34 Essential Christmas Songs That Should Be On Your Playlist All December Long
I'm that person who will listen to Christmas carols in July, and who plays nothing but holiday radio starting the day after Thanksgiving. While I love Christmas itself, it's the season that really does it for me: walking among the decorations, watching holiday specials, the sense of good cheer, and of course, the music.
Now, creating a Christmas song playlist is no easy feat. You have to include the appropriate mix of classic crooners and modern covers. You need a the right combination of reverent hymns and upbeat pop songs. You need to represent all of major carols and also include a few less mainstream tunes to round it out. It's hard work.
But you're busy! You've got shopping, baking, and wrapping to do, and how can you possibly have time to create the perfect playlist for your holiday listening? Well, as a self-proclaimed Christmas carols connoisseur, I'm here to help. I've curated what I think is a pretty solid playlist that includes the old, the new, the fun, the spiritual, and of course, Mariah Carey.
1. "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas," Bing Crosby
You've got to start off with a classic, and it doesn't get any more traditional than Bing Crosby. Listen to just the opening chords of this song, and you're already in the spirit.
2. "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," Bruce Springsteen
And now for something completely different. The Boss's rock-and-roll rendition of this Christmas classic is just as fun and festive as the season should be.
3. "O Holy Night," Josh Groban
Josh Groban's rendition of this carol literally gives me goosebumps. When he belts out the beautiful chorus, you can't help but feel moved.
4. "Wonderful Christmas Time," Paul McCartney
Christmastime is happy, and so is Sir Paul McCartney's original holiday tune. This song embodies exactly what a Christmas party should feel like!
5. "White Christmas," The Drifters
There are a lot of great versions of this song, but I believe The Drifters's rendition takes the cake. Starting with that deep crooning, and then popping in with that fantastic falsetto makes this jazzy edition the perfect way to wish for snow this year.
6. "Text Me Merry Christmas," Straight No Chaser and Kristen Bell
Christmas for the 21st century. Straight No Chaser and Kristen Bell's tongue-in-cheek tune gives us the chance to laugh at ourselves while we bop to the upbeat holiday track.
7. "My Christmas Card To You," The Partridge Family
This '70s soft-rock song really nails the spirit of the season with it's beautiful sentiment: "May peace and love surround you, at Christmastime and all the whole year through."
8. "A Marshmallow World," Dean Martin
This song perfectly captures the magic moment of the first snowfall. And who doesn't want to picture a world made entirely of edible sweets?
9. "Little Saint Nick," The Beach Boys
Give your Christmas a summer vibe with The Beach Boy's original carol.
10. "Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth," Bing Crosby and David Bowie
If there's anything we really need this year, it's peace on earth. This classic, sung by two iconic and powerful artists, is a bit of a tearjerker...but in the good, happy and hopeful way.
11. "Christmas Wrapping," The Waitresses
This girl gets that even the most wonderful time of the year can be a #struggle. But, in the end, that Christmas magic really can bring any "tale to a very happy ending."
12. "What Are You Doing New Years?," The Orioles
This song is pretty much the sweetest, most romantic way to ask someone out on a date, on one of the biggest date nights of the year, no less!
13. "Blue Christmas," Elvis Presley
No Christmas playlist is complete without this classic. Sure, the sentiment is a little, well, sad, but it's still an awesome song.
14. "Christmas Don't Be Late," Alvin and The Chipmunks
I dare you to listen to this song and not smile. (I also dare you to not sing along in a high-pitched warble.) I just hope Alvin finally gets his hula hoop this year.
15. "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," Frank Sinatra
What would a holiday playlist be without some Frank Sinatra? The legendary vocalist's entire Christmas album is beautiful, but this song really gets to you.
16. "Let It Snow," Michael Bublé
Michael Bublé's powerful and smooth voice was made for Christmas music, and his big band rendition of "Let It Snow" is a wonderful addition to the sounds of the season.
17. "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer," Jack Johnson
Rudolph is an essential Christmas carol. But why Jack Johnson's version? His added verse finally gives Rudolph the chance to stand up to his bullies, and the rest of the reindeer actually learn a lesson, which makes the message of the story even better.
18. "Believe," Josh Groban
This song speaks to your inner child and warms the soul like a cup of cocoa.
19. "Dominick The Donkey," Lou Monte
Maybe the reason I love this song is because I'm Italian, but whether you eat seven kinds of fish on Christmas Eve or not, the tune is a fun (and unexpected) addition to the usual suspects.
20. "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," John Lennon
You can't have Paul's Christmas song on your playlist and not have John's. But more importantly, this song reminds us that season is really about peace.
23. "Baby It's Cold Outside," Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer
The flirt-iest of all Christmas songs, "Baby It's Cold Outside" is coy, cute, and charming. There are a lot of really great covers of this song, but you just can't beat the original.
22. "Silent Night," Frank Sinatra
Another Sinatra, because in my opinion he's one of the only people who can do justice to this beautiful song.
23. "Feliz Navidad," Jose Feliciano
Did you really think I'd make a Christmas playlist without Feliz Navidad? C'mon!
24. "The Twelve Pains Of Christmas," Bob Rivers
Christmas is full of wonderful thing, and also, some really annoying things. If you've ever struggled hanging up the lights, dreaded dinner with your in-laws or questioned whether or not you really needed to send out those Christmas cards, this parody of "12 Days of Christmas."
25. "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree," Brenda Lee
If Kevin McCallister from Home Alone thinks this song is worthy of being played at a holiday party, don't you think you should have it on your playlist, too?
26. "Santa Baby," Madonna
Leave it to Madonna to flirt with Santa Claus. I think we could all get on board with her Christmas list, though.
27. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," U2
Bono and the band put so much emotion into this song. I have to say, I do feel bad for the guy in this song...but you just can't help but rock out to U2's holiday hit.
28. "Christmastime Is Here," Vince Guaraldi Trio
Charlie Brown and Christmas just sort of go together, and this song, in all of it's stunning simplicity, will always bring you back to the Christmases of your childhood.
29. "Auld Lang Syne," Straight No Chaser
New Years is part of the holiday season, too! Sometimes Auld Lang Syne can sound like a bit of a dirge, but Straight No Chaser's version is the upbeat way you want to start off 2016.
30. "The Chanukah Song," Adam Sandler
So, not technically a Christmas song, but still undeniably an iconic part of the holiday season.
31. "Christmas Cannon," Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Lovely. This song is just lovely.
32. "Run, Run Rudolph," Chuck Berry
There's nothing cooler than a rock-and-roll reindeer. You just gotta love picturing Rudolph jetting down the freeway.
33. "The Christmas Song," Nat King Cole
This might be the most classic Christmas carol of all time. Modern, covers may be nice, it's nice to tune in to the original every so often.
34. "All I Want For Christmas Is You," Mariah Carey
And what Christmas playlist would ever be complete without a little Mariah Carey?
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of all the great Christmas songs out there. It's merely a well-rounded starter kit, so add on all of your own favorites, too!
Images: Lee Mendelson Film Productions