We’re getting in the holiday spirit over here at The Prompt. And so we asked our writing staff a simple question: What is your favorite holiday song? The answers may surprise you… in that no one said Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which the editors would like you to know is a massive oversight.
Did we miss your favorite? Tweet us @thepromptmag with your picks.
It is with equal amounts of embarrassment and pride that I jump in with the incredible, the incomparable, the truly moving “GREENSLEEVES” by KENNY G.
Perhaps this song is seared deep in my Christmas heart because it’s among the pristine collection of sax ballads on the Kenny G Miracles album, aka Christmas CD position 1 in my parents’ 6-CD changer. My father insists that the CDs sit in the exact same position every single year, which is not only weird because it’s weird, but weird because he is Jewish. Regardless, “Greensleeves” is a traditional English Folk tune that was given the famous Christ-arrival-based lyrics turning it into “What Child Is This?” I love a song that poses a question (See also “Why?” by Annie Lenox and “What’s My Age Again?” by Blink 182), but I find this melody even more captivating than the lyrics. The way Kenny gives it that distinctive jazz swing has always made me want to throw on a sparkle dress and down a dirty martini, even at the tender age of 11 when this song was released. I dare you to listen without feeling warmed from the inside out, with or without the vodka.
My favorite Christmas song encapsulates the surprisingly complex tone of the Christmas season best: “Last Christmas” by Wham!
The tune is undeniably catchy, and while the music itself is upbeat and poppy, the lyrics and sentiment of the song are bittersweet. “Last Christmas” works if you’re single, trying to get over a crush, if you’re in a relationship and want more from your bae, if you’re recently broken up, or even if you’re just thinking about two fictional characters from “Glee.” I have an entire playlist on Spotify devoted to just covers of “Last Christmas.” I scream-sing it every time I hear it.
It’s not super religious, but also not ultra-syrupy. It’s positive, but also a bit melancholy. “Last Christmas” also represents the ideal in Christmas songs, in the sense that I literally never want to hear it until the day after Thanksgiving, and then from that point on, I want to hear it every day, multiple times a day. “Last Christmas,” I GIVE YOU MY HEART!
My favorite holiday season song is “Dominick the Donkey” by Lou Monte. It’s obviously not the best or most beautiful song of the season but DtD is a complementary hybrid of my two biggest envies: being Christian and being Italian.
There are tons of nonsensical Christmas songs but the beauty of DtD is that it has such a ridiculous and distinct sound. It’s an old school Christmas song that doesn’t care about stereotypes or decorum. Oh its Jesus’ birthday? Well we’re gonna sing about a donkey who brings clothing from Brooklyn. And not cool, new Brooklyn. Old, DNGAF Brooklyn. Now sing the “Chingedy Chings” or shut up.
I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, but Catholicism is a lot like Hotel California—you can check out anytime you’d like, but you can never leave. And so, the “Catholic guilt” trope hangs heavily on my soul, stemming from 12 years of force-fed Catholic education, consisting of lessons like “angels die when you touch yourself” and “homosexuals love Satan.”
So as much as I’d like to, I don’t deserve to feel warm and fuzzy tunes from Nat King Cole. What I deserve is perpetual restlessness and anxiety because this same baby in a manger we’re all singing about ended up nailed to a fucking cross…for me.
The choir singing “Carol of the Bells” in Home Alone nails this sentiment. That’s why it’s used in the most stressful part of the movie (when Kevin sets the traps).
The choir presumably sings about happy things, but you feel uneasy, don’t you? Good.
My favorite Christmas song has millennial written all over it, but I’m leaning in. Might as well own it! In 2011, we were blessed with Justin Bieber’s Under the Mistletoe, which stays on repeat all season, aside from the McWeeney family favorite, Noël by Josh Groban.
But let’s get back to J Biebs. My favorite song off Under the Mistletoe is the soothing R&B jam, “Fa La La,” which doesn’t follow the same rules as your classic Christmas tunes.
The lyrics, the beat, the vocal arrangement—it’s like nothing you’ve heard before in a Christmas album. And non-millennials, rejoice! Because Boyz II Men’s harmonies are enough to make me melt like the marshmallows in my hot chocolate. It may not be the most popular pick, but it certainly gets me in the holiday spirit.
My favorite Christmas song is a classic, sung by the voice of his generation, your friend and mine, Kermit the Frog. As a self-proclaimed Kermit expert, his rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a testament to all everything he represents.
He is a beacon of hope and joy and childhood imagination, which fits perfectly with the sentiments of this song. There is something so comforting about hearing a familiar voice reminding you that your troubles are out of sight in this season of happiness and love.
This song is sure to bring a smile to your face, especially if you can visualize Kermit’s little green head bobbing along while singing. Bottom line, Kermit the Frog is the perfect angelic soul to sing this Christmas staple.
Fifteen year-old Mike’s favorite Christmas song was “Merry Fucking Christmas” by Mr. Garrison on South Park, because, well, I was 15.
Flash forward another 15 years and South Park is using this same comically ignorant character to represent a presidential candidate who, somehow, was even more ridiculous in real life. Now this buffoon is our president-elect and the lyrics of this jolly tune wouldn’t even crack the Top 10 most offensive things he has said. I also like to make politically correct people uncomfortable so 32 year-old Mike still appreciates the song.
What is that? A tuba?
I don’t actually know; I’m not a musician. The sound is so deep and resonant, until suddenly a child’s voice comes bursting through the airwaves to proclaim, “I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS!” Gayla Peevey, an impeccably groomed Show Kid, smiles through her blonde curls and taffeta, delivering a bratty request, oversung in vibrato over a heavy-handed melody that positively stinks of the 1950s.
What else do you want at Christmas? Me, performing this in my parents’ living room, unprovoked? FINE. I’LL DO IT.
I hate holiday music. I hate it for all 25+ days it plays without reprieve.
BUT reading through everybody else’s responses did get me thinking of one of my all-time favorite songs. An early track from little-known band, The Jonas Brothers. It’s called “Year 3000” and it deserves your attention.
Plus it’s about time-travel, so theoretically, it’s appropriate ANY time of year.
You’re all invited to my holiday party. “Year 3000” will be on repeat indefinitely.
“Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” sung only by Dean Martin.
It could be the years of childhood listening to my dad’s rotation of Rat Pack CDs or the tap dancer in me that wants to break out in a little soft shoeing every time I hear it, but this song embodies all that winter holidays are meant to be. We think of sleigh bells, snow covered roads, building snowmen and coming home to a warm fire. Talking about your dreams for the coming year and purely enjoying the magic of the season. No mention of Santa, malls, grandmas getting run over by reindeer, etc., just the wonderful, tranquil feeling of walking through the snow, holding hands with the one you love.
The problem with Christmas music season is that it’s so abrupt. One minute you are minding your own business with “King of Wishful Thinking” set on replay through the entirety of November, and then all of a sudden you are supposed to be listening to a million different versions of “White Christmas,” pretending “Rudolph” isn’t a really dumb song, and arguing with friends and family about whether “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is about a couple of kids in love or date rape. This transition can be jarring.
At least, that was my problem until I discovered “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by… get ready for this… Barenaked Ladies AND Sarah McLachlan.
You heard me right. This song is objectively great. It also allows you to ease into Christmas. It’s like a bridge—or a gateway drug—on one side there is your Best of the 90s Canadian Alt-Rock playlist that gets you through November, and on the other side is, say “O, Holy Night” by Sarah McLachlan.
Seriously, give it a try. Turn off that Richard Marx song now and queue this one up.
With apologies to Jesse, my all-time favorite song is “O, Holy Night,” although I’m partial to the Josh Groban rendition. The instrumentation is so simple, and his voice clear and free of so much of the usual pop affectations that the melody and chord structure really shines. While I’ve always had a mildly synesthetic-type reaction to some music, listening to this song never fails to get me weeping. The song seems to evoke awe, hope, joy, and regret all in the same small amount of time.
But this list wouldn’t be complete without a nod to a childhood favorite from my father’s tape (a cassette!) that I believe was entitled Country Christmas. I am almost positive it was purchased from a gas station (the Citgo logo is burned into my brain along with the album). My father put it into the tape deck each year, so my brother and I grew up with yearly enjoyments of Clint Black’s “Milk and Cookies.” A combination of the harmonica, the not-too-twangy vocals, and crescendos made it terribly exciting, as a kid, to sing along to this song — even if my singing along was probably mostly just gleefully shouting the title of the song when it appeared in the lyrics.
(I wonder if my dad regretted buying that tape, in retrospect.)
I am Jewish. Pa rum pa pum pum.
I hate Christmas music. Pa rum pa pum pum.
It’s unavoidable. Pa rum pum pum pum.
And alienating. Pa rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum.
I beat my own drum.
Tis the season to be jolly, y’all. Here’s The Prompt’s holiday playlist, compiled with love, for your listening pleasure.