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The FYA Advent Calendar: Day Six

In which we hope our gift will be music to your ears!

The FYA Advent Calendar: Day Six

It's the sixth of December!  Which is a perfectly respectable time to start listening to Christmas music!  So today, our gift to you is a list of our favorite holiday songs to usher in the season.

From Erin:

O Holy Night -  I know!  A religious selection, from Erin, of all people?  But guys, I LOVE THIS SONG.  So much so that my Christmas decorations are themed around them this year (I have a painted canvas that says "the stars were brightly shining" that has led lights inserted in random places on it!  I made pillows with the OHN lyrics stenciled on them.).  It may surprise you to know this - it certainly shocks the hell out of my parents, time and again - but I actually sort of love Jesus!  And O Holy Night is, to me, a great song about what Jesus is really about.  I mean, dig on these lyrics: "long lay the world, in sin and error, pining, til He appeared and the soul felt its worth;" "a thrill of Hope! a weary world rejoices;" and "chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;" - that's some forward-thinking shit for the early 1800s. And, I mean, bonus, if you aren't a Christian, the unfortunate blow job references are pretty hilarious, too.

A Fairytale of New York- Is there anything more romantic than two drunks singing their bitter regrets on Christmas? I hope not, because that's totally how I roll. Plus, this is totally my winter karaoke jam, cause if there's anyone in the world with a crappier singing voice than me, it's good ol' Shane.

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve -Rufus Wainwright.  Why are the sad Christmas songs the best ones? Because Christmas can be the saddest time of the year, duh! But this song isn't TOO sad! And I'd totally be Rufus's date for New Year's, if I thought it'd lead to first base.

From Meghan:

This was hard for me, because I don't have any favorites, unless you count some of the carols we sing in church (Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming, I Saw Three Ships), but I'm not counting them since I don't have a favorite recording. Anyway, here are five random songs I heard recently that either made me laugh or that I liked, but since all except the Mariah Carey one (shut up) and Billie Holiday (of course) were new to me, I can hardly call them favorites. I did especially love the Jo Stafford one.

Candlelight -- Maccabeats
Christmas Blues -- Jo Stafford
All I Want For Christmas Is You -- Mariah Carey
I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm -- Billie Holiday
Merry Christmas (I don't wanna fight tonight) -- The Ramones

From Alix:

Last Christmas - Wham: This is pretty much the only pop Christmas song I will listen to, mostly because I think it's hilarious that it was ever popular. Also, the music video is great.

The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole: Nat King Cole's whole Christmas album is my favorite, but this is a particularly good track. It just makes me want be all warm and cozy by a fire, eating Christmas cookies by the tin-full.

Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite: When I was little, I wore out the Nutcracker album year-round, until eventually, all Nutcracker music was embargoed at my house. Luckily, Duke Ellington came up with a jazz version that feels super Christmasy and even the rest of my family can get behind.

Carol of the Bells: Adds some drama to your Christmas morning.

O Holy Night: I really like the King's College choir's recording, but any traditional version will do, but that is the key. Nothing ruins a classic carol faster than some horrible pop artist bastardizing it.

From Sarah:

Sleigh Ride performed by the Squirrel Nut Zippers: Trust the Squirrel Nut Zippers to take a Christmas classic and make it even MORE jolly. I play this song on repeat when I'm driving around with my family looking at holiday lights because it's impossible NOT to feel festive with that swingin' beat. Pro-tip: If you're hosting a Christmas party, this entire album will make your soiree feel like the swankiest event of the year.

Christmas Is All Around by Billy Mack:  I realize that the entire song is meant to be a joke, but after watching Love, Actually approximately 140 times, this violation of "Love Is All Around" has become the first song I listen to on December 1st (signaling the official start of my Christmas season). Mostly because it reminds me of all of the warm fuzzies I get while watching Love, Actually, aka the Greatest Christmas Movie Ever Made. And also because Billy Mack is a total rock star who isn't afraid to acknowledge that platonic love can exist between two grown men.

Hey Parker, It's Christmas by Ryan Adams: Amidst the festive cheer and cups of spiced wine, I always like to take a few moments each holiday season to get, for lack of a better word, emotional. And this song just HITS. ME. EVERY. TIME. Ryan Adams knows exactly how to slay this heart of mine, and this beautiful, wistful song captures that bittersweet melancholy that only surfaces around the holidays.

O Holy Night (as performed on the Home Alone soundtrack): I know it's weird to be so specific about a version of a song that has been performed magnificently by thousands of choirs around the world, but ever since 7th grade, my family has watched Home Alone at Christmas, and this small slice of the soundtrack is imprinted on my soul. I actually owned the soundtrack on tape, and in college, after my roomies and I had decorated our room with the tree and tons of twinkly lights, I would make them sit there and listen to this song on my tape so we could all *truly feel* Christmas. And for some reason, they put up with it every year.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen performed by the Barenaked Ladies feat. Sarah McLachlan: This holiday classic was never my favorite... UNTIL I heard this version. And now I can't ever get enough of the beat and the guitar and McLachlan's soaring vocals. This song is the musical equivalent of a glass of Glogg: spicy, warm and ridiculously pleasant.

Songs I Really Want to Include But We Were Limited to Five, Dammit:
Hark the Herald Angels Sing performed by Ella Fitzgerald
All I Want for Christmas Is You performed by Mariah Carey 
Last Christmas by Wham 

From Megan:

River - Various:  I still have yet to nail down exactly whose cover of River is my favorite.  Hardly a true Christmas song, but that’s part of the reason I like it so much.

Little Drummer Boy - The Dandy Warhols:  I don’t know what it is about this cover, but it just gets me pumped up.  Watch the 15 year old music video if you don’t believe me.  

Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord - Boney M.:  Boney M. has one of the greatest Christmas collections, hands down.  But for me, nothing tops their cover of Mary’s Boy Child.  One of the few Jesusy X-mas songs that really gets me jammin’.

Last Christmas - Jimmy Eat World:  I love the original Last Christmas (though to be fair, it’s a bit repetitive and much too long) and this version is my favorite cover of it.  I know...Jimmy Eat World?  Who’d have thought?

Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney:  My favorite X-mas song of all time tops many people’s least favorite lists.  But Rolling Stone agrees with me!  Damnit, this song just infects my SOUL.

From Jenny:

White Christmas - Bing Crosby:  I DO dream of a White Christmas!  Which is ridunculous since I've moved to Texas, but whatever.  Christmastime represents coziness, home, family and love, and the bittersweet combination of joy and sadness that those things bring, and I tend to be drawn to Christmas songs that capture all of those emotions.  There is NO song that does that better than when Bing sings this one.

Baby It's Cold Outside - Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan: When I was a kid I thought this song was SO NAUGHTY.  And I couldn't wait until I was a grownup and had a boyfriend at Christmas, because I was pretty sure we'd sing it to eachother. 

Christmas Treat - Julian Casablancas:  There are very, very few Christmas songs recorded after 1985 that don't make me stabby, but I'd like to thank Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sands, Tracy Morgan, and Chris Kattan for creating this song, and Julian Casablancas for making it rock.  This song Is. My. Jam.

Silver Bells - Bing Crosby & Rosemary Clooney:  Maybe it's the fact that he was an awful person that tinges Bing's voice with such melancholy, but whatever it is, this song both gets me in the spirit of joy and giving, and makes me kind of want to cry.

The Coventry Carol - King's College Choir: Until I was about 9-years old, we had this record of the coolest choral Christmas music.  I remember the album was a pale blue, and had a picture of the Three Kings following the star on it.  One of the many songs on that record that captured my heart was this one -- although I called it "Lulay".  For years after my parents got rid of their record player, I searched for that song but never found it, and was convinced it was some obscure recording and that the song was lost to me forever.  Then the internet happened.

My 5 Alternates:

Zat You, Santa Claus - Louis Armstrong
I Wonder As I Wander - Julie Andrews
Merry Christmas Darling - Karen Carpenter
Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow - Christmas Star - Carols for the Christmas Season
Please Come Home For Christmas - Aaron Neville

So there you have it, the best of the best!  But we woldn't leave you hanging!  We've made a Spotify playlist so you, too, can all enjoy our favorite Christmas music!  There were a few songs on the list that weren't available, (where ARE you, Maccabeats?!) but I think you'll find this pretty extensive mix will suit your holiday needs.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.