I had to make a lot of hard decisions to compile this list. If I left in the runners up, it would be approximately 75 items long. There are so many great recordings of original songs and the classics, countless lovely renditions really. But without further ado, here are my 15 (this started as a list of 10 but I just could not help myself...) picks this Christmas.
15 Best Christmas Songs & Favorite Renditions
"All I Want for Christmas is You" — Mariah Carey
Yes, you're tired of hearing it by December 1. Yes, Mariah should not be allowed to perform this at tree lighting ceremonies anymore. Yes, this song is the biggest earworm in the world. But tell me it doesn't put you in the Christmas spirit, I dare you. Just once a year, this tune has to get a spin.
"Baby it's Cold Outside" — Darren Criss & Chris Colfer (Glee Cast)
By today's standards, sure, the lyrics to this song are absolutely creeptacular. My favorite is the line about homegirl getting pneumonia and dying. HOW CHRISTMASSY. But this adorable duo's performance on the Glee season two Christmas episode is just so sweet, and even though Colfer's vocals mostly annoy me, they work well when paired with Darren Criss' boyish, impish delivery of his lines.
"Happy Christmas (War is Over)" — Celine Dion
When I was a kid, I was a HUGE Celine Dion fan. Hearing this song sung in her beautiful voice is kind of an other-wordly experience. It's at once nostalgic (for me) and transcendent, the latter I credit entirely to her almost haunting and lovely voice. Other renditions of this song are nice, but none give me goosebumps like this one.
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" — She & Him
This is another tune that's got more renditions out there than I can count, but there's something just right about Zooey Deschanel's voice that's kind of solemn but also pretty enough to carry this song and make me feel all the feels.
"Merry Christmas Baby" — Colbie Caillat, Brad Paisley
It's rare that a Christmas song has such an upbeat and playful tune. I'm not a huuuuuge fan of Brad's (I'm kind of not over the whole "Accidental Racist" idiocy, to be honest) but I adore Colbie and her voice is so breezy and fun and pretty. They go well together for this ditty.
"Last Christmas" — Wham!
I confess, I do very much love Lea Michele's rendition from Glee when Rachel is creepily trying to create a Christmas courtship with Finn (RIP Cory), but I gotta hand this one to the original songbirds. Holy '80s. And don't even come near me with Ariana Grande's recording.
"I'll Be Home for Christmas" — Harry Connick, Jr.
Is anyone actually with their significant other around Christmas? The songbook would suggest not. But I'd listen to Harry Connick Jr. sing about tax collection, so his rendition of this Christmas classic works for me.
"O Holy Night" — Lea Michele (Glee Cast)
I just dare you to listen to this and not get goosebumps and/or want to cry.
"Merry Christmas Darling" — Christina Perri
My coworker lobbies hard for the Carpenter's rendition, and I must admit it is strong. But there's a quality to Christina's voice that's just a little bit sad and sweet that makes it perfect for these slightly sad and sweet lyrics.
"White Christmas" — Michael Bublé & Shania Twain
Do doot do doo, doot doot, doot doo doot. #nailedit. It's just fun. Christmas is fun. Snow should be fun. (It only is when you don't have to drive in it OR when you have 4WD.) A song about snow on Christmas should be fun, and this recording is. Plus I heart Bubble. PLUS this makes me think of The Santa Clause and the Denny's scene rocks.
"Winter Wonderland" — Harry Connick, Jr.
WITH HIS DAUGHTER!? I mean, come on. Harry Connick Jr. might as well be Father Christmas himself to me. And you can just hear the two of them smiling through this track.
"Santa Baby" — Colbie Caillat
Colbie's is literally the only female version of this song I've ever heard that doesn't creepily fetishize a fictitious character made to bring joy to children OR sexualize the little girl/old dude dynamic for the mainstream (I'm lookin' RIGHT at you, Madonna), so four for you Colbie, you go Colbie.
"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" — Michael Bublé
As much as I am dismayed by all the apparent long-distance lovers-themed songs that make up the Christmas music genre, Bubble makes this one tolerable and in fact quite peppy and lovely.
"Wrapped in Red" — Kelly Clarkson
If you don't have this Christmas album on repeat, you're making a huge mistake. Kelly's got some classic holiday tunes and some fun original songs and she shows off her vocal chops in all of them. I love this song.
"Carol of the Bells" — Mannheim Steamroller
I debated really hard on whether I wanted to give this one to Mannheim Steamroller or Trans Siberian Orchestra. Both are unbelievable. Both are Christmas in musical form. I do very much love them both, and even give a slight edge to the TSO version for showmanship. But my mom used to listen to Mannheim Steamroller at Christmastime when I was a kid, and I see this album cover whenever I hear "Carol of the Bells." So to Mannheim the win goes. (Second runner up is obviously Pentatonix.)
Now believe me, I'm only stopping at 15 because I feel like that's already excessive enough. But my actual Christmas playlist has a few hundred songs. What are your favorites?
+ Linking up with Amanda for a holiday-themed Friday Favorites!