We all have our favorite Christmas songs. Maybe you love the fun of “Rudolph,” or you’re a sucker for the reverent feel of “Silent Night.” While those songs have definitely earned a place in our hearts, it’s even tougher to come up with a new wrinkle on the holidays. Here’s a dozen original Yuletide songs that continue to hit the mark year after year!
“Country Christmas,” Loretta Lynn (1966)
From stringing popcorn on the tree to the pleasures of apples and candy as a family decorates for the anticipated holidays, one gets the feeling that this was exactly how things were in Butcher Holler circa 1939 or so.
“Merry Christmas, Baby,” Elvis Presley (1971)
Presley wasn’t too thrilled about RCA wanting him to record another Christmas album. After all, his 1957 release – which contained his version of “Blue Christmas” – remains one of the definitive albums of the season. But, he gave it his best shot with The Wonderful World of Christmas. This particular cut paid tribute to his role as one of Rock and Roll’s most delightful rebels, giving him a chance to show his Memphis swagger.
“If We Make It Through December,” Merle Haggard (1973)
The songwriting genius of Merle Haggard was in plain sight on this release, which wound up becoming a number one hit. While the song details a man who is down on his luck by losing his job, one gets the idea that his relationship with his wife might be looking better if they can only get past the holidays.
“Kentucky Homemade Christmas,” Kenny Rogers (1981)
From the first of his six Yuletide albums, “The Gambler” once again demonstrates his story-telling ability with a sentimental tune about a father who is financially unable to give his children the presents they so want under the tree. It might be a DIY holiday, but the heart of this song remains as strong thirty-five years after its’ release.
“Hard Candy Christmas,” Dolly Parton (1982)
Not intended as a holiday song per se, this cut from The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas summed up the sadness that many feel during the season, whether it be bad times or lost love. Interestingly enough, it’s one of just a handful of her hits that Parton didn’t write.
“Christmas In Dixie,” Alabama (1983)
It’s very tough to pen a song that becomes a holiday tradition, but what would Christmas be without this heartwarming wish from south of the Mason-Dixon line? Written by all four of the members of the Country Music Hall of Fame group, this is one of those songs that will live forever.
“It Won’t Be The Same This Year,” Vince Gill (1993)
The holidays aren’t all pleasant memories. Sometimes, the festive time of year is marked with bittersweet remembrances of those who have passed on. Gill nailed this song, written not long after the passing of his brother.
“The Angels Sang,” Reba McEntire (1999)
A busy mother is trying to keep all of her appointments during the busy holiday rush when she realizes how simple and true the meaning of the holidays are during one of her children’s school play. You might need Kleenex for this one.
“Merry Christmas From The Family,” Montgomery Gentry (2001)
Leave it to Troy and Eddie to record one of the more humorous songs of the holiday season, a song all about a dysfunctional family from the pen of Texas legend Robert Earl Keen. As much as we might want to imagine our celebrations mirroring a scene from Norman Rockwell, this one might be a little more on target!
“Let It Be Christmas,” Alan Jackson (2002)
One of the format’s most gifted songwriters, Jackson composed this serene tribute to the season on his second holiday album. The lyric is plain and simple, and just like his many Country hits…..that’s what makes it worth a listen!
“Santa Train,” Patty Loveless (2002)
Every year since 1943, a CSX train has rolled from Pikeville, KY all the way to Kingsport, TN bringing cheer to children of all ages. One of those youngsters, Patty Loveless, was so inspired by the yearly tradition that she co-wrote a song paying tribute to the Appalachian tradition.
“Ribbons and Bows,” Kacey Musgraves (2016)
There are a ton of new holiday albums vying for your attention this season, but Kacey Musgraves knocked it out of the ballpark with her A Very Kacey Christmas. For this tune, the singer went for a definite Motown vibe that I could imagine Diana Ross & The Supremes pulling off quite well!
And, there’s plenty more……The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Thank God For Kids,” Clint Black’s “The Kid,” or any of the original tunes that Dolly Parton penned for her 1984 duet album with Kenny Rogers, Once Upon A Christmas. Next week, we’ll take a look at ten of the greatest performances of holiday standards that should go in a Country Christmas time capsule!