Monday, December 15, 2014

30 Great Christmas Albums for the Whole Family

Music makes the Christmas season for me. I have a playlist of 200+ songs going all the time right now. It includes both secular and spiritual pieces, some nostalgic and others new discoveries.

I realize that the word "great" is subjective. I don't care for most Christmas music in the popular vein (think scoopy voices and ultra-emotive interpretations) or really country music either (for rather the same reasons). And I haven't explored any Christmas rock. So my list doesn't include much of those genres. Also, it only includes music all of us enjoy, including the kids. They couldn't handle much Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Marilyn Horne, so that didn't make it either. :)

Almost all of this music can be found on Spotify and other internet radio, so you don't have to purchase it to enjoy it. I hope that among these you might find something to add to your list of favorites. In return, don't forget share what you love with me!


A Little Christmas Music with the King's Singers
Such a great mix of class and humor.  My kids run to the speakers at the sound of "singing gaily all together" to hear the funny, clunky "fa la la la la" that follows. Their renditions of the Boar's Head Carol" and "Patapan" are stirring and powerful while their "Es ist ein Ros' entsprugen" and "Simple Gifts" are peaceful and heartwarming.

Spirit of the Season with Sissel and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
My visiting teachers gave me this album when I was first married, and I had no idea how it would become one of my favorites. It includes a few great Scandinavian carols presented by the crystal voice of Norwegian singer, Sissel. In fact, she's the reason I love this album.

Joyous Day with the Utah Chamber Artists
Even if my mom weren't in the choir when this album was recorded, it would still be one of my favorites. Bradford's arrangements are as moving as any I know. My favorites include "Sussex Carol," "Still Still Still" and "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella" but it's so hard to choose.

Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends
As a violinist, this album makes me snicker, but if you enjoy silky violin playing, you can't do any better than Joshua Bell!  Here, he collaborates with a different awesome artist (of various genres) on every track.

The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky 
Performed on this album by the New Hope Orchestra, this is more crucial Christmas listening (most any recording will do). We love all of it.

Sleigh Ride and Other Holiday Favorites by Leroy Anderson
Sleigh ride is a seasonal must, but my favorite piece on this album is Suite of Carols for strings (the last track) which I played many times in string orchestras when I was a teenager. It is lovely.

Cassation in G Major ("Toy Symphony") by Leopold Mozart 
It is disputed who really wrote this piece. For a long time people thought the composer was Haydn, but while most people now think Leopold Mozart (the famous Mozart's dad), it's apparently unconfirmed. Whoever wrote it gets credit for a lot of fun! There are actually parts written for toy instruments that make it quite an amusing listen.


A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Vince Guaraldi Trio
It's just not Christmas without it.

An Oscar Peterson Christmas 
A master of jazz, Peterson's suave, sophisticated piano playing will completely entrance you.

When My Heart Finds Christmas with Harry Connick Jr.
I'm under the impression that this album's no secret. We've used his "Winter Wonderland" and "It Musta Been Ol' Santa Claus" over the years in family Christmas programs (you should hear my brother Joe go at the piano!). Now, I'm tickled hearing my four-year-old belt out "I pray on Christmas!" with the best of 'em!

Christmas with Maureen McGovern
This is a unique collection of arrangements that you will listen to over and over. Her pure, versatile voice is so satisfying. I especially like "Do You Know It's Christmas?" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "I Wonder as I Wander" and "Our First Christmas" and her Sleigh Ride medley and, well, all of them. I was so lucky to grow up on this one.

Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
What's any playlist without Ella Fitzgerald?

Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas with various artists
One album, eleven jazz monarchs!

Christmastime with the Swingle Singers
A classy set of sparkling voices, these French singers meld their beautiful harmonies on pitches stated with jazzy syllables, rather than words. These arrangements feature a cozy jazz combo as back-up.


Traditional Christmas Carols with Pete Seeger
A devoted fan of Seeger's sound and style, I discovered this album just this year, and it is a gem! I love the folk approach because of its unadorned simplicity. He can sing all the verses you've never heard to "The First Noel" with not a bit of worry that it might seem too long or redundant.  I never knew I'd like a Christmas album with banjo, but I love it. I love it.

The Sounding Joy with Elizabeth Mitchell and Friends
Another folk singer unafraid to stand close to the microphone and keep it simple. Released just last year, this album presents songs you may never have heard and includes several memorable collaborations.

Christmas Spirituals with Odetta
You might not be able to stomach all of this album at once, but please treat yourself to a couple songs at a time. What a deep, resonant, soulful voice!! Wow.

Celtic Christmas and Christmas Angels with Katie McMahon
A soloist in the original Riverdance troupe, this Irish singer is probably my favorite discovery of the year. I am head over heels for her clear voice in these mixtures of both familiar and new carols.

Feliz Navidad with Jose Feliciano
Because, come on, why not?

Christmas Album with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
I grew up on this group, but I was still surprised how much I enjoyed this holiday album.

Oy to the World: A Klezmer Christmas with the Klezmonauts
This album was introduced to me just this year by some friends. You might have to hear it to believe it. Unbelievable what's going on here. Well done and so much fun!


Christmas Collections with the Carpenters
Karen Carpenter's rich alto voice. That's all.

The Very Best of Burl Ives Christmas
You might know his voice best from the stop motion animation of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special, some songs from which are included on this disc. Ives has a nice classic voice with a straightforward style.

The Andrews Sisters Sing Christmas
A very fun trio. They recorded many Christmas songs with Bing Crosby, considered by some to be the king of the Christmas playlist. I'm only slightly ashamed to admit that I just can't stomach him. But I love the ladies by themselves!


Cole, Christmas, and Kids with Nat King Cole
He has always been one of my favorites singers this time of year, but I just discovered this super album made especially for kids. We all love it. Our favorites include "The Happiest Christmas Tree," "All I Want for Christmas," and "Buon Natale."

The Polar Express Soundtrack
I love this movie and I love the soundtrack. We wait in anticipation all year to re-experience it! The theme song ("Polar Express") is our favorite, followed closely by "Hot Chocolate," but we also love "Spirit of the Season." And Keenan has been very patient with the numerous listenings to "Rockin' on Top of the World" (he thinks the singer sounds like a wild animal).

A Christmas Together with John Denver and the Muppets
I wish I could find an album with the songs from A Muppet Family Christmas, but these guys are a fun combo. "Twelve Days of Christmas" and "We Wish You a merry Christmas" get us giggling.

Chipmunks Christmas with Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and Dave
A little silly stuff is okay. ;)

Raffi's Christmas Album
Another admirably straightforward singer who draws the kids right in. This album does not disappoint.

What are you listening to this season?


  1. I honestly don't like most Christmas music (I know, what?) But I know if I searched a little harder I could find some I enjoy. Your list has some I'm interested in trying out. Thanks for the overview!

  2. Nonie, THANK YOU for putting this together! You reminded me of some old favorites I hadn't thought about in a long time. And I'm very excited to check out some of the others. That klesmer album is a riot.

  3. Nonie, this is a treasure trove! Thanks for posting it. I'll look for it.... next Christmas!

  4. I swear I commented on this! I don't know where it went... This is such a wonderful list. Thank you for taking the time to compile it for us all. We need some refreshing, when it comes to Christmas music around here.