21 Classic Christmas Songs To Add to Your Holiday Playlist

According to Marilyn Manson, music is the strongest form of magic. And if Christmas is the most magical time of the year – it's a perfect union.

Now, some people want a thousand dollars gift card, and others simple homemade oatmeal raisin chocolate cookies (a mouthful, pun intended). But if all you want for Christmas is a playlist of classic jingles to usher in the holiday spirits, say no more.

Despite being one of the most anticipated festive seasons, Christmas may mean different things to different people. And because it can be Jolly, White, or Blue, we've compiled a list of tunes that cut across every genre and every mood.

1. Christmases When You Were Mine, Taylor Swift

Just as Chandler Bing of the American sitcom Friends can't stand Thanksgiving because of his parents' awful divorce, some people can't stand Christmas because of the bad memories it comes with. Here's a young Taylor Swift who cannot wait till the season's over, as she tries not to but reminisces on past holidays with a lover.

“I know this shouldn't be a lonely time,” she sings on the hook, and she's right. So, make that call you've wanted to all year – or don't. It's okay if all you do on Christmas Eve is cry along to this heart-rending melody and the dreary strums of Taylor's guitar.

2. Every Year, Every Christmas, Luther Vandross

Every Year, Every Christmas features on Luther Vandross‘ Christmas-themed album, This Is Christmas. With his silk-smooth tenor, the soulful singer scores perfection with this powerful, dreamy ballad.

Trust Vandross to always wear his heart on his sleeves. This song is no exception – he croons about spending his holidays waiting for a love that may never come. He's hopeful because, as he sings, “If you don't trust in love, you'll get nothing in return.” The last verse will leave you teary, with the ending lines replaying long after the final notes.

Despite its deeply affecting lyrics, there's also a hint of magic sprinkled in the rhythm, something jazzily scintillating in the melody.

3. I'll Be Home for Christmas, Bing Crosby

This jazz sensation was added to America's most homegrown holiday songs, and it's no wonder why. Since its initial release in 1943, many artists, most notably Michael Bublé, have covered it.

In the song, a man promises to be home for Christmas, no matter the odds. “If only in my dreams,” he sings. So, just in case you're still a long way from home as the season draws nearer, you could send this song to a significant other to reassure them.

4. Cold December Night, Michael Bublé

Cold December Night is a track on his album, Christmas, and also part of the soundtrack for the ABC Family original film, 12 Dates of Christmas.

It doesn't really begin to look a lot like Christmas until you're listening to at least one song from Michael on your holiday playlist. This right here may not have been as big a hit as his other festive carols, but he absolutely sleighed it with a catchy tune and dazzling songwriting.

Everyone requests something from Old Saint Nick. Some people want candies, and some people wish for toys. But there are a couple who desire “something that lasts forever.”

5. This Christmas, Donny Hathaway

Donny Hathaway received high accolades for this timeless masterpiece, regarded as some to be the Black Christmas anthem. This Christmas celebrates the happy prospects of the season, like getting to know someone better while doing fun festive rituals like trimming the Christmas tree. There are other simple pleasures to look forward to; a blazing fireside, presents and cards, or a pair of very exceptional eyes. Whatever spells a very special Christmas to you.

6. Christmas Saves The Year, Twenty One Pilots

Christmas sure saves the year, especially when you've had one heck of it. Twenty One Pilots are known for their vast versatility, and this Lo-Fi Christmas track is proof of it. While it isn't heavy drums and metal, like most of their songs, it does a splendid job of capturing and oozing happy holiday vibes, especially with the Christmassy samples. Plus, if you need a break from the oldies goldies or classic covers, here's a great number to start with!

There is something wholesome, not just in the melody but in the subtlety and relatability of the lyrics. Like, everyone's had terrible years, but by the sound of jingles bells and carols, the feel of frost in your nostrils and snow on your feet, everything in the world feels alright again.

Christmas Saves the Year sweetly tailors in the fact that “even if the world is crumbling,” everyone strives to make it home for Christmas, knowing someone is waiting for them.

7. I Want To Come Home for Christmas, Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye's soulful singing could transform even the hardest hearts into marshmallows. On most sentimental Christmas songs, we listen to the perspective of a distant lover pining for another. But in this song, we hear the other side of the story: A soldier who wishes more than anything for the fight to end so he can come home for the holiday. One who'd “give anything to see a little Christmas tree” because there's nothing worse than spending cold, festive nights away from loved ones as a prisoner of war. He closes with the plea: “I want to see snowflakes / And I want to see Santa Claus.”

8. Christmas in Harlem, Ye

Christmas in Harlem, which contains samples of three other songs, is easily one of the greatest hip-hop holiday-themed songs ever recorded, and not just because it has one of the greatest rappers on it. The most common version of this is the Ye, Teyana Taylor, and CyHi three-minute version, with the nine-minute original version including fellow rappers Big Sean, Jim Jones, Cam'ron, Pusha-T, Vado, and Musiq Soulchild much harder to find.

This 2010 hit is a must-have on every holiday playlist, as it implores you to have a very merry Christmas, whether or not you have it all. The lyrics and delivery are top-notch; Hit-boy's production skills wrap up the musical present, with soft as snowdrops piano notes juxtaposing the kicking drums and bass. Let's not forget Ye's ingenious, lighthearted, dirty verse (winks).

9. Tennesse Christmas, Alabama

You don't have to live in Tennessee to appreciate this timeless classic. This country holiday tune from Alabama's The Classic Christmas Album deserves a top spot on your playlist. It strikes a certain nostalgic chord – especially when you're away from home.

Tennesse Christmas is another Christmas song that portrays contentment, this time contentment in one's homeland. The singers draw sharp comparisons between Tennesse and other states throughout the song. They refrain with a gospel: “Tender Tennesse” may not be as grand, snowy, or Christmassy as others, but it is the only one for them.

10. I'm Gonna Kill Santa Claus, Danny Gonzalaz

Assuming that one could actually kill Santa Claus to take his place is nothing but comical. Woody Allen once said he couldn't listen to Wagner much because it would build in him a longing to conquer Poland. That's close to what Danny's satirical comedy song, I'm Gonna Kill Santa Claus, could do to the listener.

Danny describes how he awaits every Christmas with a wish list. He even goes as far as random acts of kindness, serving a stranger milk and cookies, only to be disappointed by Santa Claus, who never shows up with the right toy. Now, be honest. You'd consider killing good ol' Saint Nicholas, too.

11. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), Darlene Love

Some memories are too precious to let go of, so we can only dream of recreating them once more. In Darlene's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), she recollects the memories of a previous Christmas with her lover, who is not around for the current year's holiday.

Sometimes, no matter how many Christmas carols one sings or listens to, it doesn't quite feel like Christmas when there's a missing part of the equation. “They're singing ‘Deck the Halls' / But it's not like Christmas at all.” The song starts with the sound of tolling bells and ends with an ardent cry for her lover to come home.

12. Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley

The King was extremely fond of Christmas, and it was clear in his highly acclaimed work and lifestyle. Blue Christmas is a classic Christmas hit that sets the right mood for one spending the holiday away from a significant other – who's most likely enjoying a White Christmas. While the standard colors of the seasons are red, green, gold, and white, not everyone catches the blithesome fever. A few down in their lucks are stuck with the blues.

Despite being his most famous Christmas song, Doye O'Dell initially recorded Blue Christmas in 1948. However, it gained much popularity after Elvis' recording and performances of the rock ‘n' roll masterpiece.

13. White Christmas, Bing Crosby

Here's yet another Crosby classic with a famous cover by Michael Bublé. Many other singers have covered the song, including the songwriter himself, Irving Berlin, as well as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Darlene Love, and Lady Gaga.

As far as a man can dream, he longs for a Christmas with glistening treetops and children listening to the sleigh bells in the snow. And it's more than a dream; it's a starry-eyed prayer for happier, merrier holidays.

According to Denis Waitley, dreams are the creative vision of a person for their future life. Here, we get a glimpse of Crosby's type of holidays, and boy, can we wait. White Christmas presents a season of happiness and unification; to wish for one is to desire every good thing the season offers.

14. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Andy Williams

This cheerful tune celebrates the Christmas season, highlighting its exciting, memorable activities, especially the chance to get together with loved ones. It suggests a time to set aside grudges and reunite with everyone. Besides, where's the time for grudges with all the partying and merriment the season brings? “There'll be much mistletoeing / And hearts will be glowing / When loved ones are near,” Andy croons.

Since its release in 1963, Johnny Mathis and Garth Brooks, amongst others, have made notable recordings.

15. Do They Know It's Christmas? Band Aid

Band Aid recorded this classic Christmas song in response to the great famine that invaded Ethiopia between 1983 and 1985. They then used proceeds from the record as emergency relief for Ethiopians, which is what Christmas is all about – giving. For this, it is referred to as a charity song.

Again, in 2004 and 2014, the song was recorded to help raise money for a second famine relief and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, respectively. And like before, it turned out to be a huge success. Upon its release, it climbed to number one on the UK Singles Chart, holding the spot for five weeks.

The primary assignment of Do They Know It's Christmas is to raise awareness of less privileged people struggling to survive, even at Christmas. It aims to encourage the world to rise to support those unfortunate ones.

16. Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms

What's Christmas without jingling bells and bushels of fun?

One of Helms' most popular songs from 1957 is Jingle Bell Rock, also considered the first mainstream rock ‘n' roll Christmas song. This upbeat, jaunty song doesn't just indulge the listener but invites them to jump in on the excitement. “Dancin' and prancin' in Jingle Bell Square,” he chimes in a manner that makes you want to dance all night long. And why not? “It's the right time / to rock the night away.”

17. Christmas Eve Can Kill You, The Everly Brothers

Christmas Eve Can Kill You was recorded for their country-rock album, Stories We Could Tell. And like many other stories the Take a Message to Mary crooners have told, the song leans towards self-despair with a blues tempo and hauntingly impactful storytelling.

The Everly Brothers deliver a riveting vocal performance, singing in harmony. And although the song is not about missing or being dumped by a lover on Christmas Eve, they crafted the lyrics with enough potency to arouse the same melancholy.

The cold and empty evening hangs around me like a ghost, they bellow, furthermore describing man's innate selfishness in a picturesque verse. “A car goes running by, the man don't even turn his head / Guess he's busy being Santa Claus tonight / The saddest part of all is knowing if I switched with him / I'd leave him stumblin' ragged by the road / I'd ride that highway to the arms of my sweet family / And forget about the stranger in the cold.”

18. Merry Christmas, Baby, Otis Redding

Otis Redding seems to have gotten the respect he deserved, as he brags of a diamond ring in the first solo. In this romantic ballad, Christmas is a private affair between two lovers. And yes, there can never be too many kisses-under-the-mistletoe songs.

The soul legend's voice is effortlessly electrifying, with only the right amount of funk and lightsome chirpy instrumental backing. Other song renditions include the ones by B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Christina Aguilera, and Chuck Berry.

19. The Christmas Song, Nat King Cole

The Christmas Song is one way to revitalize one's holiday memories. American singer and jazz pianist Nat King Cole immersed his heart into his recording of this “unforgettable” gem, as fans have described it.

Nat King Cole reminds us why “Merry Christmas” could never be a cliché. The song is not only an expression of what Christmas means to many people, but an experience to fully immerse in. Cole sings of roasting chestnuts in the open fire, jack frost nipping noses, yuletide carols, and folks dressed like Eskimos.

20. Run Rudolph Run, Chuck Berry

When the father of rock and roll makes a Christmas tune, only the president has the right to remain seated. Chuck Berry makes you dance to his electric guitar's groovy beat and synths on this terrific jam. Notable renditions of the song include covers by The Grateful Dead, Billy Ray Cyrus, and even Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show.

Run Rudolph Run was originally recorded in 1958, with a video released in 2020 featuring a retro comic style of the guitar-toting Maybelline star, who defined rock music. Of course, his signature electrifying guitar solo, funkified rhythm, and lightsome tone weren't wanting in the song.

21. Christmas in Hollis, RUN D.M.C

“It's funky. It's soulful. It's family. It's real. ‘Christmas In Hollis' is real because of my verse,” said D.M.C.

Although it was voted the 10th best Christmas song of all time in 2011 by Rolling Stones, RUN D.M.C was initially reluctant to do a Christmas song. But there's nothing like a perfect Hip-Hop bop, whether you're rapping about a season or a heartbreak.

Christmas in Hollis was featured in the opening scene of the 1998 Die Hard movie and is also the perfect gift for those who want Christmas music without traditional carols.

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Boloere Seibidor, fondly called B.S. is a Nigerian based writer and poet. Her favorite topics to cover include music, especially Hip-Hop, film, lifestyle, and fashion. She's been published by Feral Journal, Fantasy Magazine, The Temz Review, and most notably, Wealth of Geeks. She enjoys romantic dinners, movie nights, and touring new sites. When she's not writing, she's delving back in time to the underground world of Hip-Hop, watching TikTok, or visiting the cinema.