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The Epic Christmas Playlist

Hear ye, hear ye. Let it be declared that I’m officially calling it holiday season here on the blog which means the floodgates have opened. And if you’re new here, be forewarned: This time of year? I don’t do subtle. I mean I figure the jig was up a long time ago, but maybe you were giving me the benefit of the doubt. For reference, may I suggest reading about how I dressed like Kristi Yamuguchi in Christmas on Ice while carrying a stack of holiday magazines, and it was just a regular day. Also, I feel I need to confess that I basically told my dad and Gary if they want to fit in with the family this year, they will order the Christmas fair isle sweater links I researched and sent them, wear them through the holidays, and THEY WILL LIKE IT.

The decorating has begun with Phase 1: Twinkle lights, linens and “light tchotchke.” We will proceed through levels 2-5 over the course of the week, ramp it up over the weekend and reach full Griswold status Thanksgiving weekend.

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The kids have been having so much fun with the annual Target Toy Catalogue, also known as THE BEST BABYSITTER EVER.

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Now on to the important things…the Holiday Playlist, proper noun indeed.

I have big feelings about Christmas music, and apparently you do too because I polled the audience on Instagram stories about how to organize this playlist and got a passionate response. The race for “categorized song lists” (for those of you who don’t like your eggs touching your waffles) vs. “one big epic playlist” was so close, I decided to do both. You also need to know that this playlist comes with careful deliberation and much research. Here’s how we’re going to do this.

The One Big Epic Playlist is at the end, and it’s simply a collection of my favorite Christmas songs of all times–the ones that move me and make me really feel the holidays. Naturally, it’s going to include a lot of old Christmas classics because those are the ones I’m drawn to most this time of year, but it also includes some favorite indie holiday music, Christmas movie themes, etc.

As for the categorized Christmas playlists, here’s what we have:

OLD SCHOOL CHRISTMAS: This is the Holy Grail, folks. The original makers of the classics. I mean, Nat King Cole is basically Father Christmas, and can anyone top Bing for White Christmas? Say yes, and you’re dead to me. I could live off this playlist. It’s the bottom of the food pyramid, the Christmas calories that feed our souls. Sinatra, Bing, Nat, Lena, Louis…this is it. 
As much as my holiday loyalty lies with the classic crooners, I’ve developed a nice appetite for Indie Christmas tunes as well, thanks to She & Him and Sufjan Stevens. These are cabin-in-the-woods songs, wear-your-buffalo-plaid-and-drink-espresso songs, grow-a-beard-and-move-to-the-Northwest songs. I’m not growing a beard, but I do like this list a whole lot. My guess is you haven’t heard many of these, but you will fall in love once you do. 
Great for holiday cocktail parties, this list possesses the classic charm of the old school one but presented by a bit more recent musicians. It’s smooth and easy. You’ll get Diana Krall, Michael Buble, Harry Connick Jr., Beegie Adair piano, Chris Botti, Dave Koz and more. 
All the kids’ favorites here from Alvin and the Chipmunks to Jimmy Durante’s animated version of Frosty the Snowman. There’s Rudolph, the Grinch and Polar Express, and the last two songs on the playlists are beautiful readings of two classic Christmas tales (play them at bedtime…you’ll love them).
 I’m not really a fan of contemporary Christmas music and basically scoff at the idea of pop stars trying to remake a classic or invent a new one, but sometimes they pull it off. Leslie Odom Jr. pulls it off brilliantly because he’s not really a pop star. And no one can say they’re not moved by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” And though I was very hesitant at letting Pentatonix in, I can’t pretend not to kind of like them now. And then, of course, there’s Wham, Mariah Carey (begrudgingly), James Taylor, Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen. 
a hodge lodge collection of leftover Christmas songs from my childhood that didn’t really belong on the other lists. Lots of Carpenters and Amy Grant for the 80’s church kids.


Dive in.

Old School Christmas

Indie & Folk Christmas

Christmas Jazz & Piano

Christmas for the Kids

Modern Christmas

Christmas Past

And finally…

The Epic Christmas Playlist of Favorites

Have a holy Christmas memory associated with a particular holiday song? Tell me about it.

Mine? Every Christmas season, some night after the kids are asleep, I look at pictures of our Christmas pasts while listening to Nat King Cole’s “Cradle in Bethlehem” and I ugly cry–it’s a happy, grateful motherhood-is-beautiful cry, but still. Ugly. And the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s “Lo How Arose ‘Er Blooming” is hauntingly beautiful and reminds me of a choir rendition my mom directed in our church when I was a teen. That holiday nostalgia gets me every time, and the songs of the past go right for the jugular.

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Let the holiday music commence.


Leave a Comment
  1. Julie Rosenberg says:

    I found a really , cool version of The Little Drummer Boy by Kings and Country. It’s a rock version, very modern. Have a Merry Christmas Season. Julie :)

  2. SUCH GOOD LISTS!!! Every year I like to make a Christmas play list… these will be a great list! Might I recommend one for you? SnowGlobe by Matt Wertz is a FAVE in our house!!! Happy Christmas Season from a fellow Christmas FANATIC in Iowa!!!

  3. How about Jessye Norman’s Christmastide ~ with full orchestra! Other versions by Cambridge Singers, St Olaf’s choir etc.

  4. Hi. Love all of it. Keep the posts, photos, decor and all Christmas business going until February. Please. Also, did you make the playlists public on Spotify? I can’t find them to follow. Please advise and keep it merry.

  5. ^never mind. I think I figured out how to follow. Showing my age…

    • Another Jody here! Who is clueless!! I want to put these on my phone — HOW?! And weren’t there others too? Fall, etc?!

      Kelle, I depend on you to keep me hip!! Thanks!! ❤️✌️🙏

  6. I love this! You’ve managed to move me from steadfastly “No Christmas Music Til After Thanksgiving” to…”THESE ARE THE BEST CHRISTMAS SONGS EVER”! Thank you!! P.S. My favorite is (for better or worse) Celine’s O Holy Night…we’ll see if it shows up in any of the playlists!!

  7. Okay, total wild card song here: “Children Go Where I Send Thee” By Nick Lowe. It is the most random Christmas song but it is a BANGER.

    Also, “Come on Christmas” by Ringo Starr is like the marching band parade that leads Christmas down the streets and into my heart every single year.

  8. Hi Kelle..I’d love to know how to find your Playlists on my Spotify..I found Kelle Hampton..Up North..are these there? Not sure how to do this.Thank you.

  9. This is absolutely amazing!! Honestly, it’s my favorite post ever. Tree is up, and I’m falling in love with Christmas songs I didn’t even know I loved until now and reminissing over my entire childhood of Christmas memories. Thank you Kelle!!!

  10. Holy, Holy, Holy by Sufjan Stevens…LOVE!

  11. My all-time favorite, Peter Paul and Mary holiday album, is not represented here!!!

  12. Roger Whittaker tops my family’s Christmas tunes list. If you’ve never heard “Darcy the Dragon” you are missing out!

  13. Not sure which category this falls under – depressing, nostalgic haha but one of my all time favorites is by Dan Fogelberg, “Same Old Lang Syne”. Just gives me all the feels. Thank you so much for taking the time to put all of this together. Let the Holiday Season commence!

  14. Found and following:)Thank you.

  15. Thank you Kelle so very much.
    What an incredible treat. ❤️

  16. I found Mary and Joseph by Dave Barnes a few years ago, and it became an instant favorite, more modern telling of the Christmas story. So beautiful and folksy.

    Love these lists, Kelle! Thank you for sharing your passion for all of us Christmas music lovers!

  17. While I realize it’s super dark, one my very favorite indie Christmas songs is
    “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!” by Sufjan Stevens. I don’t know why I love it so much, but it may just be that the music is beautiful and it paints a picture for me.

  18. I am staunchly a “no Christmas music til after Thanksgiving” (I blame my mom – it was her rule and I looooooove rules), but I think your playlists are going to get me there a little quicker this year. As in right now. At my desk. At work. Because Tuesday is actually worse than Monday (it’s like Monday without everyone giving it the permissions allowed to Monday) and I could use a little cheer. Thank for you these!

  19. It’s not Christmas until I am shoulder popping at my desk to Pearl Bailey’s Jingle Bell Cha Cha. Makes me feel like I am at a 60’s cocktail party with white trees and hot toddys.

  20. Thank you so much for this/these and the smiles they’ve brought to my face.

  21. Christina k. says:

    I feel SO much better now about breaking out the Christmas playlist last weekend, so thanks for that! Also, major points for not including the dreaded Christmas Shoes song.

    Keep doing you! I love your holiday spirit!

  22. Will these be on your Spotify profile? I found your profile and a bunch of playlists but the titles don’t match what you’ve posted above?

    Also, a song you might like: Anne Murray’s “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” and Bruce Cockburn’s “Mary Had a Baby”

    ~ Meghan (way up North in Canada!)

  23. Oh I’m so sad I don’t see any Hanson song! They have been my classic Christmas songs since 1997! And now with the new Christmas album I’m just soooo happy to add new songs

  24. I love your lists and will definitely check them out! I love Christmas music, but I’m a little hurt you would put Beach Boys in Modern. It’s a total 100% staple for me. 😉

  25. Growing up, my family’s Christmas Eve was never complete without Dylan Thomas reading his “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Available now on amazon, and I highly recommend.

  26. Hi Kelle!

    I just linked to all of these—THANK YOU!! And wondering if you have any recommendations for Christmas audio books or podcasts that will hold the attention of my girls, (5 and 8) as we drive 4 hours to their grandma’s cabin?

    Thanks again—love you & your spirit!


  27. Thank you for your list-love it. My absolute favourite is “Christmas for Cowboys” by Jars of Clay. Originally a John Denver song. Hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.

  28. Jenn Creel says:

    Thank you so so much for these playlists, they are amazing!

    On Christmas décor – – Where do you get the little twinkly lights and the strands of pom poms?

  29. Jenifer Higgins says:

    I LOVE Christmas music and have been working on my playlists too! When I was a kid my dad always played Christmas Morning by Rich Mullins when it was time to open presents when I was growing up. He still plays it now when we all gather together with my siblings, spouses, and. our dozen children to open gifts. It’s such a special song to me. It describes the excitement of Christmas morning through a child’s eyes so perfectly. I’ll include a link if you want to hear it.

  30. Is there anyone else in the whole wide world who knows and loves Snoopy’s Christmas as much as I do??? (note: must be the Peter Pan players version. Not joking.)

    It’s AWESOME. Spoiler alert: Snoopy and the Red Barron get into a dog fight on Christmas eve and well… it gets pretty intense.

  31. Carol-Anne says:

    I love it! So happy you put this together! Thank you.

  32. Thank you!

    Might I suggest “Labor of Love” by Andrew Peterson 💓 so hauntingly beautiful.

  33. I didn’t see my favorite, “Mary, did you know?” It gets me every time.

  34. Thank you for putting this together!!! Now I, too, have the most epic Christmas songs playlist ever!

    There is a Christmas song that has been on my family’s “must listen to list” for about 15 years. It is not a popular song by anyone well known. It is a song written and sung by my cousin’s former band. It is a pretty amazing song for not being known. I thought I’d share the Spotify link in case you were interested!! ❤️❄️🎄

  35. I forgot- it’s called Christmas Song by Greener

  36. umm, soooo good!! it’s tempting me to start listing now but i. must. restrain.

    i have 2 adds for the modern list.

    1.tiny christmas tree by guster. (im actually not sure how you missed this one bc it was in target commercials 6 years ago. :) in la by vulfpeck.
    a wacky but fun one especially since we live in la. and the video will have your kids in stitches.

  37. Shannon Brown says:

    HERE WE GO!!!!

    YAY! Thank you so much!!

  38. Thank you so much for the separate holiday music lists! Such a lot of work, and it’s very much appreciated!!! Sweet, cute photos as always.

  39. Kelly Clarkson’s cover of ‘Just for Now’ on her Wrapped in Red Christmas Album is one of my favorites. It’s more about loving your family through all the stress of the holidays, but it gets me every time.

    I also like Lauren Daigle’s ‘Behold’ Christmas album. Jazzy, soulful, perfect to have on the background.

    And that Sufjan Stevens Christmas album is always good stuff.

    I love the playlists and the songs recommended in the comments. I am always in search of Christmas music!!

  40. My kids and I love the “Laurie Berkner Band Christmas” and “A Christmas Together” with John Denver and The Muppets. Our kids look forward to hearing them every year :)

  41. Growing up my Dad was the Kelle Hampton of all things Christmas and he passed that trait on to me and in turn I have passed it onto my kids. We had vaulted ceilings in our house back in the 80ies and he would drive around to every Christmas tree lot within a 50 mile radius to find at tree no shorter than at least 16 feet. And on decorating night it was a family affair with appetizers to match such a festive occasion. And then there was the music. All played on our turn table and each record played in a certain order.
    My Dad died 26 years ago at the end of my teen years and Christmas brings back the best bitter sweet memories of him ever. I started listening to your playlist this morning while I house cleaned and your Old School playlist stopped me in my tracks. It was like having my Dad there, standing at the turn table, selecting the best songs for that moment.
    You nailed this playlist Kelle, if I close my eyes its like an instant trip back in time. Thank you:)

  42. thank you for doing this! i know this took some time. so grateful!

  43. These playlists are definitely EPIC!!! Loving them!! Thank you for posting :)

  44. We can’t be friends anymore. No Elvis Presley Blue Christmas??!?!?! OH THE HUMANITY!!!!!

    Also, check out the Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas albums. They are really good for upbeat, fun Christmas party music.

  45. Danielle Mecca says:

    Ave Maria sung by Celine Dion

  46. I thought I was a Christmas music aficionado, but I see that you’ve put me to shame! Great lists Kelle, I’ll be listening to all of these for sure. I haven’t had time to go through every single song, but some of my go-tos, besides a lot that you have in your lists are the Christmas Cocktails albums. They’re amazing. Especially the ones they’ve put on vinyl.

  47. Sharon Germany says:

    Oh my goodness, how I love your enthusiasm!!

  48. Yes!! So excited for all of these. Your “Buddy the Elf” Playlist is a Christmas staple for me so thank you for taking it to the next level! I have to recommend Built for the Sea’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside” for your Indy Playlist. So good! Cheers!

  49. This post is everything! Thanks for taking time to do this…I’m listening now and will all season.


  50. Yay for Christmas playlists! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Merry Christmas!

  51. OMG, thank you sooo much! I really love it!

  52. I’ve arrived late at the Spotify party… who are we kidding, I’m horrendously late to the whole smart-phone-party!.. but now I’m here and so glad I joined. Honestly, it’s been too many years with the same three Christmas CDs in rotation. So after just joining Spotify a few weeks ago, these Christmas lists were among my first playlists ever, and we’re loving them! THANK YOU!!!

  53. Love this!!! Thank you so much. One song I LOVE and no one ever knows: “Phil Vassar~Let’s Make A Little Christmas Tonight.” It might fit into the Jazz/Piano category. I once heard him sing it live in a coffee shop and it was amazing.

  54. Kelle!!! The best!!! I have listened to your playlist all week..Made cooking Thanksgiving Dinner so much more fun!!! Thank You!!

  55. Wow…. What a nice playlist! just love it. I enjoyed a lot this collection. And still listening again n again… .

  56. Nice playlists! I also made one of my own here with a lot of obscure Christmas songs:

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