Best Christmas Song Playlists
Best Christmas Song Playlists – Classic Christmas Songs
Best Christmas Song Playlists – Few moments around the holidays are quite as divisive as the appropriate time to start playing Christmas music.
Some would argue that as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are tucked away, it’s the holiday season; to others, any hint of jingle bell shouldn’t sound before December 1; still others would say there’s no such thing as too early for Christmas music.
No matter what camp you fall into, there’s an absolute wealth of Christmas songs to keep your playlist going all the way to December 25.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – Regardless, if you’re resolutely committed to Christmas classics, or you prefer things with a more modern twist, grab an eggnog, cozy up to your family and friends, and settle in for some great holiday listening.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Written by Irving Berlin for the 1942 classic, Holiday Inn, White Christmas stands as the best-selling single of all-time and with good reason.
Between Bing Crosby’s silky vocals and Berlin’s keen sense of nostalgia, this is one of those rare cases when only the original do.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra
Nobody knew how to tackle a mid-tempo affair like Ol’ Blue Eyes, who took this low-key Judy Garland number from Meet Me in St. Louis, shuffled the lyrics around, and emerged with a fedora-full of holiday gold (or should we say platinum?)
The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole
One of the the most famous Christmas songs of all time, this is just one of the tracks proving Nat King Cole is the King of Christmas.
Although, has anyone ever actually roasted chestnuts on an open fire?
All I Want for Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey
It just wouldn’t be a roundup of Christmas songs without this iconic Mariah Carey rendition.
Go ahead and sing along, but leave the high notes to the diva herself.
Merry Christmas Darling by The Carpenters
In 1978, the Carpenters issued their Christmas Portrait album, which contained a new version of “Merry Christmas Darling”.
The original 1970 mix continued to be used for all single releases, however.
The major difference between the 1970 and 1978 versions is a newly recorded vocal by Karen Carpenter on the latter, which was done at her request.
Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney
Though critics have described McCartney’s festive holiday tune as “mediocre,” we beg to differ.
Believe by Josh Groban
Some of the most iconic Christmas songs come from the soundtracks of movies. Case in point: Josh Groban’s “Believe,” which was featured in The Polar Express.
You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft
With colorful insults (“You have termites in your smile, you have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile”) and the unmistakeable deep tone of voiceover actor Thurl Ravenscroft—who was also the voice of Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger for nearly fifty years—this is a Christmas classic.
Christmas Time is Here by Vince Guaraldi Trio
One of the most wonderful parts about the holidays is that they allow for equal parts joyful, boisterous celebration and quiet, thoughtful reflection. For the latter, a mellow tune like this one is perfect.
Jingle Bells by Frank Sinatra
One of Frank Sinatra’s first Christmas songs was a version of the Victorian classic “Jingle Bells,” which he first recorded in 1948, merrily singing the famous lines “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way/Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh” on a hot August day.
Carol of the Bells by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Originally a Ukrainian folk chant about spring, the Christmas song reached its zenith with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s electric guitar-infused adaptation.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside by She & Him
You certainly can’t fault Frank Loesser’s original, but the “cat-and-mouse” lyrics have become undeniably tone-deaf by today’s standards.
Enter She & Him, the folk collaboration of Zooey Deschanel and singer-songwriter M.Ward, who, with a simple flip of the gender roles, provides a simple-yet-refreshing update.
Deck the Halls by Nat King Cole
To deck the halls means to decorate for Christmas, especially if one will be entertaining guests.
These decorations. may include centerpieces, swags or a garland made of branches or boughs of fir, pine, cedar, balsam or greenery from other types of evergreen limbs.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – The First Noel by Andy Williams
If it’s a nostalgic soundtrack you seek, Andy Williams’s signature vocals will surely deliver.
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Perry Como
While this is certainly a Christmas playlist must-have, we’re not so sure what to make of someone’s true love sending them that many birds.
Keep the turtledoves; the golden rings will do just fine.
Winter Wonderland by Michael Bublé
Old-school singers really staked their claim on the holiday music genre.
From Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, to Andy Williams and Dean Martin, there’s a reason the originals can’t be beat.
Or so we thought until Mr. Bublé entered the scene with his silky smooth vocals. His holiday tracks are bonafide modern classics that give the original crooners a run for their money.
“O’ Tannenbaum by Vince Guaraldi Trio
Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. In those melancholy moments, as the snow flits quietly down in the dark, throw on Vince Guaraldi’s iconic “O’ Tannenbaum” and remember ol’ Charlie Brown picking out the saddest, loneliest tree in the lot.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Gene Autry
If you’ve ever seen 1964’s iconic made-for-TV movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, then this one needs no introduction.
If not, then consider this spoiler-heavy title track your holly, jolly Cliffs Notes.
Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! by Harry Connick, Jr.
Is there a more timeless lyric in the Christmas canon than “oh the weather outside is frightful/but the fire is so delightful”?
Just don’t question its authenticity, however, as writer Sammy Cahn originally penned this snowbound classic in the middle of a sweltering July heatwave in Hollywood.
It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas by Perry Como
No matter what version of this annual holiday harbinger you’re spinning this season, the online comments section will always look the same: Christmaholics from around the world writing in to declare “I can listen to this any time of year!” And if that isn’t an official Santa notary stamp, we don’t know what is.
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams
Regardless of whether winter is your favorite season or if Christmas is your favorite holiday, you can’t deny that this is one good tune.
A Holly Jolly Christmas Burl Ives
Honestly, we’re not convinced Burl Ives wasn’t Santa Claus himself moonlighting as a singer.
The resemblance is pretty clear, and telling people to “have a holly jolly Christmas” is definitely something Santa would do.
Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano
It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak a lick of Español, you know what “feliz navidad” means.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Dean Martin
For those who have been missing someone, there is no better thoughtful tune than this Dean Martin classic.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by The Jackson 5
The Jackson 5’s version of this Christmas classic will have your whole crew rocking around the Christmas tree.
Here Comes Santa Claus by Gene Autry
Someone once said, “May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas Eve.”
We’d like to add: May you never be too grown up to believe it when you hear Gene Autry heralding Saint Nick’s arrival.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – O Come All Ye Faithful by Nat King Cole
For those who have been missing someone, there is no better thoughtful tune than this Dean Martin classic.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – Christmas Songs by Rock Artists
Best Christmas Song Playlists – It’s Christmas time, but we all know you can only play so much Bing Crosby and Mariah Carey before you’ll go mad. Thankfully, there are plenty of rocking Christmas gems out there that tend to fall under the radar.
Many rock icons have tried their hand at Christmastime staples, with mixed results. (Sometimes it is better to leave things to Crosby and the other classic crooners, after all.)
Best Christmas Song Playlists – But from Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen, guitar gods have successfully livened up the otherwise straight-laced proceedings, or at least given the tunes more personality.
Meanwhile, other rockers have just gotten, well, a little weird with things, whether it’s peak Weird Al taking the piss, the Pretenders getting new wave, or Fall Out Boy shutting down any chance of mistletoe romance.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – All around, they prove that with the right imagination, you can inject a harder-rocking spirit into Christmas music—mall holiday playlists be damned.
The perfect holiday playlist shouldn’t all be upbeat or focused on love.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – You’ve got to make sure there’s songs for everyone, including those of us who are just plain Grinches about the whole holiday season.
The perfect Christmas has some highs and lows, and a little bit in between.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – With these 26 songs interspersed with all those well-known songs, you’ll get into the true spirit of Christmas, whether you love or hate it.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee
The definitive version of this song is the imitable original. Brenda Lee doesn’t use “rockin’” here lightly: The rockabilly singer and her band sound ready to embrace the end of the year with sweaty dancing and an Old Fashioned or five.
Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry
Best known as the backdrop for Home Alone‘s iconic airport scene, “Run Rudolph Run”—an uptempo boogie from the actual father of American rock n’ roll (sorry Elvis)—is the perfect antidote for the Christmas caroler who could never keep Dasher and Dancer straight.
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town by Bruce Springsteen
There’s something about the Boss’s humble Americana that just suits Christmas.
He has an amiable dude-celebrating-at-the-dive bar energy in this live cut, with the typically boisterous E Street Band matching him every step of the way.
Little Saint Nick by The Beach Boys
If you happen to be fortunate enough to enjoy Christmas in warm California (well, depending on your view of seasonality), there’s no better backing track than the Beach Boys.
Their “Little Saint Nick” is a joyous oceanside bonfire celebration waiting to happen.
Christmas All Over Again by Tom Petty
Bless him, Petty never was snobby about his particular flavor of omnivorous rock.
“Christmas All Over Again” has the power to pump up toddlers, grandmas, and (maybe) even moody teens.
Pretty Paper by Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson
Nelson’s original solo “Pretty Paper” was already great, but this new duet version matches him with the plaintive yet reaffirming, always divine Dolly. So, of course, it wins.
Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley
Shaking the dust off seasonal hokum, Elvis gives this unrequited love story real heartache in his voice.
Meanwhile, the swinging sound made a new generation celebrate a little differently.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love
You could land on any song from Phil Spector’s classic 1963 A Christmas Gift For You album and be more than satisfied.
The producer accomplished his goal of making a Christmas record that stands up as its own timeless work, applying his rich “Wall of Sound” technique to mostly secular standards.
The highlight, however, is Darlene Love’s rendition of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home,” her intense vocals making the passion of its plea palpable.
Christmas (Baby Come Home Please) by U2:
Mariah Carey made a fantastic version, of course. But Bono and co’s emotional, widescreen take of Darlene Love’s cult classic from 1963 is just as affecting.
Co-written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector, the song was reputedly originally penned for Ronnie Spector.
Father Christmas by The Kinks
One of the most unusual festive songs is “Father Christmas,” released as a single in November 1977 by The Kinks.
The darkly witty song tells the story of a department store Santa who is attacked by a group of impoverished kids who demand that he gives them money instead of toys, telling him that he can donate his presents “to the little rich boys.”
Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes
The Ronettes – who comprised lead singer Veronica Bennett, her elder sister Veronica and cousin Nedra Talley – were a girl group from Harlem, New York, who were picked to sing on Phil Spector’s 1963 compilation album A Christmas Gift For You.
Among the three songs they cut for the album was the definitive version of the 1949 festive hit “Sleigh Ride.”
The song, which started as an instrumental composed by Leroy Anderson, had lyrics added a year later by Mitchell Parish. It became the group’s second-highest chart hit in the US after “Be My Baby.”
The Little Drummer Boy by Bob Seger
The memorable opening lines of “The Little Drummer Boy” – “come, they told me/pa rum pum pum pum/A new born King to see/pa rum pum pum pum” – were written by former teacher Katherine K. Davis in 1941.
“The Little Drummer Boy” was originally known as “Carol of the Drum.”
There have been hundreds of versions over the years since, including by crooner Bing Crosby and jazz star Kenny Burrell, but one of the most heartfelt and affecting is by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullets, a track which heavily featured ex-Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer.
Seger cut his version for the 1987 charity album A Very Special Christmas.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – Chanukah Song by Adam Sandler
I wrote this song for all the nice little Jewish kids that don’t get to hear Chanukah songs,” Sandler said of this seasonal classic.
Obviously not a Christmas song, it deserves mention on this list for becoming the first Chanukah song since “I Have A Little Dreidel” to reach the public consciousness.
Sandler has recorded three versions of the song — but the best is the original from 1994, which contains the immortal line, “Bruce Springsteen’s not Jewish, but my mother thinks he is.”
Frosty the Snowman by The Ronettes
Every child knows this one, and it’s been recorded by a huge array of performers over the past 60 years — but it works best by The Ronettes, who just three months earlier had recorded “Be My Baby.”
To this day it’s a key part of Ronnie Spector’s annual Christmas concert.
Santa Baby by Madonna
Several artists have covered Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby.”
But no one quite nails it like Madonna, who turned the track into a hit more than 30 years after the original.
Marshmallow World by Darlene Love
For people obsessed with holiday songs, you could make a case Darlene Love could have been inducted into the Rock Hall just for her Christmas work.
“Marshmallow World” is an essential track that proves Love could duke it out with Ronnie Spector for being the perfect wall of sound vocalist.
Purple Snowflakes by Marvin Gaye
The origins of “Purple Snowflakes” is interesting.
It was originally in 1964 as a psychedelic holiday song whose arrangement was truly ahead of its time in terms of holiday songs.
But the Christmas version was put on the back burner and instead released as “Pretty Little Baby.”
But Gaye’s amazing holiday song would finally see the light of day in 1992 and has since been a favorite cover choice of R&B singers.
White Christmas by The Drifters
Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” may be the best-selling single of all time.
But it’s hard not to argue The Drifters outdid him. The soulful vocal arrangement on the group’s version is the gold standard for R&B holiday songs.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by The Pretenders
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a song written in 1943 by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis.
Frank Sinatra later recorded a version with modified lyrics
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by John Mellencamp
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is a Christmas song with music and lyrics by British songwriter Tommie Connor and first recorded by Jimmy Boyd in 1952.
The song has since been covered by many artists, with the Ronettes’s 1963 and the Jackson 5’s 1970 versions being the most famous
Little Drummer Boy by Bob Seger
“The Little Drummer Boy” (originally known as “Carol of the Drum”) is a popular Christmas song written by American composer Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941.
In the lyrics, the singer relates how, as a poor young boy, he was summoned by the Magi to the Nativity of Jesus.
Without a gift for the Infant, the little drummer boy played his drum with approval from Jesus’s mother, Mary, recalling, “I played my best for him” and “He smiled at me”.
Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley
Sometimes you can’t make it home for the holidays, no matter what you do. In those moments—whether stuck behind your desk or stranded in some god forsaken airport terminal—let “Blue Christmas” (and maybe a shot whiskey) keep you company.
Silent Night by The Temptations
What do you get when you combine one the oldest (and most beautiful) Christmas classics on earth with the world’s most famous soul group?
Fireworks and waterworks, that’s what.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon
One part Christmas carol, one part protest song, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” differs from most of the songs on this list by challenging listeners to hope for more than just a happy holiday for their loved ones.
And while written specifically in response to the Vietnam War, that message still rings loud and clear today.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – The Best Pieces of Classical Christmas Music
Best Christmas Song Playlists – Christmas is upon us, which means it’s time to rediscover all those favorite festive pieces of music, Find out how classical music does Christmas, from traditional carols to obscure gems you may not have heard.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – Prokofiev – Troika
Taken from his Lietenant Kijé, Prokofiev’s festive sleigh-ride of a piece has since been nabbed by Greg Lake for his Christmas hit, ‘I Believe in Father Christmas’.
Mendelssohn – Hark The Herald Angels Sing
Did you know that the chorus of this classic carol was originally going to be, “Hark! How all the welkin rings / Glory to the King of Kings”?
And its lyricist, Charles Wesley, originally wanted some slow and rather depressing music to accompany it?
Thank goodness Mendelssohn stuck his oar in with his superb melody.
Whitacre – Little Tree
Eric Whitacre set a poem by E.E. Cummings to this gorgeous, haunting music.
Not only that, he dedicated it to his little sister as well. Aww.
Britten – A Ceremony of Carols
Don’t expect to hear the usual carols in this gorgeous collection from Benjamin Britten.
It’s still as festive as mince pies, but it’s an altogether more thoughtful and obscure set, with 11 carols given a unique spin.
Bach – Christmas Oratorio
One of the festive season’s most established classics, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio describes the nativity, the adoration of the shepherds and, slightly less festively, the circumcision and naming of Jesus.
The King Of The Waltz may be best known for traveling the world to give epic concerts of Strauss waltzes, but he also knows how to do Christmas.
His Christmas concerts usually come from his castle in Maastricht, where you can expect fake snow, festive tunes and plenty of Christmassy waltzes. Marvellous.
Tchaikovsky – Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is something of a Christmas tradition.
The festive tale of a toy soldier that comes to life has endured over the years and been subject to some radical retellings (Matthew Bourne’s is pictured).
But it’s Tchaikovsky’s music at the centre that makes it that little bit more special.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – The Holly and the Ivy
Now you really can’t do Christmas without ‘The Holly and the Ivy’.
Another traditional carol that’s been subjected to endless arrangements and interpretations, it’s a staple in church services and secular concerts alike.
Hely-Hutchinson – Symphony of Carols
Written in 1927, Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s festive shindig of a piece takes the listener on a tour of some of the best-loved Chrimbo carols including O Come All Ye Faithful, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and The First Nowell.
Berlioz – L’Enfance du Christ
This epic Berlioz work tackles the not-exactly-tiny story of Christ’s youth, starting with his birth.
It’s not exactly ‘Ding-Dong Merrily on High’, but it’s still fantastic stuff.
The John Rutter Christmas Album
John Rutter is probably the composer above all others that we associate most with Christmas.
And with his huge wealth of material dedicated to the season it’s no surprise – we recommend the sensibly-titled John Rutter Christmas Album for all your caroling needs.
Karl Jenkins – A Celebration of Christmas
The most performed composer of his generation has a go at Christmas with this delightful set of carols.
Expect modern arrangements of Christmas Carols from mediaeval times all the way up to today.
Tchaikovsky – Christmas waltz
Vivaldi’s wasn’t the only composer to write about the Four Seasons – Tchaikovsky gave it a go as well.
His seasons actually contain a dainty little Christmas waltz, a delightful little nod to the festive season.
lgar – A Christmas Greeting
It’s not one of his best-known works, but this delicate little Christmas song shows Elgar at his most Elgarian.
Descriptions of the English countryside and calls of ‘Nöel!’ make this an underrated festive gem.
Best Christmas Song Playlists – Vivaldi – Winter
Where would we be at Christmas without Vivaldi?
Few composers ‘get’ winter quite like him – though it begins dramatically with a stormy first movement, the beautiful second movement is a cosy delight to be enjoyed with a nice drop of mulled wine.