it? When a lot of people imagine – or want – the same thing, the universe provides. So that’s what the “War Is Over (If You Want It)” part refers to. It’s in the line of Xmas anyway – you want a gift from Santa, and most of the time you get it.

‘White Christmas’

Another cool thing about the song is that John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote the song in their hotel room in New York. They did so on October 28th 1971, and recorded the track in the Record Plant studio right after finishing it. In an interview, John Lennon said he wrote the song with Ono because they were fed up with listening to “White Christmas” every year.

Happy holidays!

We hope you enjoyed our holiday edition of Songs Explained. We definitely did while making it, so thanks for voting. All that leaves is to wish you a merry Xmas, and a jamful new year.

Happy jamming!

By Kirill Dumchenko and Teo Lazarov.

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