My Favorite Holiday Songs

Thanks to my lovely wife and her family, I\’ve become addicted to listening to holiday music starting Thanksgiving Day. Each year I can\’t wait for KOOL 108 to ditch their normal oldies play lists for the sounds of Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Nat King Cole, and Jose Feliciano.

After listening to KOOL 108 for 4 weeks straight now, I have discovered there are a few songs that I absolutely cannot stand… for various reasons:

  • I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas – This song gets stuck in my head and it puts me into a homicidal rage
  • Christmas Shoes – If you listen to these lyrics, it\’ll make you cry… but burried in there the kid who is asking for help in buying the shoes has the gall to say \”Could you hurry sir\”. Seriously kid, you\’ve got pennies, you\’re asking a stranger to buy shoes for your dying mom, don\’t hassle him while he\’s pulling his wallet out.
  • \’Twas The Night Before Christmas (\’Sconnie Version) – this is the most unfunny pile of puppy poo that I have ever had the unfortunate experience to listen to… repeatedly. Just terrible.

Sadly Christmas has ended and KOOL 108 stopped playing Holiday music at 12:00 AM December 26th. As I drove home at that exact time Christmas night I heard The Twelve Days of Christmas as the last song of the season for KOOL 108, then the Doobie Brothers started blaring from the radio and I will now go another 339 days until I listen to KOOL 108 again.

Even though holiday music is no longer coming across the airwaves, the Christmas season goes until January 6th and I plan to keep my CD player busy until then. And here are the Top Twenty Holiday Songs I look foward to listening to:

20: You\’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch – Thurl Ravenscroft

  • Remember when you were young, before rampant use of VCRs and DVDs and DVRs and OnDemand; when you had to wait all year to watch your favorite Holiday television special? Any time I hear this song it takes me back to 1983, sitting on the floor of my parents living room watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas. And really, how can you deny a song sung by Thurl Ravenscroft? (aka Tony the Tiger)

19: Twelve Days Of Christmas – John Denver & The Muppets

  • I remember sitting in Music class as a third grader having to sing this song and getting very bored by the time we hit the eighth day of Christmas. However, this version of the classic song finds a way to never grow old with different members of the Muppets joining in for each day. Miss Piggy belting out \”Fiiiiiivvve Gooooold Ringgggggs… ba-dum-boom-boom\” cracks me up each time.

18: All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

  • The Mariah Carey rendition is acknowledged as the best… version… ever. This is confirmed if you search for the song on iTunes. Much in the same way that Mr. Splashy Pants dominated the voting, the voting for this version isn\’t even close.

17: The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth – Bing Crosby & David Bowie

  • The juxtaposition of pipe smoking Bing and the androgynous Ziggy Stardust singing together is priceless, but not as priceless as the song they sang together just weeks before Crosby\’s death.

16: Ding Dong Merrily On High – Roger Whittaker

  • Whittaker\’s rich baritone voice is perfect for almost any Holiday song. The arrangement is somewhat \”new age\”, but still classic and religious. To me this is the perfect version of the song; not even Bing Crosby could sing it better.

15: Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano

  • What other Holiday song can you legitmately dance to? It doesn\’t matter that the song is incredibly repetitive, you can\’t help but tap your toes and sing along.

14: Carol Of The Bells – George Winston

  • A very classic and clean piano version of the song. Another great version is actually from John Tesh\’s Guitar By The Fire? It\’s not like John Tesh actually performs the song, it just happens to be the compilation this fantastic guitar version is on. I also love nearly any version that has a choir singing the words (Hark! How the bells, sweet silver bells…)

13: Winter Wonderland – Peggy Lee

  • Of all the versions of this song, the Peggy Lee version just seems to swing a little bit. Making what could be a tired old song young and fun again.

12: Do You Hear What I Hear – Andy Williams

  • Deciding which rendition to choose here was very tough. Bing\’s version is a classic, but Bing can\’t have the best version of every song. If there was some sort of Holiday song trinity it would have to be Bing Crosby as God, Roger Whittaker as Jesus, and Andy Williams as the Holy Spirit.

11: Jingle Bells – Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters

10: Adeste Fideles – Luciano Pavarotti

  • While I prefer version of Holiday songs sung in English, Pavarotti\’s powerful voice is enough to make me want to learn the Latin version.

9: Sleigh Ride – Johnny Mathis

  • Johnny\’s higher-pitched and bouncy voice is a perfect match for this song. \”It\’ll be the perfect ending of a … perrrr-fect day!\”

8: Linus & Lucy – Vince Guaraldi Trio

  • Some may feel that this isn\’t a Holiday song, but it was originally written for A Charlie Brown Christmas. Whenever I hear it I can\’t help but think about A Charlie Brown Christmas and which dance is my favorite. Mine is Sherman\’s head bob, which one is your favorite?

7: O Holy Night – Josh Groban

  • While I\’m not a fan of Josh Groban, there is no denying this powerful version of O Holy Night that can bring you to tears. His operatic voice is a perfect match for this song.

6: The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole

  • Although Mel Torme wrote this song, it is most associated with Nat King Cole. Nat\’s Christmas album is filled with great performances, but this is by far and away the best of the bunch. An all time classic.

5: Hark The Herald Angles Sing – Vince Guaraldi Trio

  • Not the most polished version, but every time I watch the show I can\’t wait for the Peanuts gang to get through the \”loo loo loo\” part, scream out \”Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!\”, and break into song.

4: I\’ll Be Home For Christmas – Bing Crosby

  • On the years I\’m not in MN for Christmas this song always brings a tear to my eye… \’sniff… ahem… let\’s move on…

3: Silent Night – Various

  • Speaking of songs that make me cry. I couldn\’t settle on a particular version of this song. Whether is a church congregation or a single voice (Bing, Nat, even Jewel), Silent Night is one of the most well known and truly beautiful holidays songs ever written.

2: Beautiful Savior – St. Olaf Ole Choir

  • Not well known outside of a small liberal arts college in Northfield Minnesota. Although the original author is unknown, the arrangement by F. Melius Christiansen is well known to Ole grads and many who are into choral music. Hearing this song performed at the closing of every annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival by the combined choirs is powerful and moving. This link to a performance isn\’t a great example, but if you start listening around the 2:30 mark you can get an idea of how powerful this can be if sung by a choir. The first 2:30 will make you understand why this song isn\’t so great when performed by a soloist.

1: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Roger Whittaker

  • I love that this song is dark, brooding, and filled with minor chords. It is regarded as one of the oldest Christmas carols and was considered the favorite carol in England at the turn of the 19th century. Additionally it is the carol in Dickens\’ A Christmas Carol. But what I love most of all is that whenever I hear it I am instantly transported back to my parents house on Christmas Eve. Setting the table with my mom for Christmas Day. Putting out the last of the gifts. Listening to the local AM radio station playing Christmas songs well past midnight. That feeling of happiness, safety, giddiness for the next morning, and love is something I will cherish forever.



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2 responses to “My Favorite Holiday Songs”

  1. anderswa Avatar

    nicely done, wadE, ya big lug. i didn’t know you had it in you. if i was standing next to you right now, i’d… well, certainly not hug, but whatever the male equivalent of that is.

    comment A: “beautiful savior” is incredibly powerful and makes me a little misty. perhaps the arrogance of all those music students and faculty at olaf was appropriate?

    comment B: your comments about transportation to christmas past are especially poignant. we were recalling favorite christmases with sara’s family last week, and my favorite (’87) had all of the elements you touch on: anticipation, comfort, and the only thing to worry about in your life was whether santa was getting you the right nintendo game.

  2. alex Avatar

    No mention of Manheim Steamroller? Trans-Siberian Orchestra? George Michael’s “Last Christmas”? Oh, and please allow me to try to ruin the carol of the bells for you. You’re welcome.

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