As much as I enjoy Halloween and horror movies, I must say, I enjoy Christmas even more. I have such fond childhood memories of this time of year. When I wrote my Thanksgiving blog last year it got me thinking and feeling about those times with my parents and of Christmas past. So I crafted this list of my favorite Christmas music, and decided to re-post it for you here.
I am a traditionalist when it comes to the holidays. Meaning that you must celebrate one before you can even think about celebrating the next. Christmas creep is one phenomenon I’d like to see go away. Stores decorated for Christmas and advertising holiday sales before Halloween is obnoxious.
So, I have a bit of a rule, a tradition if you will. I will not start listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. SiriusXM’s Holiday Traditions channel started Dec. 5, and I kicked it off on Pandora with my Johnny Mathis holiday station on the day after Thanksgiving.
I usually start with the Christmas music the Friday or Monday after Thanksgiving. So, this could go from four to five weeks depending on when Thanksgiving hits. I don’t get tired of hearing the same tunes throughout the month of December. Since some of my readers enjoy the countdown of my 100 favorite horror films each year, I thought I’d present my 15 favorite Christmas songs. As I mentioned, I am a traditionalist. I only like what I consider to be the “definitive” version. I don’t care for recent or modern remakes (with very few exceptions) and I really don’t care for attempts at new Christmas compositions, with one exception.
So, without further ado, here are my 15 Favorite Christmas songs and why.
15. Jingle Bells. There is a version out there with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. It is a rehearsal for an Armed Forces Radio broadcast and there is a very funny blooper as Crosby blows a line near the end of the song. It’s one of those rare recordings that I would’ve never heard if not for Pandora. Jingle Bells isn’t so much a Christmas song as it is a winter song. But with the use of sleigh bells, it has become associated with Christmas.
14. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin and Marilyn Maxwell. Ah, the “roofie” Christmas song. This is one of those songs that are rare these days with two singers basically having a conversation. I am not musically inclined so I don’t know what this technique is called. There is a line in the song that suggests the lady is swigging a spiked drink as the host tries to convince her not to go out in inclement weather. I’ve always thought the host in the song engaged in innocent cajoling. Unfortunately, this song has been vilified in recent years despite new versions.
13. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry. The singing cowboy did the original and probably best version of the song, although Burl Ives gives him a run for his money in the iconic Rankin and Bass supermarionation Christmas TV special. Autry spins the tale of a misfit reindeer, who is bullied and discriminated against until he finally gets his bloody revenge. Oh wait, flashed back to Halloween for a second. Rudolph saves Christmas and goes down in…oh hell, you know the story.
12. Let it Snow – Michael Bublé. There have been many versions of this song and I do like Michael Bublé’s Christmas efforts. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and countless others have recorded versions of this great tune that, like Jingle Bells, is more seasonal than holiday, but has become a Christmas standard.
11. Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives. Probably my favorite song from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Ives, as Sam the talking snowman/narrator, sings this fun, festive, upbeat tune.
10. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee. I think I danced to this song in a 4th grade production or somesuch. This is a different kind of Christmas song that incorporates the rock-a-billy style of the 1950s and the imagery of the holiday season. Her version of Jingle Bell Rock is a lot of fun too.
9. I’ll be Home for Christmas – Frank Sinatra. Bing Crosby did this originally as a bit of a tribute to the troops stationed overseas during World War II. As a former U.S. Navy sailor, I can certainly relate. I spent a few Christmases away from home. A bit melancholy, the song tells a bit of story and has a slight twist.
8. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt. Only Eartha Kitt could make blatant materialism soft and sexy. The ultimate wish list, Santa gets serenaded and seduced in this wonderful Christmas favorite. Bublé tried to spin it from the male perspective and I thought it flopped. Only a girl can sing this, and Kitt’s rendition is the best ever.
7. Carol of the Bells – Trans Siberian Orchestra. This is the only traditional carol I really care for, it’s haunting and rousing at the same time. It is used ad nauseum for the computerized synchronized home light show and for good reason.
6. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams. The king of Christmas in Branson, Missouri, Andy Williams delivered the best rendition of this oft-covered classic. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
5. Mistletoe – Colbie Caillat. As I mentioned, I don’t like new Christmas compositions but I make an exception for this one. Caillat really tugs at the heart strings with this beautiful song.
4. The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole. Mel Torme, the “Velvet Fog,” co-wrote this wonderful ode to all things Christmas, but Nat King Cole’s version is so silky smooth and just oozes Yuletide. What I want to know though is what the hell Chet did to deserve having his nuts roasted every December?
3. Winter Wonderland – Johnny Mathis. If Bing Crosby is the father of Christmas music, Johnny Mathis is its uncle. Winter Wonderland may be a seasonal tune, but is has become a Christmas classic recorded by many. But Mathis’ version resonates.
2. White Christmas – Bing Crosby. The best selling single of all-time speaks to me because I grew up in Western New York and know first hand what a White Christmas is. I was stationed in Iceland for three years and really got to know it. I miss it living in California. My job doesn’t allow me to get away during the holiday season so I have to do what Bing says, dream of white Christmases like I used to know.
1. Sleigh Ride – Johnny Mathis. I officially begin my Christmas music listening with Johnny Mathis’ rendition of Sleigh Ride. Recorded by many over the years, there are some excellent versions, but Mathis’ is the best and my favorite Christmas song of all, even though it is more of a seasonal tune.