Originally posted 12/02/2017. Updated and re-posted 12/02/2018. Updated and re-posted again 11/27/2020.
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 forty-five albums, which seems like a pretty good number to me, if a large one. I’ll divide those into approximate categories to organize things, and in some entries I will recommend multiple albums. I have seven categories and thirty entries here, to be exact. 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 forty-five 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
Paisley maintains both respect for the Country artists before him and an eye toward the future, making Christmas fun for any Country music fan. For other good Country Christmas albums beyond the 4 last entries, try John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Christmas (1975) and Emmylou Harris’s Light of the Stable (1979).
Ricky Skaggs and the Skaggs Family’s A Skaggs Family Christmas (Vol. 1)
Released in 2005
Bluegrass, old-time country, family, friends, Christ, and respect for Appalachian, American, and Judeo-Christian tradition. That’s what Christmas means to the Skaggs and Whites, which shows clearly on this album. I also recommend A Skaggs Family Christmas (Vol. 2) from 2011, but I love Volume One most. 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.
The 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 a younger Michael Jackson just belting out those lyrics! The rest of the music is irresistible as well. A Motown Christmas (1973) is great too.
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 vocals and M. Ward’s folksy, bluesy instrumentation work together to create a winsome set of minimalistically, 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. Check out their Christmas Party (2016) too.
Sia’s Everyday Is Christmas
Released in 2017
I enjoy Sia’s 2017 Christmas album and commend her efforts at making an all-out Christmas album her follow-up to 2016’s This Is Acting. Good on her. Greg Kurstin is involved, which can be great or meh and is good here. Mix up the Mariah Carey parts of your Christmas playlists!
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
Stirling’s violin performances and overall compositions here catch the listener up in a whirlwind of beautiful yet contemporary melody. The Christmas season certainly suits Stirling well. If you’re looking for a more experimental pop instrumental take on Christmas, try Sufjan Stevens’s Songs for Christmas (2006) and Silver & Gold (2012).
VOCAL POP CHRISTMAS ALBUMS
Michael Bublé’s Christmas
Released in 2011
Bublé’s jazzy vocal pop hearkens back to the days of Crosby and Sinatra, and though there’s a good chance you’re annoyed by him at this point in time (or by your mom’s and grandma’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 won’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
A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957), Burl Ives’s Have a Holly Jolly Christmas (1965), The Dean Martin Christmas Album (1966), José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad (1970), and Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart (2009) all illustrate that standards, folk songs, etc. are all part of the same American musical canon.
ROCK CHRISTMAS ALBUMS
Casting Crowns’ Peace on Earth
Released in 2008
Casting Crowns is a solid CCM band that also works well as a straightforward rock band—influenced by country and gospel—whose earnestness aids them. They bring their best talents to Peace. For something similar, try Third Day’s Christmas Offerings (2006) or Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God (2004/2019).
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 the instant I heard it, and I love it more each Christmas season. The combination of quiet, heartfelt, almost singer-songwriter style songs; orchestras and choirs; and grandiose tracks with well-constructed rock compositions makes for a marvelous combination, one that works and is uniquely Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And the album’s concept/story is beautiful, culminating in two moments that always bring me to tears. Try the other Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas albums too: The Christmas Attic (1998) and The Lost Christmas Eve (2004).
There you go!
Here’s my top 10, as best I can assemble it at the moment:
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
And here, for quick reference, are the 45 albums I just discussed, in the order I discussed them:
- Eden’s Bridge’s Celtic Christmas (1997)
- Enya’s And Winter Came (2008)
- Garth Brooks’s Beyond the Season (1992)
- Johnny Cash’s The Christmas Spirit (1963)
- Willie Nelson’s Pretty Paper (1979)
- Brad Paisley’s Christmas (2006)
- John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Christmas (1975)
- Emmylou Harris’s Light of the Stable (1979)
- Ricky Skaggs and the Skaggs Family’s A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume One (2005)
- Ricky Skaggs and the Skaggs Family’s A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume Two (2011)
- David Grisman’s Acoustic Christmas (1983)
- Gary Hoey’s The Best of Ho! Ho! Hoey! (2001)
- The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
- The Beach Boys’ The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album (1964)
- The Carpenter’s Christmas Portrait (1978)
- The Jackson 5’s Jackson 5 Christmas Album (1970)
- Various Artist’s A Motown Christmas (1973)
- Relient K’s Let It Snow, Baby, Let It Reindeer (2007)
- She & Him’s A Very She & Him Christmas (2011)
- She & Him’s Christmas Party (2016)
- Sia’s Everyday is Christmas (2017)
- Various Artist’s A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963)
- Lindsey Stirling’s Warmer in Winter (2017)
- Sufjan Stevens’s Songs for Christmas (2006)
- Sufjan Stevens’s Silver & Gold (2012)
- Michael Bublé’s Christmas (2011)
- Bing Crosby’s White Christmas (1945)
- Vince Gill’s Breath of Heaven (1998)
- Josh Groban’s Noël (2007)
- Nat King Cole’s The Magic of Christmas (1960)
- Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ It’s a Holiday Soul Party (2015)
- Frank Sinatra’s A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957)
- Burl Ives’s Have a Holly Jolly Christmas (1965)
- Dean Martin’s The Dean Martin Christmas Album (1966)
- José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad (1970)
- Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart (2009)
- Casting Crowns’ Peace on Earth (2008)
- Third Day’s Christmas Offerings (2006)
- Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God (2004/2019)
- Cheap Trick’s Christmas Christmas (2017)
- Elvis Presley’s Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957)
- Various Artist’s A Very Special Christmas (1987)
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Eve and Other Stories (1996)
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s The Christmas Attic (1998)
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s The Lost Christmas Eve (2004)
What are your favorite Christmas albums?
Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! And God bless us, every one.