We all woke up the day after Halloween in Mariah Carey’s world.
She was back, here to remind us that it’s now her time to shine: Christmas season. It’s a time of jolliness, cookies and family — and, for the rest of us, movies and dinner at your local Chinese restaurant.
The question is when to get into the spirit. Is Nov. 1 too early? Is Dec. 1 cutting it too close? How about those purists who wait for the second half of December? Or the chaotic evil people who listen all year round?
Personally, I don’t want to hear it until after I’ve processed Thanksgiving dinner. The more concentrated the season, the more fun I can have with my secular Christmas before I get tired of it. Nevertheless, I’ll be forced to listen to my brother blast it in the car as we head home for Thanksgiving break whether I like it or not.
Whether early Christmas jingles make you merry and bright or remind you that you’re grumpy and cold, I’m willing to help you put together a playlist. You don’t have to listen to it now, but whenever the time is right, here are some of my favorite songs for the holiday season.
1. “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt
This has been done over and over again, but I think Eartha Kitt’s sultry tones give it a special appeal. Am I a little weirded out by the lust for Santa? Sure. But I can get with it for the sake of Christmas.
“Santa Baby” will always be one of the classics I’m happy to come back to year after year. You can’t beat the original.
2. “Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande
This list would be incomplete without our queen: Ariana Grande. Her pop-princess take on Christmas songs always brings out the happiness of the season.
I prefer her versions of bonafide classics to her originals, but if you’re not interested in curating a playlist, her album Christmas and Chill is a great choice to put on repeat.
3. “Silver and Gold” by Burl Ives
Nothing really says Christmas like a Claymation snowman crooning out old-timey tunes. The music from holiday classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town are sure to put you in a nostalgic mood.
4. “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
Why do I like this song so much? I can’t really justify it, except it makes me feel like I’m in a cheesy Christmas movie from the ‘40s. It’s really got nothing deeper going for it than the vague idea that Christmas happens whether or not it snows, but it makes sure to tell us in a fun, jazzy way.
5. “Last Christmas” by Wham!
George Michael is an icon year-round, but if there’s a season to celebrate him a little bit extra it’s when you can blast his Christmas ballads with no shame. “Last Christmas” sounds best in his voice with the original ‘80s soundtrack. No remakes, please.
6. “My Favorite Things” by The Supremes
It’s not Christmas if it isn’t a Motown Christmas. Even if this isn’t really a Christmas song, the bells and harmonies make it jolly enough to keep you warm through the cold winter nights.
7. “Christmas Here with You” by Four Tops and Aretha Franklin
This Christmas song blends new and traditional lyrics with rhythm and soul. It’s just silly enough that you don’t have to listen too closely or seriously, but Franklin’s vocals come through to impress you all the same. It’s over the top and fun in Four Tops style with Franklin’s diva cut in.
8. “It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas” by Michael Bublé
Of course, this song has to compete with other Bublé songs, but it’s fortunately missing Bublé’s creepy ad libs about being “opportunistic” in “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” His gentle voice is widely known to lull you into a Christmas mood.
The beautiful instrumentals and Bublé’s gentle voice blend perfectly for a Christmas concoction that stands out among his many holiday hits.
9. “My Only Wish (This Year)” by Britney Spears
Britney Spears doesn’t sacrifice pop perfection for the holiday season. “My Only Wish” is the fun, pop anthem you’ll feel good blasting all December.
10. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland
Judy Garland has one of those pure, clear voices that always reminds me of Christmas. As much as I love Christina Aguilera and every other pop star who’s covered this song, I love the gentle piano and Garland’s lilting, trembling voice.
I think this song is honestly beautiful, if a little sad. It’s an honest note to end on: Make this holiday season as easy and happy as you can, no matter how you celebrate it.
Regardless of whether we’ll be celebrating a white Christmas — 20 years living in Maryland has me guessing it’s more likely to rain — you can be sure there’s no lack of Christmas music to choose from to warm your spirits.