Mariah Carey on 'All I Want For Christmas is You' turning 25: 'I don't acknowledge time'

Patrick Ryan

On Friday, "All I Want For Christmas is You" celebrates its 25th anniversary, marking a quarter century since Mariah Carey gifted us what's inarguably one of the best Christmas songs ever written

But according to the pop legend, it's as if no time has passed at all.  

"It's so funny, somebody was just asking me, 'What were you doing 25 Christmases ago?' " says Carey, 49. "I would probably say somebody was giving me a bottle and they were singing me a sweet lullaby Christmas tune. Because I was just one year old, so I don't know!" 

"It's very much like I live in the land of the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus," she adds wryly. "I don't acknowledge time, I don't know what it is. I rebuke it!" 

At 25, 'All I Want For Christmas is You' is bigger than ever 

Much like Carey herself, "All I Want For Christmas is You" seems ageless. Taken off the five-time Grammy winner's "Merry Christmas" album, which will be re-released Friday as a two-disc deluxe edition, the ubiquitous holiday anthem is one of the best-selling singles of any genre with 16 million copies sold worldwide since 1994. 

The song has amassed more than 550 million views on YouTube for its wintry home movie-style video, and nearly 510 million plays on Spotify. Last Christmas Eve, it broke Spotify's then-record for the most-played song in 24 hours with 10.8 million streams. 

On the singles charts, "All I Want" only continues to grow: Early this year, it reached a new peak of No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first holiday song in nearly 60 years to crack the Top 5, according to Billboard

"The song is already beloved for how fun it is, but I think the internet has lifted it to cult status in a way that no other Christmas song could ever touch, past or present," says Abby Hamblin, an engagement editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune, where the song dominated a recent holiday music poll. "It helps that Mariah Carey completely owns the song and doesn't shy away from all the enthusiasm around it," sharing throwback posts from its video and joking about her Christmas obsession on Twitter. 

Should it finally hit No. 1 this holiday season, "I would be thrilled," Carey says. "I wanted it to feel like a classic, but I didn't know that it was going to actually become a classic. I say that humbly because Christmas music is something that's really special to me, so to see the song's popularity grow over the years has been something that's been kind of amazing. I couldn't have expected it."

She was inspired by her "dysfunctional" childhood and love of all things Christmas 

Coming off the success of her 1993 third album "Music Box," which was No. 1 for eight non-consecutive weeks, Carey's team came to her with the idea of recording a holiday album. 

"Originally, I was like, 'This is a little bit too early in my career to do a Christmas album,' " Carey says. "I didn't understand why it was being suggested to me."

Mariah Carey is celebrating the 25th anniversary of her 1994 holiday album "Merry Christmas."

But she decided to give it a shot anyway. Sharing a home with then-husband Tommy Mottola in upstate New York at the time, she recalls sitting alone at a keyboard one day and starting to play what would soon become "All I Want."  

"I really started with thinking, 'What are all the things I think about at Christmas?' Lights, presents, stockings, fireplaces," Carey says. "I've always loved Christmas so much my entire life, but I grew up not having a lot of money and not being able to experience it like the other kids did. I wanted Christmas to be perfect, but for a lot of different reasons, it didn't always end up working out well, coming from such a dysfunctional family. So I think when I wrote it, I just put every ounce of longing for that perfect moment in it."

By the time she went into the studio with co-writer and producer Walter Afanasieff, she had laid out everything but the song's bridge. 

"I wrote the melody and lyrics; he played and did additional writing, which is great, but it's my baby. It was my thing," Carey says. "When we got together, I was like, 'You know, I think it should start out slow, and then the music should come in and sort of have a Jackson 5, Phil Spector-type moment,' if that makes sense. It was inspired by those songs from the '50s and '60s." 

"(It's) a genius piece of music, especially from an arrangement standpoint," says entertainment journalist Annie Zaleski, who wrote about the song's lasting appeal for the AV Club. "The slow tempo in the beginning creates drama and suspense, especially when paired with the festive percussion, church bells and Mariah's precise, drawn-out singing. Then when the song picks up speed, it continually layers on catchy musical elements – the backing harmonies, sleigh bells and jaunty piano – so there's always something different to latch onto via repeated listens."

Those backup vocals are key to the song's success, Carey says. 

"When I did the background vocals, that's when I had the most fun in the studio – it's the most festive part of the song," Carey says. "A lot of people who have remade it don't realize how important those parts were, in the way they were sung and how I arranged them. They added more flavor and made it a complete record." (Although she won't name least favorite covers, she does enjoy Cee Lo Green's 2012 rendition.) 

Mariah Carey, left, with children Moroccan Cannon and Monroe Cannon during last year's "All I Want For Christmas is You" tour in Nottingham, England.

She's ringing in the holidays with 10 Christmas concerts and a family vacation

Carey will commemorate the anniversary with five holiday shows at Las Vegas' Colosseum at Caesars Palace starting Nov. 22. She will then play a series of East Coast concerts beginning Dec. 7 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, continuing on in Washington, D.C., Uncasville, Connecticut, Boston, and New York. 

"The Christmas shows are super festive," Carey says. "I make it snow on stage – it's an extravaganza."

Afterward, she'll head to Aspen, Colorado, with son Moroccan and daughter Monroe, 8, her twin children with ex-husband Nick Cannon. There, they typically enjoy skiing, sleigh rides, decorating ornaments and watching some of Carey's favorite holiday movies, which include classics such as "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," as well as newer fare like Netflix's "The Christmas Chronicles" starring Kurt Russell. 

The undisputed Queen of Christmas goes to great lengths to make the holidays special for her kids, even arranging face-to-face time with Santa Claus to deliver their presents. 

"Listen, Santa comes and visits us every year in a sleigh with real reindeer," Carey says with a laugh. "If you don't think I of all people know Santa, then I don't know who does."