The Top 50 Christmas Songs of All Time, According to Our Editors
Freshen up your holiday tunes with our favorite picks by Southern artists.
Christmas music: you’re either one of those people who’s itching to press play the day after Thanksgiving or you’re the kind of person who might scream if you hear “Jingle Bell Rock” one more time. Chances are you likely have a mixture of these two camps in your house during the holidays. To satisfy (almost) everyone, we created a set of 50 songs almost entirely by Southern artists that deliver the classics holiday music-lovers crave, but you’ll also find: under-appreciated country Christmas numbers, fresh tracks from the newest holiday albums, deep cuts from the all-time greats, and every genre from soul to bluegrass to gospel to Parrothead. Have an open house tonight? Looking for some unexpected additions to your regular rotation? Find us on Spotify and stream our Ultimate Holiday Playlist.
“Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley
Fun fact: Elvis’ Christmas Album still to this day remains the best-selling Christmas album of all time.
“White Christmas” by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
There’s a reason a few of our editors own this album from Georgia native Sharon Jones on vinyl.
“Pretty Paper” by Willie Nelson
Revisit this country Christmas staple written by Willie, and covered by Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, and many others.
“Feliz Navidad” by Kacey Musgraves
A mariachi moment hot of the skillet from Kacey’s holiday album.
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Johnny Cash
While Johnny Cash’s The Christmas Spirit isn’t the most cheery choice in regards to Christmas music, “I Heard the Bells…” is a hopeful carol.
“Go Tell It on the Mountain” by Penny and Sparrow
This Florence, Alabama-based duo recently released a collection of Christmas classics with modern arrangements and refreshing harmonies.
“Zat You Santa Claus” by Harry Connick, Jr.
New Orleans has a whole genre of holiday music to itself. This song originally popularized by Louis Armstrong gets a jazzy cover by another Big Easy artist, Harry Connick, Jr.
“Country Christmas” by Loretta
Lynn Loretta not only released Full Circle last year, but a brand new Christmas album too.
“If We Make It Through December” by Merle Haggard and The Strangers
This one goes out to anyone ready to close the book on 2017.
“Santa Claus Is Back in Town” by Dwight Yoakam
Dwight’s slightly rowdier take on Elvis’ Memphis blues-inspired original.
“Winter Wonderland” by Louis Armstrong
No holiday playlist is complete without Pops.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Jimmy Buffett
For anyone wishing they were celebrating in sunny Margaritaville. Bonus: the sound of steel drum seems to instantly alleviate stress brought on by a house full of relatives.
“Pretty Paper” by Robert Ellis
Yes, we already have Willie’s cover of this song, but Texas native Robert Ellis’ vocals on this version are too gorgeous not to include.
“Merry Christmas to You” by The Blind Boys of Alabama and Taj Mahal
A jammy Christmas ballad from the gospel greats plus a blues guitar legend.
“Silent Night” by Slim Whitman
Every holiday playlist needs at least one iteration of “Silent Night.” This simple, sincere rendition by Florida cowboy Slim Whitman is free of histrionics and over-orchestration.
“May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas” by Irma Thomas and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band
The Queen of Soul and the keepers of the traditional jazz flame come together for a feel-good hymn that could only come from New Orleans.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Tift Merritt
This mandatory track can feel tired or dramatic, but North Carolina singer-songwriter Tift Merritt adds just the right bittersweet note.
“This Christmas” by Gladys Knight and the Pips
Something about this soul standard just makes us want to throw on color coordinating suits and perform synchronized spins.
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“The Night Before Christmas Song” by Gene Autry and Rosemary Clooney
Texas-born Gene and Kentucky lady Rosemary give this playlist the nostalgic hit it needs.
“O Jerusalem” by Odetta
The voice of the Civil Rights Movement, Odetta’s Christmas folk music collection is a powerful one worth a close listen on its own.
“Everything is Cool” by John Prine
When the holidays get overwhelming, shut yourself inside your pantry and repeat after John Prine, “Everything is Cool. Everything’s okay.”
“Hark! The Angels Sing” by Luther Dickinson
Leave it to Luther Dickinson from the North Mississippi All Stars to turn this ancient aria into a bluesy, guitar-driven instrumental.
“The Christmas Song” by Al Green
The Reverend’s holiday repertoire is mandatory. “Christmas Comes to Us All Once a Year” by Mahalia Jackson If you’re a fan for those powerhouse Christmas canons, Memphis’ Queen of Gospel does it right.
“A Christmas to Remember” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
If you haven’t watched the accompanying music video starring Dolly in a sequined ski vest, a few dozen mannequins, and a slightly tipsy Kenny Rogers, do yourself a favor and get on YouTube.
“The Last Month of the Year” by The Staples Singers
Mavis, Pops, Cleotha, Pervis, and Yvonne help take this playlist back home.
“Christmas is Near” by Ralph Stanley
We may have lost the king of bluegrass this past year, but his voice endures.
“Soulful Christmas” by James Brown
A perfect track for anyone who likes to dance while they wait for pies to bake or standing rib roasts to, well, roast.
“Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Since its release in 1992, the song has raised more than $200,000 to benefit athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton
A must on Associate Editor Brennan Long’s holiday playlist.
“In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley
Memphis homegirl and our Homes and Gardens Editor Zoe Gowen thought we needed one more addition from the King.
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by The Jackson 5
Both Zoe and our staff writer Michelle Darrisaw agree that this is a holiday essential.
“Merry Christmas Strait To You” by George Strait
Kicking of a “strait” of Texas artists, this carol is guaranteed to bring that peak 90s country vibe to your Christmas open house.
“Christmas Time in Texas” by Gary P. Nunn
The father of Austin’s progressive country scene, Nunn’s has a Tex-Mex flavor your holiday party
“Merry Christmas From the Family” by Robert Earl Keen
“Grateful for Christmas” by Hayes Carll
Both Robert and Hayes add some much needed dose of reality to our winter wonderland.
“Christmas in Dixie” by Alabama
You didn’t think we’d forget this one did you?
“It’s Christmas Time” by Clifton Chenier
The King of Bayou and King of the Zydeco Clifton Chenier gives this playlist an accordion element.
“A Saints Christmas” by Kermit Ruffins
In the words of Kermit, “Music lovers! All aboard! We partyin’!”
“Shimmy Down the Chimney” by Allison Krauss
Allison gets funky for this riff on a holiday standard.
“Louisiana Christmas Day” by Aaron Neville
New Orleans native son gives us a song that could only come from the city.
“Love on Layaway” by Gloria Estefan
A danceable take on missing your S.O. on Christmas
“Sleigh Ride” by Ella Fitzgerald
This daughter of Newport News, Virginia had her centennial remembrance this year.
“I Won’t Decorate Your Christmas Tree” by Loretta Lynn
Loretta gets puts the sass back in Christmas.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee
Lest we forget that this Christmas staple was sung by an Atlantian.
“Christmas Coming Home” by Lennon and Maisy
For all you Nashville fans still in denial over the show’s demise.
“The First Noel” by Emmylou Harris
Emmylou brings roots and gospel harmonies to this carol of carols.
“Christmas Must Be Tonight” by the Band
Okay, we accept that they aren’t technically Southern, but we still can’t help but claim Levon Helm.
“Winter Wonderland” by Valerie June
Another modern selection our editors love.
“Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” by Darius Rucker
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, stand up!
“Merry Christmas Baby” by Otis Redding
When you start with the King of Rock, it’s fitting to end with the King of Soul.