And now, for our feature presentation:
Initially, I was gonna do a top ten countdown, but then I decided against putting these ones in any sort of order, because, truthfully, it’s not a competition. Except for the first one, these are my faves in no particular order (click the titles to see a YouTube video of that song):
“Mary, Did You Know?”
Lyrics by Mark Lowry.
Music by Buddy Green.
Performed by various.
I heard said once that this song has become “a new Christmas standard.” It’s true. I fully expect this song to be played all time and am disappointed when it’s not. It’s somber. It’s biblical. It’s powerful. It’s thought-provoking. I like it. There is not a “definitive’ version, in my opinion, even though it’s been interpreted by different Christian singers and celebrities, such as Clay Aiken. I heard the Kenny Rogers/Winona Judd version, and it was awful. They totally made it about themselves instead of Jesus and Mary. If you’re going to pick a version, go with the rendition in the link above, performed by the original authors, which also includes a killer harmonica solo by Green.
“O Holy Night”
Performed famously by various, including Martina McBride and Celine Dion.
I just love this song. There’s a certain majestic feel to it. It really evokes that feeling of standing in awe at the miracle of the birth of Christ. And I love when it gets to the lines “Fall on your knees” and “Christ is the Lord.” Good stuff, man. Now, apparently the Celine Dion rendition is one of the most famous, but I’m more familiar with radio-favorite Martina McBride. I have no idea who she is, but it would appear she’s a big deal in the country music realm.
“Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Lyrics by Noel Regney.
Music by Gloria Shayne Baker.
Performed famously by Bing Crosby.
I may sound here like I’m contradicting myself, but I love this song, even if I’m not quite clear on how exactly this is a Christmas song (apparently it had something to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Look it up!). It’s that Bing Crosby, man. Some people just have a cool voice. In particular, that version also has that “marching band” melody going on for it, which I dig. Other versions include one by Carrie Underwood, which is good too, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Crosby’s. So yeah, this one is here sorely on the merits of the music.
“Grown-Up Christmas List”
Music by David Foster.
Lyrics by Linda Thompson.
Performed famously by Amy Grant and Kelly Clarkson.
Next to “Mary, Did You Know,” I’d put this one right up there with the songs that best encapsulate the best things about Christmas. It’s true, when we grow up and start thinking about others instead of ourselves, we tend to think of our wishes for the season differently. It’s totally the polar opposite of “Santa Baby.” It’s got a soulful melody, too. While Amy Grant made this song popular, I’m torn between her rendition and that of my favorite singer, Kelly Clarkson. Oh. My. Goodness. That girl can sing.
“Carol of the Bells”
Performed by various, including David Foster, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Celtic Woman.
I know next to nothing about this song, but I like the melody. I’m more familiar with the TSO version of it, since it blasted my ears off when I was at Six Flags that one year. The David Foster version is pretty popular, too, and I generally prefer it over TSO, simply because the former sounds more grandiose and elegant compared to the “judgment day”, “let’s rock and roll” feel to the latter. I should note that those two have no vocals. Celtic Woman, whom I will talk about in greater detail later on, sings an amazing version, complete with violins playing.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas”
Performed by various, including John Denver and the Muppets.
The only reason this is even here is because of the Muppets. John Denver just came with the package deal. The song coming originally from a ’70s TV special, you just gotta love it when Miss Piggy sings her part. “Five Gold Rings! Badum-dum-dum”
“All I Want For Christmas Is You”
Written by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff.
Performed by Mariah Carey.
Before she went crazy, Mariah Carey was a pretty good, successful singer. I honestly didn’t know this was her own work, and regardless of what you may think of her as a person, you gotta admit this is a fun song. Much like “Grown-Up Christmas List” (though I hesitate to lump both songs together), this is a song about wanting something other than the material, in this case just to spend time with a loved one (which resonates with me, not living in the same town as my girlfriend).
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.
Performed by Judy Garland.
Performed famously by Frank Sinatra, Carrie Underwood, and the Carpenters.
There are many different versions to this song. Some may like the Frank Sinatra. There’s that rendition by Celtic Woman. Personally, I like the one by the Carpenters (Karen sings while her brother Richard plays the piano). When I first introduced my dad to those awful Christmas songs, he in turn showed me this by Karen Carpenter, loved by many for her fantastic voice. And he was right. She was awesome. This is a good feel-good song.
Performed by various, including the Carpenters and Amy Grant.
Another Carpenters hit. Also, another song that apparently had nothing to do with Christmas (at least originally). While I picked other songs in this list because of their tune, this one is here because of Karen Carpenter.
“The First Noel”
Performed by various, including Elvis, Carrie Underwood, and Jaci Velasquez.
Of the songs most considered Christmas classics, I like “The First Noel” because it makes me feel serene. That’s a good thing. And believe it or not, Elvis did record a version of this song. The version I heard on the radio that made me put this up here was that of Jaci Velasquez, but Carrie Underwood’s is good, too. Anyone have any idea why is it called “The First Noel” though?
Written by Jay Livingstone and Ray Evans.
Performed famously by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards.
Performed also by various, including John Denver.
Oddly enough, I found the version by Crosby and Richards to be, well, dull. Denver’s version is a more folksy, and I was far more entertained by that one. So there you go. Yeah, I don’t know what the song is about either.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
Performed by various, including Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Celtic Woman.
I don’t know what it is about some songs, where one famous artist ruins it for me while another makes it awesome. Such is the case here, where Bing Crosby makes this kinda dull for me. Nat King Cole, on the other hand, makes it very entertaining. I also get a kick out of the chorus. They sound like they are chanting at Masonic Temple or something.
“What Child Is This?”
Written by William Chatterton Dix.
Performed by various, including Carrie Underwood.
Another slow and serene song, sung powerfully by Carrie Underwood (the version I’m most familiar with through the radio).