13 of The Best Holiday Records
There’s nothing quite the warm and fuzzy feeling of hearing the first chords of your favorite holiday song to usher in the season. The best holiday records are the ones that evoke nostalgia, the ones that reinvent a classic, and the ones that just make you smile.
Choosing the best holiday records from a vinyl store is a tough challenge to narrow down because it all depends on what you’re in the mood for as you decorate the tree, plan for family get togethers, or spend time cozying up with a mug of hot cocoa. Regardless of what the moment calls for, you’re sure to add some of these to your playlist this year. ‘Tis the season for some holiday tunes!
White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Is it any wonder Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” starts off the list of best holiday records? It’s a classic that never gets old, and the Guinness Book of World Records has dubbed it the best-selling single ever. Although it’s most recognized as the title track for the 1954 musical film of the same name, he actually performed it several times prior. The deep croon of Crosby’s voice singing the holiday ballad immediately takes you inside a picturesque scene of being snowed in with loved ones near a crackling fire.
A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi Trio
Once December rolls around, it’s only a matter of time before A Charlie Brown Christmas airs on TV. Filled with feel-good memories for everyone young and old, this sweet cartoon brings to life the beloved Peanuts characters with a jazz-influenced soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. While the artist's name may not always be on the tip of your tongue, the bubbly music is instantly recognizable whether you’re watching Charlie Brown and his friends ice skating, dancing, or on the search for the perfect tree.
Merry Christmas by Mariah Carey
The amount of love people have for Mariah Carey’s song “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is widespread. It’s been the theme music for many a holiday party as well as being the big number in the movie, Love Actually. Debuting in 1994, this instant hit is a continuous fan favorite and embraces how much of an impact Mariah Carey has made on the music industry, particularly the pop-heavy times of the mid-90s. Although “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is a signature holiday hit, you can’t discount the vocal prowess Mariah Carey gives to the album as a whole, especially on the lesser talked about, but powerful version of “O Holy Night.“
The Beach Boys Christmas Album by The Beach Boys
Taking it back a few decades before Mariah had a chance to change the game with her iconic holiday song, The Beach Boys mixed their signature sound with lyrics that had people envisioning a different seasonal climate. On one of the best holiday records of all time, The Beach Boys Christmas Album's most notorious song is “Little Saint Nick,” which effuses the same sunny feeling the group shared across the airwaves for so many years. There’s also unique spins on other holiday classics, such as “White Christmas” and “Frosty the Snowman” with the SoCal style fans know and love.
Christmas by Michael Buble
The smooth voice of Michael Buble echoes the same jazzy tone of Frank Sinatra but his own modern edge. Known best for his annual holiday specials, Buble has become synonymous with Christmastime. He sings his version of some of the top holiday songs on his 2011 album succinctly called “Christmas.” His vocal performance shines through on songs including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Ave Maria,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Put this holiday record on while entertaining guests or decorating the tree as it’s easy listening for all.
A Motown Christmas featuring Various Artists
Infuse the holidays with an upbeat pop flair with A Motown Christmas which features artist favorites from The Jackson 5’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” to get you excited about the holiday season to Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas” to make you feel joyful thinking about being with the ones you love. The Christmas record provides a good mix of quick tempo songs and mellower tunes to please everyone’s musical palate with this curated holiday classic.
Noel by Josh Groban
The commanding voice of Josh Groban, which teeters on operatic, carries through every song on his Noel album. He welcomes guest artists on several album tracks including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on “O Come All Ye Faithful” and R&B artist Brian McKnight on his version of “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Deemed as one of the best holiday records over the past decade, there’s a soothing quality with his blend of pop hits and church-like hymns that makes it a great playlist for watching the snow fall while cozied up on the couch or spending the afternoon making Christmas cookies.
A Fresh Aire Christmas by Mannheim Steamroller
Attending a Mannheim Steamroller performance is on the holiday tradition list for many. When fans want to relive their musical experience, they can turn to the band’s second Christmas album, a Fresh Aire Christmas. With instrumental staples including “Carol of the Bells” combined with international, old-world selections like “Veni Veni (O Come O Come Emmanuel)” and “Cantique de Noel (O Holy Night),” it’s like having a mini concert right in your own home.
Christmas Eve and Other Stories by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Sticking with the instrumental-only records and adding the driving pulse of American rock, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is another band that has helped define the holiday season with its notable sound. Christmas Eve and Other Stories is its debut studio album and has become one of the best holiday records of all time. It’s a conceptual album with each song telling another chapter of the story. From the lyrics to the driving beat of the music, it’s progressive holiday music that takes traditional songs and puts their own spin on them.
Home for Christmas by NSYNC
As one of the most famous boy bands to top the charts in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, it’s only natural that NSYNC delivered a holiday album for their fans. Known for the pop vocals and balanced harmonizing, the album kicks off with the title song “Home for Christmas” in addition to other original holiday-themed hits and a few traditional songs thrown in as well. It isn’t your average album to put on the vinyl record player this holiday season, but it speaks to the music of the time and speaks to the music fanatics who were crazy about NSYNC.
Now That’s What I Call Christmas! by Various Artists
The Now! series reached its peak around the same time as NSYNC. The Now That’s What I Call Christmas! compilation is a two-disc wonder that includes music from some of the best holiday records of all time on disc one (Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Burl Ives, to name a few) and modern favorites on disc two (Bruce Springsteen, Celine Dion, and Britney Spears, among others.) Consider it a “mixtape” offering up the best of both worlds with traditional tunes and modern reinterpretations.
Harry for the Holidays by Harry Connick, Jr.
The jazzy smoothness of Harry Connick, Jr.’s voice lends itself nicely to his holiday album, Harry for the Holidays. He’s accompanied by a 16-piece big band orchestra as he makes his way through hits like “Frosty the Snowman,” “Silver Bells,” and “This Christmas.” When you need something light to get a head start on Christmas gift wrapping or as you write out holiday cards, this is the music that’ll keep you on track with its calming allure and sing-a-long vibe.
Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan
With her signature, ethereal sound, Sarah McLachlan’s 2006 album, Wintersong, is one of the sleeper frontrunners for best holiday records. It’s probably best known for her rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “River,” but also adds in her own dreamy hits, including “Song for a Winter’s Night” and the title track “Wintersong.” The album envelopes you into her quiet winterland for a few stolen moments of peace and reflection during the hectic holiday season.
You don’t have to wait until December to put on your favorite records and get into the holiday spirit. Everyone has their own preferences for how they want the music to make them feel. The kind of songs you want to play at your family gathering is often different from the music you want to hear while you’re spending quiet time alone. Fortunately, there’s an endless list of albums that can set the tone and ambiance for any occasion.
Whether the occasion requires classic, mellow Christmas hits or the upbeat soundtracks that make you energized from all the feelings that the holiday and the anticipation of a new year brings, there’s an album ready to take you through the end of the year. Playing any of these records on repeat all December long will fill you with the joy that the season is meant to bring, and each album would make great music gifts for your loved ones. Feel how it instantly shifts the mood and puts you into full holiday mode.