Narrowing down my favorites, however, is near impossible. Classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand, and the Muppets are standard and most likely in your collections, so I’m not going to list them here. I’m also not going post “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. The Von Trapps liked wool mittens and snowflakes on their eyelashes because they lived in Austria, not because it was Christmas. And I won’t purposely pick something obscure because I’m not that hip. Anything that made the cut is here for no other reason simply than I like it.
So here it is, in no particular order, my ten favorite holiday songs:
1. “Jingle Bells” – Ray Conniff
The Hubs is clearly the more holly-jolly of the two of us. He loves giving gifts and decorating the tree. I would just as soon string lights on a plant and call it a day. But put on the Ray Conniff Singers and I’m transported to a simpler, more earnest time when flocked Christmas trees were cool. Sure it’s corny, but I’ll take these guys over some auto-tuned pop star. Plus, I know all the words and harmonies and will sing along until I’m hoarse as I decorate the house.
Ever since I first saw her in Absolutely Fabulous in the Nineties, I have wanted to be funny lady Jennifer Saunders. For one of their Christmas special sketches, Jennifer and her partner Dawn French are two folk-fest earth mothers who happily backup singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright in this sweet song about the true gift of Christmas. Of course, I don’t remember what that gift is because the only thing I took away from this hilarious clip is “Loofah Wetwipe.”
I first heard Sarah McLachlan’s ethereal and haunting cover of this Gordon Lightfoot song on the radio in the middle of a cliché: driving to the airport through a snowy Minnesota landscape on Christmas Day after seeing my Grandma Dewing for what I knew would be the last time, and me, without a single tissue in my rental car.
Even with my vast Christmas albums collection, it’s still incomplete because I don’t have this one. You know what? I’m just going to go ahead and download it right now so I can listen to it in the mornings on my way to work. I’ll be the weirdo on the subway bouncing in my seat and smiling.
Most folks think that Adam Sandler’s is the only Hanukkah song out there, but this timeless trio proves otherwise. A Peter, Paul, and Mary Christmas was one of my favorite holiday cassettes (remember those?) and my VHS tape of this 1988 concert on PBS wore out before VCRs did.
Little Eva may be best know for singing “The Locomotion,” but this diddy is not only a rockin’ twist on a standard, it’s clever and fun–how can you not love a lyric that sings “I could wish you a whole lot of presents, but then you might expect one from me?”
I’ve already revealed that I’m down with being corny. Now, I confess to the traditional and reverential stuff, too. I’ve always loved this carol. The words kill me, “snow on snow” and “give him my heart.” And Dame Kiri’s voice will just wreck you. (Of course, I mean this in a good way.)
Swizzle up your cocktails and mocktails and head on over to the What’s Camille Dewing? lounge. This is any holiday party must.
“It was Christmas Eve, babe / In the drunk tank / the old man said to me / ‘Won’t see another one.’” The gamut of emotions are played out in four minutes in this song. There is no NYPD choir, but after hearing this song, you will think there should be.
If Mariah Carey’s pop ode to Christmas love doesn’t make you feel as warm on the inside as a hot cup of cocoa after sledding, then you will likely be visited by three spirits on the 24th. This version from Love Actually, sung by then ten-year-old Olson is just as affecting and makes me wish I had cool teachers who doubled as backup singers. Do yourself a favor and watch the whole adorable movie.