September 23, 2023

Get your holly jolly on with the ultimate holiday playlist.

There are two types of people in the world: Those who listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving … and Grinches. Fine, that’s not exactly true, but there’s just something magical about Christmas songs — the nostalgia, the traditions, the feeling that can only be described as jolly — that just set the mood. So, even if you’re the type to wait until after Turkey day, if you’re decorating the house, trimming the tree, wrapping gifts or just in the mood to relax and want to listen to some of your holiday favorites, we’ve created a playlist of the best Christmas songs of all time.

The list, which ranges from 1942 to today, has a little bit of everything. There are the old, classic favorites you look forward to hearing every year. There are the under-the-radar, modern Christmas songs that should be classics, but haven’t been around long enough yet to reach that status. There are country Christmas songs that add a bit of twang to the holiday. And, of course, there’s Mariah, because no playlist would be complete without her. Throw these all on your playlist, and you’ll put modern Christmas radio stations to shame. 

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Hozier

All there is to say about this is that it’s Hozier. If the man read me my credit card bill every month, I’d pay it with chill vibes and good spirits.

“Christmas Don’t Be Late” by Norah Jones

Norah Jones and The Chipmunks feels like an uncomfortable pairing, but Jones’s jazzy, slowed down take on the (whiney) classic is refreshingly nostalgic and modern at the same time.

“If We Make It Through December” by Pistol Annies

No one is ever going to match the brilliance of the original, but the Pistol Annie’s do a stripped back version of the track that’s breathtaking in its own way.

“Christmas Isn’t Canceled (Just You)” by Kelly Clarkson

That title may make your eye twitch a bit (I think we’re all done with the word), but the cut from Clarkson’s new holiday album is a brilliantly upbeat take on the holiday break up song. Once you’ve had enough listens to Dolly’s “Hard Candy Christmas,” pivot to this bad boy.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Manchester Orchestra

Lean into the sad boy vibes this holiday season with a toned down version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Manchester Orchestra. The track dials back the nostalgia and focuses solely on the wistful emotions behind the lyrics to the point that it nearly becomes a melancholic lullaby.

“The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole

    Is it bold for a track title to self-proclaim as the Christmas song? Yes. Is roasting chestnuts a fairly outdated tradition that doesn’t actually taste very good in practice? Also yes. But, this iconic tune deserves all of the liberties it takes and more. Nat King Cole’s warm vocals paired with the romantic string accompaniment make for as sweet a combo as Santa’s cookies and milk.

    “Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano

      A great unifier not only for its bilingual lyrics but also for its universal charm, José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” has become a staple in the library of holiday pop songs that don’t suck.

      “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Frank Sinatra

        Originally written for soldiers overseas during World War II, this classic croon has become an anthem for all the lonely hearts who can’t be home for the holidays.

        “River” by Joni Mitchell

          While it’s more of a breakup ballad than it is a Christmas song, anyone who has to endure the acute ache of going through a split during the holiday season deserves a song of their own.

          “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by Thurl Ravenscroft

            This is the original (and perhaps the only) holiday diss track. Essentially one long series of back-handed compliments sung in a hilarious baritone, this song is sure to make even Mr. Grinch himself crack a smile.

            David Bowie and Bing Crosby — “Little Drummer Boy/“Peace on Earth)”

            In 1977, the modern art-rock star and the old-school silky-voiced crooner joined forces in one of the most unexpectedly successful duets of all time. This famed medley of “Little Drummer Boy” and “Peace on Earth” is not only one of Bowie’s most commercially successful songs in his storied career, but it marked one of the last vocal recordings Crosby ever made—having been recorded a month before his death.

            Lizzo — “Never Felt Like Christmas”

            When the old Christmas love songs won’t cut it, there’s always this one from Lizzo. And in true Lizzo form, she doesn’t mince words when it comes to capturing those who feel bitter about Christmas feels.

            Ariana Grande — “Wit It This Christmas”

            This 2015 song features the lyrics “Are you down for some of these milk and cookies?,” which is really the only way anyone should ever address Santa Claus.

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