To many, Christmas isn’t just about the gift exchange or just about the Christmas tree or just about remembering Jesus; it’s the whole package. Part of that package is Christmas music, and between the classic Christmas songs, modern renditions of classic Christmas songs, and new songs altogether, there’s a lot to choose from. This is our list of the best Christmas songs that you should listen to if you don’t already.
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
I remember first hearing this song in one of my favorite Christmas movies, Home Alone. I can never listen to this song without picturing Macaulay Culkin acting as puppeteer, moving his fake people back and forth, side to side behind the draped windows of his house to fool the “Wet Bandits.” I grew up watching that movie with my family, so when I hear Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, I “get a sentimental feeling.” This song is just plain fun, and will remind of you of warm, enjoyable holiday gatherings with family and friends. It is definitely a great Christmas song. A classic.
Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 – Trans Siberian Orchestra
Can you create a Christmas musical hit without lyrics? You can if you’re Trans Siberian Orchestra! Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 has always been one of my absolute favorites. It’s festive, it’s peppy, it rocks! A medley of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Carol of the Bells, this instrumental will get you in a Christmassy mood, and it will also have you head-bangin’ like nobody’s business. You couldn’t hate it if you tried! It’s so electrifying, so upbeat, that I find myself wanting to listen to it over and over again. It’s one of the most addictive pieces of Christmas music I’ve ever heard. Among the best there is to offer.
O Holy Night – John Sullivan Dwight’s Version
This is a well known Christmas carol, but have you ever paid much attention to the words? O Holy Night is a powerful song, and the reason I like it is because it doesn’t focus only on Christ’s birth, but puts special emphasis on the reason for His birth. The Savior of the world has been born, but from what is He saving us? “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.” Jesus came to earth to free humanity from the bondage of sin and selfishness. He came to make our souls whole again, to reconcile us to our Creator. “‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.” Many consider the birth of Jesus during this time of year, but how many consider that He came to earth to pay a price that we were meant to pay?
Neon Trees: Wish List
Modern day pop-Christmas songs can be quite, how do I put this? Stupid. It is quite sickening with the likes of Justin Bieber getting charted with quite clumsy attempts at new and improved Christmas carol. That is not to say that all modern pop carols are not worth mention. What Neon Trees is able to do in their fun and festive song is to capture their very own essence. From their smash hits “Animals” to “Everybody Talks” we are able to see their very existence in this one Christmas tune. You might say, but so many pop artists have made their own sound into a Christmas song. Well, that would be true. Yet, none have been able to combine their complete and utter sound combined into a more Christmas feeling carol like the Trees have been able to achieve.
Michael W. Smith: All Is Well
Smith has a peripheral of great carols, yet this one stands apart significantly. I suppose it is because he has this way of putting songs before self. What do I mean? Well, manly it is because he will make the decision to exclude his voice completely if it so requires, even if it is a masterpiece. He did in fact make one such masterpiece in “All Is Well.” A simple song describing the night of the birth of Christ, which shows how beautiful it must have been, though we acknowledge it most likely wasn’t during the month of December (based off of all evidence). It masterfully and elementarily talks about the importance of a light in the dark world of men, all in a slow and masterful way. If Smith had decided to take the lead vocals like most in the music industry choose to do, it would have lost its touch completely (look at Carrie Underwood’s dreadful remake for instance). Yet, he decided to place it in the hands of a young boys choir which makes it that much more pure and beautiful in its reminder how Christmas can be.
Andy Williams: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
To close out my section, we will be looking at the most Christmas of Christmas songs ever (according to my older brother and yours truly). It is a timeless classic that brings back every memory of Christmas days past as a child. It gets you excited and eager for that Christmas season we all look forward to each and every December. It had always been a long time dream of mine to go to Andy Williams’ hometown as it were in Branson MO where he performed each and every year. Unfortunately, the late singer passed away last year, making that dream a fantasy. Yet, this timeless classic will forever last as the Christmas song to rule them all when it comes to the “feeling” of Christmas.
Carol of the Bells
Truth be told, I don’t care for most traditional Christmas carols. Many of them have great messages and great themes, but I just find many of them to be, musically speaking, quite boring. Carol of the Bells is an exception to that, however. The minor-key type melody often leaves chills on my spine, and when it gets to Christmas time, I sing it to myself around the house all the time. Even if you don’t care for Christmas music in general, you have to admit, this just a cool song, especially if you listen to a true A Capella version.
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, as performed by Pentatonix
I love A Capella music, and Pentatonix is one of my favorite groups in that genre. In their most recent Christmas album, they do a version of the Tchaikovsky classic that not only keeps the spirit of the original, but enhances it in a way that makes me wonder if this is the way it was meant to be experienced all along. It also reminds me that while ballet is really not my thing, Tchaikovsky was a brilliant composer, and this song is evidence of that.
Christmas, Baby Please Come Home, as performed by Anberlin
The original 1963 song was named by Rolling Stone as the greatest Rock and Roll Christmas Song in 2010, but Anberlin takes it to a new level. I may a bit biased, since Anberlin is one of my favorite groups in the first place, but their version is a perfect blend of the light-heartedness that tends to pervade most Christmas music while adding in their own spin to the song that makes it the best version of the song that I’ve ever heard.
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Andy Williams version)
This is my all-time favorite Christmas song (the Christmas Waltz a very close second). Between Andy Williams’ crooning, the backup singers harmonies, and the horns sounding like a college football game, what else could a guy ask for? Also, I associate this movie with Home Alone which is one my favorite movies to watch at Christmas. So it works out!
The Christmas Waltz (Frank Sinatra version)
I love this song for a couple of reasons. First, it’s dripping with romance, not necessarily a lovers’ romance (although that can be interpreted as well) but a romance for Christmastime, frosted windowpanes, painted candy canes, and Christmas trees. Second, the run on the strings in the background reminds me of a sleepy playfulness (think just waking up Christmas morning). In other words, it’s slow but just playful enough. Finally, It’s Sinatra! His voice could literally cut butter!
Silent Night gives me the feels every year! You know that tug at the back of your throat when you’re overwhelmed with emotion? That’s me just about every time I sing this song. Each line is a masterpiece creating images in my head of Christ on Mary’s lap and the angels giving glory to God. My favorite verses are in the second stanza where the song enjoins you to call Christ “love’s pure light” and characterize His birth as “the dawn of redeeming grace.” Truth be told, I sing this song to myself year-round.
Are there any other must-listens that we’ve left out? Let us know in the comments below.