Classic Christmas CDs & when to Play Em

“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”- The Grinch

Every season I seem to reach for the same handful of Christmas classic CDs to help me get in a festive mood. Here are some listening suggestions to get you through the best, and worst, of the holidaze:

1. Classic Rockin’ Christmas by Various Artists
Great for road trips, this 2004 edition features eighties hits like the Kinks’ “Father Christmas” and The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles,” which may feel like the distance you’ve traveled, with all the traffic jams, to reach your final destination. So, turn it up.

2. Seasons Greetings from Perry Como
Trim the tree and wrap the gifts to the soothing sounds of this 1959 gem. As far as tradition goes, Perry’s record (or remastered disc) is the gold standard. When Como sings “The Christmas Song” and his signature, “(There’s no Place Like) Home for the Holidays,” you’ll know you’ve made the right choice.

3. If Every Day Was Like Christmas by Elvis Presley
It’s Christmas day, and the relatives are about to arrive. To avoid small talk, or any other talk for that matter, make sure the King’s acclaimed 24-track disc is cued, preferably to a rocker like “Santa Claus is Back in Town” or the bluesy “Merry Christmas Baby.” (You can always go back to “Blue Christmas” when they tell you to turn it down.)

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Vince Guaraldi Trio
Dinner is the perfect time to break out the jazzy sound track to “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” from the familiar “O Tannenbaum” and the reflective, piano-laden “Greensleeves,” to the apropos “My Little Drum,” for squabbles over the drumsticks.

5. Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker
You’ve just finished dessert and are ready to open the presents. This is a great time to heighten the tryptophan haze by listening to the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” further beckoning company to waltz into a dream like Clara, leaving you free to chill out and watch that movie, or meet friends downtown.

6. Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald
This CD is fitting for any holiday party, but if you’re abandoning the Northeast for a tropical retreat this year, be sure to play “Christmas Island,” where Ella sings about hanging stockings on coconut trees, and waiting for Santa to sail in with presents on a canoe, just like the islanders do. Aloha!

lisa heffernan

Lisa Heffernan received a master’s in Communications from Emerson College before moving to New York. She has worked for publications such as: Details, Nylon, Rolling Stone, Time Out, Newport Mercury, American Songwriter and W magazine.