A Comprehensive Guide to Holiday Music

If you’re like me, you’ve been living in the “holiday season” since November 1.

Between daydreaming of the end of the semester and eagerly browsing Black Friday sales way before my Halloween decorations were taken down, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this season all year long. 

Though, regardless of my anxious awaiting of Christmas season and the arrival of winter, the biggest hint that the holidays are upon us is, of course, Christmas music. Whether you love it or hate it, Christmas music is a pillar of the culture and has a way of wrapping you up in a hug. Ask each of your friends what their favorite holiday song is, and you’ll get dozens of different answers. 

As a sometimes-adult who is incredibly into this time of year, I thought it best to compile a list of essential holiday songs (by category, of course) to help you get into the spirit of the season. 

The Classics

Some holiday songs transport you through time -- all the best songs do. Best played on an old radio in your grandparents’ house, these songs are intergenerational in the best way. They have endless covers and renditions by the pop stars of the day, but nothing is like hearing them from the artists of a previous era.

Frank Sinatra - “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

The Carpenters - “Merry Christmas Darling”

Andy Williams - “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Bing Crosby - “Auld Lang Syne”

Nat King Cole - “The Christmas Song”

The Pop Anthems

Every year, dozens of pop artists release holiday albums or holiday singles for listeners to indulge in throughout the month of December. While covers of the classics are always welcomed, this list is for original songs. 

Mariah Carey - “All I Want For Christmas is You”

Britney Spears: “My Only Wish (This Year)”

Justin Bieber: “Mistletoe”

Ariana Grande: “Winter Things”

Sia: “Santa’s Coming for Us”

The Upbeats

Whether a silly character or an epic boyband, these songs bring out the inner 90s kid in all of us. Think: wandering the endless aisles of Toys R Us (RIP), making mental notes of what toys to put on your list. 

Bing Crosby: “Frosty the Snowman”

Burl Ives: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

Alvin and the Chipmunks: “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” 

Destiny’s Child: “8 Days of Christmas”

NSYNC: “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays”

The Sad Ballads

No matter what holiday you celebrate, no matter your religion or your customs, there is something about being alone during the holiday season that just hits different. Lucky for all of us sad people out there, there’s a whole list of quality holiday songs just for this purpose. 

Rascal Flatts: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Note: regardless of the artist behind the sound, this song is hauntingly beautiful.) 

Wham!: “Last Christmas”

Eagles: “Please Come Home for Christmas”

Newsong: “Christmas Shoes”

Bing Crosby: “White Christmas”

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, or just like to listen to good music, there is something here for everyone to enjoy. Gather your friends, family and some big mugs of hot chocolate and sing along.