Five Things I Think: The Best Christmas Songs of All Time

Yesterday I wrote about the over saturation of Christmas music being played non-stop on my local radio station. And although they have tried their best to ruin songs that I’ve grown up with and adore they haven’t succeeded.

There are certain songs played only this time of year that not only remind me about the true meaning of the holiday but also conjure up memories of family and Christmases long gone by. After all, there really is no place like home for the holidays.

The list of songs I’ve compiled here all have one thing in common: visual imagery. When ever I hear these songs (done well of course) I find myself being caught up “in” the story of the song.  So with this in mind you’ll see that none of these songs contain barking dogs, Christmas donkeys or Grandmas getting run over. Yes, songs like that are cute but they aren’t even in the same league as the ones below.

Although I don’t ever recall toasting marshmallows this time of year or telling tales of glory or ghosts (although there was that one time I saved the cat that was stuck out on the roof) these songs forever hold a special place in my heart. Let’s see if you agree.

My Favorite Christmas songs of all time:

5. Christmas Time Is Here(1965): It’s got to be the version by Vince Guaraldi for The Charlie Brown Christmas Special. No other song sets the mood for Christmas more for me than this. When I hear this song I immediately conjure up memories of Snoopy and all the children skating on the ice as the snow softly falls. For a short while I’m a child again sitting in the parlor with my grandparents watching the show underneath a lighted Christmas tree and all is well with the world.

4. Happy Christmas (War is Over) – (1971): I’ve always been a big fan of John Lennon. But in all of the songs he’s written nothing (well except for maybe Imagine) makes you think more than this one does. From the very first line it immediately asks the question:

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done?

And I think, what have I done? What have we all done to make this a better world? It can happen….if we only want it to. So why haven’t we?

3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1944): Initially written to coincide with a scene in the Judy Garland movie Meet Me In St. Louis, I can only imagine what it must have been like to have watched this movie in the theater and heard that song for the very first time. This song also brings back warm memories of family for me, most notably the line:

Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow

What a promise of hope. Although families may be apart due to death, distance or war someday, God willing, we will once again all be together.

2. Do You Hear What I Hear – (1962): Believe it or not this song was actually written during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A time when the threat of nuclear war was very real and very near. Although the real meaning of this song dealt with one of the scariest times in our nation’s history when I listen to this song now I immediately become one with the night wind, Sheppard boy and mighty king. In my mind’s eye I see an old kingdom on the first Christmas morning where royal and peasant join in unison in praising the name of the newborn. I see myself high above the tree looking down and taking it all in as the call to pray for peace everywhere is made. Sadly, 50 years since it was written and this same proclamation couldn’t be needed more.

1. Hark The Herald Angels Sing – A carol that actually began in the mid 1700’s and went through several iterations to become what it is today. This song is my all time favorite for several reasons but mostly because of just one line that pretty much sums up the entire holiday for me:

Peace on Earth and Mercy Mild, God and Sinners reconciled.

So tell me, what are some of your favorite songs of Christmas?

About James Wood

Influenced by life, love and the pursuit of the perfect song is what best describes my passion. I’m a closeted classic rock/metal-head from the 80′s who loves to write.

Posted on December 23, 2011, in Christmas, Things I Think and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. You’ve got a good list there. One of my favorites that didn’t make it to your list is Little Drummer Boy.

  2. I am with Joe! “The Little Drummer Boy” in it’s original form with the children singing makes me cry every time I hear it, especially if I hear it performed by young children. I just had the pleasure last weekend and when my son heard the opening drums, he turned to me and said “Are you going to cry now?”. Of course I claimed I would not, but Lord help me, several crocodile tears slipped down my cheeks. The reason I am so touched by this song is that it brings to mind that God and Jesus do not wish for pretty packages or commercialized chachki, but only wish that we would give our best to others, whatever that may be.

    Oh, and “O’ Holy Night”! the most beautiful and compelling chorus to date. Plus we sang it in HS choir which is such a fond memory for me.

    Merry Christmas!

    • I so agree with your thoughts about The Little Drummer Boy. The way that Christmas is commercialized these days it’s easy to lose track of it’s real meaning.

      It’s funny you mention the crocodile tears when you hear it. I feel the same way whenever I hear the song with the dirty little boy trying to buy his Mom a present before she meets Jesus…Curse you Christmas Shoes!!…

      And I remember our days in choir so well Michelle! Especially the Christmas concert and O’ Holy Night. Good memories for sure! :)

  3. Anything by Mannheim Steamroller. Especially my favorite, Silent Night. They’ve captured it with that song. Spine-chilling, heart-tugging and quite emotional. And, just as you think you’ve entered your further-most reaches of your Christmas memories in your mind, they hit you with the children’s piano near the very end, just after the transition, around the 4 and a half minute mark (YouTube it). I had a small children’s piano as a child, and hearing its unmistakable sound of the keystrokes hits me every time. I’m playing it in the background as I type this, and it is a song that I can play a thousand times and never think of it as old or worn out. Merry Christmas, my friend!!!…Dale Wilson

  4. Maybe not-so-much spine-chilling…lol. I meant it maybe something like it raises the hairs on my neck. I got my Stephen King adjectives confused with my Santa Clause/Easter Bunny adjectives.

  5. Yes, a great version! I love Christmas songs that “take you somewhere”. The Christmas Canon by Trans Siberian Orchestra is another song I’d forgotten about that makes me feel the same way. New lyrics set to the music of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major (for us music geeks), Very powerful stuff.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family too Dale! Glad we were able to reconnect.

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