Here’s a shocker for you:
I love Christmas.
Gasp! I know…how intense of a revelation that must be for you.
Anyone that knows me tends to realize that my love of this particular holiday is rather massive and I will listen to the music without any real sign of letting up.
This year, in particular, has been a bit of a change of pace though. I’ve still been listening to the music but nowhere on the same level that I typically do. I guess with everything going on in the world that perhaps even my passionate love of Christmas isn’t enough for me to get fully into the spirit.
Nevertheless, I have my tree up; we have some presents under the tree; and I also have wine chilling in the fridge. I am ready to enjoy the holiday regardless.
Considering I do tend to love lists, I decided that I would try to narrow down the countless array of songs into a list of 10. These will not be ranked but I will list them in alphabetical order. I do have to stress that I don’t exactly hate any Christmas song (although some I find to be “meh” at best) and even if I don’t list a song here, I might very well really like it as well. One other key rule: if the song isn’t explicitly directly related to Christmas but only deals with the snowy weather (such as “Let it Snow”, “Marshmallow World”, or “Winter Wonderland”) then those will be exempt from the list.
So, these are 10 of my absolute favorite Christmas songs with video and/or audio attached of my favorite renditions:
Perhaps the most famous of Christmas Carols from the Alfred Burt catalog, CAROLING CAROLING is still not as often played or sung by people nowadays. In fact, I feel like the only version I have ever really heard was sung by Nat King Cole…although I do believe the song was sung by the Muppets on A MUPPET FAMILY CHRISTMAS.
This is an example of a song that I didn’t really give much thought to as a kid but it ended up becoming a surprisingly frequent staple when I would play Christmas music on Pandora at my old job a few years ago. It also doesn’t hurt that I love Nat King Cole.
THE CHRISTMAS SONG (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
I feel like this is a choice that is very typical, but so be it….it’s a classic. As writer Mel Torme put it, he wrote the song on a blistering hot July summer day as an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool”…and thus, the most covered Christmas selection of all time was born.
Once again, this song gained traction right away thanks to a recording by Nat King Cole…and his version still remains my favorite and the one that seems to get the most air play year after year.
-THE CHRISTMAS WALTZ
I have always been a sucker for anything in 3/4 time…or rather, the “waltz” time. I feel like THE CHRISTMAS WALTZ is one of those songs that does get covered fairly often but it isn’t quite as overdone or heard as much as various others.
I first noticed the song years ago on the legendary album CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT that was put out by The Carpenters as it was the first full song on the album after the Overture. It helped set the tone of the album perfectly.
-HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS
This classic was written for the equally classic 1944 MGM movie musical MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS starring some woman named Judy Garland…..
As the story goes, Garland objected to the song’s original lyrics which were certainly rather darker in tone. In fact, the whole tone of the song in the movie is a lot more somber whereas in recent years, the song is covered in more of a sweet and sentimental light.
The original opening lines were: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last; next year we may be living in the past”.
Even after the revisions, many chose to further revise the lyrics…such as “we’ll have to muddle through somehow” becoming “hang your shining star upon the highest bough” to simply make the song more cheerful.
Nevertheless, the original Judy Garland version remains my favorite. So much so that I only listen to it on Christmas Eve and Day as a special event. Call me crazy, I guess.
-HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
I don’t think I am alone in saying that as a kid, there was nothing more thrilling than the last day of school before a big break. I most especially loved being able to come home from school knowing that Christmas break was upon me.
As for actually going home for the holidays, I haven’t done so since 2017. It isn’t really by choice but my past jobs never really allowed me the time off…or they were fairly new jobs that didn’t give me the ability to take off. I probably could’ve traveled this year but….you know….COVID.
I do love this song and I opted to choose it for its more upbeat tone. I do want to single out another song that has a similar theme but sung in a more melancholy manner: I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS.
-IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS
For many years, I actually considered this to be my favorite Christmas song. I would even be willing to say it would still contend for that slot.
As written by Meredith Wilson (the man who also gave us THE MUSIC MAN), this song certainly captures that joy of watching as your surrounding begin to take on a festive glow.
My favorite version of this one has to be the original done by Perry Como:
-O HOLY NIGHT
First of all, I will say right off the bat this is the only Christmas song on this list that actually deals with the religious aspect of the holiday. I do want to commend a few other classic hymns that I do like: O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM, IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR, O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL, and JOY TO THE WORLD…but there is simply an ultimate winner at this party.
There is something epic and majestic about O HOLY NIGHT that never ceases to amaze me when I hear it…and I love it even when Eric Cartman sings it and makes it about presents and pie.
As it stands, I will give a shoutout to Josh Groban for his stellar vocal performance.
You could say that this song is something of a companion piece to IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS in the sense that both tap into the sense of wonderment in how everything around you has been taken over by the sights and sounds of the season.
As a kid, I viewed SILVER BELLS as a boring Christmas song, especially at the expense of a song like JINGLE BELLS or SLEIGH RIDE…but once again, age has made me fall in love with this one and it was this particular cover below by Doris Day that did it.
-SOMEDAY AT CHRISTMAS
This song may have been covered by others but no one found the true power behind it like Stevie Wonder, who recorded it in 1966 during the growing surge of our involvement in the Vietnam War.
I feel like we keep hearing various sentiments nowadays about how so many things from the 60s feel just as relevant and potent than ever before…SOMEDAY AT CHRISTMAS is another example of that. It is a song that tackles what is horrible in the world but, much like Wonder often does, he approaches the song with a sense of hope.
I do have to give a shout out to Lennon and Ono’s HAPPY XMAS (War is Over) for falling into a similar category.
For my final selection, I had to go with what might be the most iconic Christmas song of all time. Do you think that’s hyperbolic? One major factor in me making that claim is that the original 1942 recording done by Bing Crosby (who probably took a break from beating his children just to record the song…) is the highest selling single of all time. That is a record it has now held for nearly 80 years…and it is a feat that is quite impressive.
The song was written by the legendary Irving Berlin, perhaps the most songwriter most indelibly linked to the “Great American Songbook”. After completing the song, Berlin was reported to have told his secretary:
“I want you to take down a song I wrote over the weekend. Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote.”
Cocky, perhaps? Maybe…but hey, the song’s legendary status still remains and I think he earned the right to be cocky.
This wasn’t exactly an insightful piece…but I felt it might be a nice change of pace. Things have been rough this year to say the least and I have dealt with a lot in the past couple of months in terms of stress. Christmas is a time I have always remembered loving and I might as well take the chance to throw this list out there and make myself feel better listening to all of these classics.
After the holidays are over, I am hoping to return with a couple of movie reviews along with doing my Top 10 Films of the 2010s list and I also hope to continue with my SIMPSONS series by spotlighting each season and discussing their highs and lows and ending with my top 10 episodes of each season.
Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas/holiday season!