1. "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney.
I think this song embodies the happiness and simplicity of the joyful season. I can't help smiling when I hear it. That's what a modern Christmas song should be.
2. "Step Into Christmas" by Elton John.
I love that it opens with "Welcome to my Christmas song, I'd like to thank you for the year." What a nice, humble gesture from a superstar. Otherwise it manages to conjure the same feeling for me as the McCartney tune.
3. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser.
If you haven't seen this version of it yet, you MUST watch it. It is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, especially toward the end. Trust me.
4. The Twelve Days of Christmas by John Denver and the Muppets.
Any self-respecting Muppets fan would agree that there is nothing quite like Beaker taking a solo: "Mee mee mee mee mee mee!"
5. "Some Children See Him" by James Taylor.
I love his whole Christmas album, but I really like this song; the lyrics are so beautiful, so I chose it to represent the album.
6. The Nutcracker Suite.
This will always remind me of Christmas since I went to see the ballet every year from when I was about seven until high school. I don't have a particular favorite version, as long as the themes are recognizable. Here's probably my very favorite song from it when I was a little girl. I wanted to BE the Sugar Plum Fairy.
7. "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby.
Probably my favorite non-religious Christmas song. It's a great movie, too! And I love Bing's voice. Having lived part of my life in southern California, I truly appreciate the white Christmases I've had and will have in the future.
8. "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole.
It's a close call for me between Nat's version and Mel Tormé's original, but I had to go with Nat here since I haven't chosen his other songs. Just a gorgeous voice.
9. "Christmastime is Here" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.
The classic song from the Peanuts' Christmas special. I love both versions: the instrumental and the one with the children's choir. I think the words are terrific, which makes it understandable why so many artists have covered the tune. However, call me old-fashioned (I am in this case!), but I still like the original the best.
9. "The Christmas Waltz" by the Carpenters.
I told you I love me some Carpenters. Here is the proof. A lovely song not many people sing anymore, but I like it. I particularly like Karen Carpenter's version of anything since our singing voices are scarily alike.
11. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Michael Bublé.
I have grown to truly appreciate this song since having to divide my time on holidays between my family and my in-laws. We trade off on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it works well but it still doesn't prevent me from missing my mom a bit when the big day is approaching. Sigh. Michael Bublé is not bad to listen to (or look at) while feeling these pangs, however.
12. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Judy Garland.
I used to tease my husband for preferring the "depressing" original lyrics to the song, but considering it was written during World War II and reunions were much more uncertain at the time, I have come to love it too. So this one's for you, honey.
13. "In the Bleak Mid-Winter" by Julie Andrews
This is my all-time favorite Christmas carol; it doesn't really matter to me who is singing it. I chose this version because I particularly love the words: it is a poem written by Christina Rossetti and it can make me tear up sometimes. What a lovely way to prepare your heart for Christmas.
14. Ave Maria (Biebl version) by Chanticleer.
Okay, I know I said earlier that technically Ave Maria is not a Christmas song. But people do tend to think of Mary around Christmas (I wonder why?), and this arrangement of the song is my favorite ever, to listen to or perform. I love the soaring soprano line; I was lucky enough to sing that part once. Ahh. And Chanticleer is the most amazing all-male a cappella singing group ever. I mean it. They can sing anything.
15. "O Holy Night" by Josh Groban.
I adore Josh Groban's operatic-caliber voice and how effortlessly he seems to sing. I am very sad to say that apparently this song is unavailable on iTunes, and somehow he left it off of his Christmas album last year. However, I think that his version is the best one recorded in the last 10 years.
16. "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen" by the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan.
Two of my favorite Canadian acts team up for this one. I like the fresh take on the song as well.
17. "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Jars of Clay.
I adore the words of this song as well; it encompasses the discouragement we can all feel at this time, but ends with such hope. I love the older versions too, but I could find the video of the Jars version.
18. "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem" by the Judds.
This is another nostalgic song for me. My mom had the Judds' Christmas album and we learned the harmonies and sang along with them. This is her favorite song from the CD, and I love it as well. I have only ever heard one other group even sing this song, but it is really a pretty, lilting song.
19. "Love Came Down at Christmas" by Jars of Clay.
This is another Rossetti poem set to music, reiterating the theme that love is at the heart of Christmas. What better message could there be?
20. "Christmas Song" by Dave Matthews.
One of the few original Christmas songs to come out in the last few years that I think is brilliant. Just a beautiful, gentle song.
21. "What Child is This (Greensleeves)" by Sarah McLachlan.
I like this hymn anyway, but Sarah's take on it is really unique, and I like it. Very soothing, making it almost like a lullaby.
I hope you enjoy my little collection as much as I do. Please feel free to comment on your favorite, whether or not I included it. My Christmas playlist is over 12 hours long, so I had to be very picky choosing these few songs. Odds are I have at least some version of yours too!
I hope everyone has a blessed holiday season and a marvelous, enlightening new year.