Originally posted 12/02/2017. Updated and re-posted 12/02/2018.
My favorite Christmas albums. . . I originally debated how many albums to include in this list. I love Christmas music and have, over the years, amassed a large number of favorite Christmas albums. However, I ended up deciding on thirty entries, which seems like a pretty good number to me, if a large one. I’ll divide those into approximate categories to organize things. Hopefully, you’ll find something here that you’ve never heard and would like to check out, something new with which to fall in love!
So, without further ado, here are my thirty personal favorite Christmas albums of all time.
CELTIC CHRISTMAS ALBUMS
Eden’s Bridge’s Celtic Christmas (Reissued as Irish Christmas)
Released in 1997
I remember listening to this album from bed as my parents played it in the living room Christmas morning. I especially remember the guitar solo partway through the album, splitting through the calming yet passionate Celtic sounds. My best thing to say: I fell in love with Celtic Christmas‘s beauty.
Enya’s And Winter Came
Released in 2008
Enya has a haunting, transporting voice. Give this album a listen and be carried swiftly into the hills of Ireland on a misty, crisp, December morning. Hear the celebratory holiday sounds of this ancient land float and flow around you. You will not be disappointed. Enya brings her best here.
COUNTRY CHRISTMAS ALBUMS
Garth Brooks’s Beyond the Season
Released in 1992
Nestled right between Ropin’ the Wind and The Chase, Beyond the Season came at both the height of this hit country singer’s popularity and the height of his ability. Say what you will about Garth, his charm and charisma is captivating. So is this record. As always, his vocals soar.
Johnny Cash’s The Christmas Spirit
Released in 1963
Cash’s best stab at a Christmas record that truly represents his unique identity, The Christmas Spirit is informed effectively by the Man in Black’s Christianity – despite his rather hard living at this time – and by his childhood experiences of tough times on a New Deal colony farm during the Depression.
Willie Nelson’s Pretty Paper
Released in 1979
Pretty Paper probably hasn’t aged as well as some of the albums on this list, but it’s hard to deny the draw and ability of Nelson’s voice and guitar, accompanied by minimal instrumentation, to sit you down easy for a chill Christmas afternoon. Pretty Paper‘s a good one, and warming.
Brad Paisley’s Christmas
Released in 2006
Brad Paisley has always maintained aspects of both immense respect for the country artists before him and an eye out toward the future. It hasn’t always worked for him. Sometimes, his songs are cringeworthy. Yet it works for him here. Christmas is a fun Christmas country album, though not perfect.
Ricky Skaggs and the Skaggs Family’s A Skaggs Family Christmas (Vol. 1)
Released in 2005
Bluegrass, old-time country, family, friends, Christ, celebration, and respect for Appalachian, American, and Judeo-Christian tradition. That’s what Christmas means to the Skaggs and the Whites, and that shows clearly and pleasantly on this album. The second volume is pretty decent, but I love volume one much. The Skaggs’ passion shows.
INSTRUMENTAL CHRISTMAS ALBUMS
David Grisman’s Acoustic Christmas
Released in 1983
I received this album as a Christmas present one year. I was around twelve, I think, and a mandolin player in my extended family’s bluegrass gospel band. This was one of my first steps toward wanting more out of my music, though I didn’t necessarily love the album at first.
Gary Hoey’s The Best of Ho! Ho! Hoey!
Released in 2001
From 1995 to 1999, hard rock and heavy metal guitarist extraordinaire Gary Hoey put out three albums of fresh, exciting, electric guitar instrumental renditions of various Christmas classics. These are, mostly, the best tracks of those albums and a great listen for fans of rock and masterfully played rock guitar.
Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas
Released in 1965
A Charlie Brown Christmas, a jazz Christmas album, is just as essential as the TV special classic from which it comes. There is no better choice for the background music of a wonderful Christmas party, and, without a doubt, you’ll find yourself dancing a fair bit. Don’t deny it, now!
POP CHRISTMAS ALBUMS
The Beach Boys’ The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album
Released in 1964
An all-time best Christmas album and one of Brian Wilson’s and The Beach Boys’ first steps toward helping elevate pop music from down in the throwaway tunes of a generation up to the timeless, classic compositions you find here and on Pet Sounds and “Good Vibrations.” It’s a delight, too.
The Carpenters’ Christmas Portrait
Released in 1978
For many music fans, it isn’t Christmas without the Carpenters. Christmas Portrait is truly Christmas music for everyone. Your grandmother who only likes the old, old, old stuff; your dad still stuck in the ’70s or ’80s; and even those dang “millennials,” many of whom grew up hearing Christmas Portrait.
The Jackson 5’s Jackson 5 Christmas Album
Released in 1970
Did Motown ever produce a more memorable Christmas record than the Jackson 5 Christmas Album? I don’t think so. And it’s always interesting to hear Michael Jackson in his younger days. Man, is he belting out those lyrics! The rest of the music is good as well. It’s all irresistible!
Relient K’s Let It Snow, Baby, Let It Reindeer
Released in 2007
Will I be run out of town by pop punk fans for including something by Relient K instead of Weezer’s Christmas EP? Well, who cares! This is my list, and I’ll do what I want! Ha! Whatever you say about Relient K, I think this is a fun Christmas listen.
She & Him’s A Very She & Him Christmas
Released in 2011
Zooey Deschanel’s raspy, jazzy, appealing vocals and M. Ward’s folksy, bluesy, echoing instrumentation work together to create a winsome set of minimalistically yet cheerfully performed songs that you’d have to be the Grinch to dislike! I’m just kidding, but I do love She & Him’s sound. The sequel’s good too.
Sia’s Everyday Is Christmas
Released in 2017
Why this? So be it. I enjoyed Sia’s 2017 Christmas album, and I commend her efforts at essentially making a Christmas album her full-blown next project after 2016’s This Is Acting. Good on her, I say. Greg Kurstin is involved, which can be great or meh. It’s really good here.
Phil Spector’s/Various Artist’s A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector
Released in 1963
If it weren’t for the album that I have as my favorite (coming soon), this would probably be the one. Yes, Spector’s reputation has been severely tarnished. He is a terrible human being. But he produced some fantastic pop records, and this is one of his best. And the talent!
Lindsey Stirling’s Warmer in the Winter
Released in 2017
Another release from 2017! What can I say? Stirling’s violin performances and overall compositions catch me up in a whirlwind of beautiful yet modern melody, and Christmas suits Stirling rather well. Two or three tracks aren’t necessarily awesome, but the album is fantastic, without a doubt! Check it out!
VOCAL POP CHRISTMAS ALBUMS
Michael Bublé’s Christmas
Released in 2011
Bublé’s jazzy vocal pop hearkens back to the days of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, and though there’s a good chance you’re annoyed by him at this point in time (or by your mom’s loving him so much), he still performs these songs effortlessly, and he knows a good set.
Bing Crosby’s White Christmas (Originally released as Merry Christmas)
Released in 1945
The one, the only, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. If America could only have one Christmas album, this would be the one. You sure wouldn’t hear me complain! Crosby almost is Christmas, just as much as It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol! You’ve surely already heard this. It’s great!
Vince Gill’s Breath of Heaven
Released in 1998
None of Vince Gill’s Christmas projects are half as good as this. Instead of going the more country route, Vince Gill places his high yet grounded voice in front of a full orchestra, and it works marvelously. Especially “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Breath of Heaven.”
Josh Groban’s Noël
Released in 2007
Many probably think of Josh Groban as basically the Michael Bolton of today, but that’s simply not the case, just based on Groban’s vocal ability alone. Pair Noël in a playlist with “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” from Groban’s debut album, and there you’ll have a Christmas playlist to beat!
Nat King Cole’s The Magic of Christmas (Reissued as The Christmas Song)
Released in 1960
Like many of these albums, is it Christmas without Nat King Cole? And The Magic of Christmas is, in my opinion, the best release to play, whether you’re spinning the original or the reissued version. Everyone knows Cole’s voice and interpretations of these songs, whether they think so or not.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ It’s a Holiday Soul Party
Released in 2015
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings always brought the soul, rhythm, and funk in a way that you remember the old soul acts sounding, but also in a way that even they sometimes struggled to deliver. This album is relevant, aware, joyous, fun Christmas music with heart and spirit. And soul.
Frank Sinatra’s A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra
Released in 1957
Frank Sinatra is one of the most influential artists of all time, and, with this album, he brought his jazz and swing vocal and interpretation style to Christmas songs. Though when it competes directly with Crosby’s White Christmas, it has to end up bowing out, it’s a fantastic Christmas record.
ROCK CHRISTMAS ALBUMS
Casting Crowns’ Peace on Earth
Released in 2008
Casting Crowns, to me, is not only just a solid CCM band, but also they work rather well as a straightforward, stripped-down, rock band influenced and informed by country and gospel. Moreover, their earnestness and honesty aids them. They bring the best of all their talents to this Christmas album.
Cheap Trick’s Christmas Christmas
Released in 2017
What does this album sound like? Probably exactly what you think it does. But it’s not lazy or too hurried feeling, and it probably is the best it could be. It even features a few good original songs from the band. I enjoy it, and I think you might, too.
Elvis Presley’s Elvis’ Christmas Album
Released in 1957
Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, has the best-selling Christmas album of all time in the United States, and that’s what this album is. Deserving, too, containing one of my favorite renditions of “Here Comes Santa Clause,” the best version of “Blue Christmas,” and four awe-inspiring gospel tunes.
Jimmy Iovine’s/Various Artist’s A Very Special Christmas
Released in 1987
The first in a series of Christmas compilation albums produced, here, by Jimmy Iovine for A&M to raise money for the Special Olympics. I still think this is the one to go to, if not the best. So many incredible ’80s artists here, many at the heights of their careers.
AND . . . MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS ALBUM
Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Eve and Other Stories
Released in 1996
This album came along for me during a time when I was learning to broaden my musical horizons. I loved it from the instant I heard it, and I love it more every Christmas season. The combination of quite, heartfelt, almost singer-songwriter style songs; orchestras and choirs; and grandiose tracks with well-constructed rock and metal compositions and instrumentals makes for a marvelous combination, one that works, one that is uniquely Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And the concept’s story is beautiful, culminating in two moments that never fail to bring me nearly to tears. Try the other two Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas albums, too.
There you go!
Here’s my top 10:
10. Jackson 5’s Jackson 5 Christmas Album
9. Vince Gill’s Breath of Heaven
8. Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas
7. The Beach Boys’ The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album
6. Elvis Presley’s Elvis’ Christmas Album
5. Bing Crosby’s White Christmas
4. Casting Crowns’ Peace on Earth
3. Eden’s Bridge’s Celtic Christmas
2. Phil Spector’s/Various Artist’s A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector
1. Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Eve and Other Stories
What are your favorite Christmas albums?
Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! And God bless us, every one.