Top 10 Favorite Christmas Song Classics

SONY DSCI’ve been kind of absent short of WIP posts, and that’s a product of the latter quarter of the year being particularly busy for a variety of reasons, not to mention a few health scares for this chronic worrier. I hope to do better in the first quarter of next year, which is usually quiet. Also, I think I’ve figured out a way to end my femme fighting novel, which gives me hope.

But that’s not what today is about. I’m a big fan of Christmas songs, which puts me at odds with a lot of cynics and skeptics like myself. Maybe Christmas songs are just another facet to my I-love-all-music trait. Either way, I’m not going to apologize for it, because I enjoy it too much. I force myself to wait for the evening of Thanksgiving to listen to it (although I’ll sometimes give myself a reprieve with Christmas in July), and I’ve been amassing my collection for the last few years. This year I hope to get Linda Eder’s second Christmas album and Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas album at some point, but that’s only relevant to the next post about my Top 10 Favorite Non-Classic Christmas Songs.

The next ten songs are in no particular order, but they’re the classic songs with dozens of covers that I almost always love (I’ve noted a few here). Some are secular and some are religious, which makes little difference to me. They all contribute to music’s ability to transcend.

Top 10 Favorite Christmas Song Classics

1. “Silent Night” (Linda Eder, Boyz II Men)

There’s often a ringing clarity to the singing of this song. It’s like a lullaby, but it’s somewhere between the saccharine sweetness of “Away in a Manger” and the sometimes bombastic loveliness of “O Holy Night.” The form truly follows the intent. It’s such a peaceful song. It’s a night lover’s song. Linda Eder’s version is truly breath-taking. She hits notes it’s hard to believe exist in the human range, and with such gentleness.

2. “O Holy Night” (Crystal Lewis, Faith Hill, Linda Eder, Celine Dion)

I wouldn’t be a self-respecting soprano if I didn’t put down “O Holy Night.” It’s a diva’s song, but the music itself has a kind of power, so it’s no wonder divas enjoy it.

3. “Sleigh Ride” (Kristin Chenoweth)

This song is so relentlessly cheery, but not aggressively so. It covers a lot of the feelings that I have during the Christmas season, the optimism, the crispness of the winter weather, being with the people you love and experiencing sights and sounds of the season with them.

4. “Adeste Fideles” (Nat King Cole, Celine Dion)

For some reason, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” has an added depth in Latin when you can’t understand it. Just trust me on this.

5. “Ave Maria” (Rachael Lampa, Sarah Brightman and Fernando Lima, Mario Fangoulis w/ Jim Brickman on piano)

There are many versions of this, but I love each and every one of them. Growing up Protestant, Christmas was about the only time we liked to acknowledge Mary (sometimes Easter), and it’s the only time we can sing “Ave Maria” without getting the stink-eye. If like pop music and you can get your hands on Rachael Lampa’s version of this, you won’t regret it.

6. “White Christmas” (Bing Crosby, The Drifters)

I can’t help it. Bing Crosby’s opening notes and I’m transported to every Christmas ever. There’s a reason it’s the most recorded Christmas song ever. Every note is a memory, every lyric nostalgic, sometimes for a Christmas that no one will ever see but that still waits in their hearts each Christmas. This song is the Christmas we wish for. Then there’s The Drifters’ version, which is my childhood.

7. “What Child is This?” (Charlotte Church, Harry Connick, Jr.)

This entire song is a question (appropriate), but the minor key gets me every time. Who doesn’t love “Greensleeves”?

8. “Santa Baby” (Eartha Kitt)

I’ll probably get reamed for this one. But I really don’t like the Madonna version. It’s Eartha Kitt or nothing. When you acknowledge that this song isn’t meant seriously and instead ironically, you’ll appreciate this song even more. That, and who can deny Eartha Kitt anything she asks for? I mean, really.

9. “The First Noel” (Josh Groban with Faith Hill)

There’s a reason I named my first cat Noel.

10. “Mary, Did You Know?” (Erin O’Donnell, Kathy Mattea)

Another Mary song, which is no surprise. The minor key here is so powerful, and there’s such warmth when it’s done with a smoky alto or baritone. The lyrics are quite evocative as well.

Honorable Mentions: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (because, duh), “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Joy to the World,” “O Come, O Come, Emanuel,” “Let It Snow,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “The Christmas Song” (maybe I’ll do another list next year…)

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