You guys! Ahhh, you guys! Thanksgiving has passed, and the holiday season is OFFICIALLY UPON US. I'm just a little excited. This is my favorite time of year. I'm not a religious person, and to me, Christmas has always been about gathering with family, creating traditions and memories, reflecting on the year gone by and giving to others. I have a specific way that I like to get in the mood for the season, and one of the most crucial parts of kindling my holiday spirit is through music. I have a Spotify playlist that starts getting played beginning the day after Thanksgiving. I hand-picked all of my favorite holiday tunes—and here are my top 10 favorite holiday songs (in no particular order).
Sufjan Stevens, "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella"
I'm a sucker for somewhat out-of-the-box Christmas songs and artists, and Sufjan Stevens' Christmas album is awesome. He came to Track 29 last November, and I missed him because I am lame. I love all of the songs on his album, but I think this one is my favorite. It holds a special place in my heart—when I was a child, my family (who are all musical) made a Christmas tape for my grandmother, who was blind. All of the grandkids got to sing their own song, and "Bring a Torch" was my solo song.
The Roches, "We Three Kings"
The Roches are a trio of sisters who are, well, amazing. You're going to find them several times on this list. Their Christmas album (titled "We Three Kings") is, without a doubt, my favorite Christmas album ever recorded. Their unconventional twists on old songs and beautifully blended harmonies make for an amazing and fun album.
Rufus Wainwright, "Spotlight on Christmas"
I first heard Rufus Wainwright when a lot of people did, I think—when he did a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" on the "Shrek" soundtrack. I've really liked him ever since, and when I came across this song while hunting for new Christmas tunes, I was super-excited. I like that it's Christmas-y but not too saccharine or syrupy. It's upbeat and just makes me feel happy.
Mavis Staples, "Christmas Vacation"
I don't think that any song on this list makes me grin quite as much as this one, mostly because it is the theme song to my all-time favorite Christmas movie ("National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"). Christmas movies are right up there with music as part of my holiday spirit ritual, so when I hear this song, it immediately brings to mind Clark W. Griswold and cats wrapped up in presents.
Joni Mitchell, "River"
I went through a very intense Joni Mitchell phase when I was about 13. I'm convinced every adolescent girl needs a Joni phase. She is and was one hell of a songwriter and singer, and her voice is something I've always been envious of. This song is both beautiful and slightly melancholy, and I think it is something that everyone's been able to relate to at least one Christmas in their lives ("I wish I had a river I could skate away on").
The Roches, "Star of Wonder"
This is another song that holds an incredibly special place in my heart. On my family's Christmas tape, my two aunts and my mother sang this song a cappella. The three of them often sang together, and their voices blended together in that way that only family voices can. My mother passed away two years ago at Christmastime, and when I listen to this song, I sing her harmony part and think of her.
John Lennon (John & Yoko/The Plastic Ono Band), "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"
If I had to choose a favorite Christmas song, I think it would be this one. I love The Beatles with all of my heart, and I love John Lennon's solo music almost as much. I love this song so much that I hate every cover that I've ever heard of it. To me, this song is perfect as is, and it's almost blasphemy to touch it (for the record, I feel that way about almost every Beatles cover out there as well).
The Roches, "For Unto Us a Child Is Born"
Hey, look! It's The Roches again! This song is like my holy grail of harmony. It's been one of my lifetime musical goals to be able to sing even one part of this song—when you hear it, you'll hear that it's incredibly difficult to sing.
Mariah Carey, "All I Want for Christmas Is You"
...OK, so sue me. I can't help it. I love this song. I am not a Mariah Carey fan. I respect her as an artist and as a vocalist, but her music isn't my cup of tea. But this song—this song is impossible for me to hear and not feel like dancing and like I've been possessed by the holiday spirit. It also reminds me of another favorite Christmas movie: "Love, Actually."
"Carol of the Bells"
It's hard to screw this song up. I love "Carol of the Bells." I've gotten to sing it in various choruses and arrangements (my favorite was arranged for barbershop harmony), and it never gets old. This is just a beautiful song, no matter who sings it. If I had to pick a favorite version, it would probably be the version by Pentatonix because I am a sucker for a cappella harmony and am a huge Pentatonix fangirl.
So there are my top 10 favorite holiday tunes. It was actually really hard to choose because I have a lot of songs that I love to listen to around Christmastime. Honorable mentions include "Last Christmas" (yes, seriously), "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (again, dead serious) and "Wonderful Christmastime" (there's a reason these didn't make it to the top 10 list).
Here's what the Twitter world is saying about their favorite festive tunes:
If you're curious about the rest of my Christmas playlist, here it is on Spotify. What's your favorite holiday tune?
Natalie Green is a Chicago girl living in Chattanooga with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter. When she’s not working full time outside of the home, she enjoys reading, writing, singing, zombies and running. From zombies. And also beer. You can stalk her blog, Mommy Boots, or follow her on Twitter @mommyboots; or you can email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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