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The old, the new, the strange: Christmas tunes from the past, present, and future

Thanksgiving has passed. November is in the past. Boxes upon boxes of candy canes line the shelves of overly bright department stores, meaning that time of the year has arrived, meaning the most wonderful time of the year, meaning the four-week oasis between Thanksgiving and New Year’s when Christmas music becomes socially acceptable to listen to.

Now, I have to admit that I began listening to Christmas music far before the socially accepted time period — a few days before Halloween, to be exact — and I know that Christmas music is not for everyone. Not everyone celebrates Christmas in the first place, and the music can get tiring after stores, restaurants, and the radio relentlessly smother you with jingling sleigh bells, lyrics about snow, and Santa ho ho ho-ing for weeks on end.


However, I find that the chimes, bells, and kooky lyrics give Christmas music a certain charm and sparkle that can’t be found in any other genre of music. The motifs featured in Christmas music embody the spirit of the holiday itself. So, listening to Christmas music fills me with feelings of nostalgia for warm cookies, giving and gifting, hot cocoa, Christmas lights and decorations, and spending time with loved ones.

Of course, not everyone has these same associations, but in hopes of spreading some of my holiday cheer with others, I’ve created a playlist packed with fresh Christmas-and-winter-related jams. Well-aware of how annoying Christmas music gets after hearing the same songs over and over again, there also are songs by lesser-known and non-Christmassy artists as well.

Whether you love the old Golden-Age-of-Hollywood classics rife with the likes of Perry Como and Frank Sinatra, or the strangest, most bizarre Christmas ditties that never play on the radio because they’re just too weird, I’ve got you covered! Here is a brief sampler of a few of the songs and pieces included in the playlist — 12 songs, for the 12 days of Christmas:

1. “Angel’s Dance” by Cincinnati Pops Orchestra: A sweet, simple, yet beautiful piece that almost sounds like movie music. Truly sounds like angels dancing in snow.

2. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” by Perry Como: Christmas classic, family favorite, radio-recycled.

3. “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin & Jascha Heifetz: A classic performed by Jascha Heifetz, violin virtuoso, arguably the greatest violinist of all time. Sounds like liquid love.


4. “Christmas Island” by Ella Fitzgerald: A seriously underrated jazzy Christmas jingle sung by American jazz sweetheart, Ella Fitzgerald.

5. “Les trois cloches” by Edith Piaf: “Les trois cloches” means “the three bells.” Sounds very holy, very majestic, very resonant, very dramatic — typical of the fabulous Edith.

6. “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” by Frank Sinatra: Sinatra, my personal favorite. Anything his voice mutters sounds just utterly, undoubtedly delightful.

7. “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” by Sufjan Stevens: If you watched “Call Me by Your Name,” you’re familiar with the work of Sufjan Stevens. However, you probably didn’t know that he has not just one but two extremely folksy, indie Christmas and winter-themed albums.

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8. “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes: Not strictly related to Christmas, but all around a very warm, very cozy winter-themed song.

9. “My Old Santa Claus” by Sia: Somehow, even with the sleigh bells and Christmas lyrics, Sia’s music has such a powerful, ceiling-shattering quality to it.

10. “Thank God It’s Christmas” by Queen: Not quite “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but the song still invokes Queen’s rock-a cappella aesthetic.

11. “Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson: With a similar opening to Mariah Carey’s signature “All I Want for Christmas is You,” Clarkson belts out another underrated Christmas masterpiece.

12. “O Tannenbaum” by Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown classic, forever reminding us that it isn’t the size of the tree that determines its Christmas cheer.