Some people dread the first notes of Mariah Carey hitting retail stores as soon as the holiday season starts — whether you think that starts after Halloween, after Thanksgiving, or later in December — whereas other people can’t wait to queue up holiday hits. Nonetheless, people can’t deny the power of these seasonal songs to get them in the holiday spirit, regardless of how or what they celebrate. For the section’s last roundtable of the semester, some Life writers present their favorite holiday songs.
Hollie Lao, LE
Music is a great unifier and can so successfully set the tone for an event, time of the year or piece of media. When I think of the holidays, my mind immediately goes to festive food; however, I recognize that decoration, traditions and music equally play a role in seasonal ambiance. I honestly don’t mind how early people play holiday music, as long as it’s not too overplayed. That’s why I enjoy the variety of songs on typical holiday playlists played during events, in public spaces or in the car with my family, whether the songs are classics like Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” or recent releases like the Jonas Brothers’ “Like It’s Christmas.”
Because of my general liking of seasonal songs, I honestly hadn’t thought much about what my favorite is until this roundtable. You can’t go wrong with Wham!’s “Last Christmas,” with its retro, chill beat and Pentatonix’s creative covers. I enjoy the pop originals that feel like classics at this point, like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” and Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe,” as well as pop covers like Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me.” However, if I had to choose a single song, I would present Taylor Swift’s “Christmas Tree Farm.” I love the upbeat, storytelling aspect that inspires the nostalgia of the holiday season without being too saccharine sweet or repetitive. Swift’s clear, whimsical voice perfectly suits the hopeful sentiment in the lyrics and instrumental. The song sounds like a classic but still something new. Check out the original and the jazz version!
Khira Francis, CC
There are some pretty great holiday tunes out there like “Last Christmas” — only the version by Wham! — and “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole. However, my favorite holiday song is “Run Rudolph Run” by Chuck Berry. It’s a classic, but I think it’s often forgotten among the million renditions of “Jingle Bells.” For fans of “Home Alone,” it’s the song that plays in the background while Kevin’s family is running through the airport to catch their flight. The guitar in this song is amazing and reminds me of all the great old school rock and soul songs from Berry’s era. I think this song is upbeat, fun and perfect for things like holiday parties or making decorations with family and friends.
Berry released the song in 1958. It was written by Johnny Marks, the same man who wrote “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Personally, I’m glad Marks’ passion for Rudolph led to a great song like this. Paired with the “Father of Rock and Roll’s” skills, it became a classic that inspired many artists to cover it after Berry. In 2020, Berry’s YouTube channel posthumously released a music video for the song. It features a cartoon version of Berry dressed as Santa Claus in a red car being pulled by a team of reindeer. Berry jumps off his “sleigh” onto a building to play a guitar solo for a crowd of people and rides away again. The video also features Berry dropping off gifts to children all over the world while playing his electric guitar. If you have not been convinced this song is the greatest by sound alone, hopefully the video does.
Abby Palmer, CC
The thing I look forward to the most every holiday season, hands down, is the festive music. While I love all the hits, from “Jingle Bell Rock” to “White Christmas,” there are so many other holiday tunes that deserve way more attention. My favorite holiday song, and one that I believe isn’t played enough on any holiday station — I’m talking to you, Lite 100.5 — is “Merry Christmas Darling” by the Carpenters.
The Carpenters are a Grammy-winning ‘70s sibling duo consisting of Karen and Richard Carpenter. According to their website bio, they are originally from New Haven, Connecticut. The lyrics of “Merry Christmas Darling” were written by Frank Pooler in 1944 and given to the Carpenters when they were members of his choir at California State University. The single was released in 1970 and soon became one of the duo’s most popular songs.
What I love most about “Merry Christmas Darling” is how unusual the sound is for a Christmas song. It’s missing the campy, jingle-belled, jolly vibe that’s typical of most holiday music. It’s a soft pop ballad about longing to spend the holidays with a person you love. Karen Carpenter’s smooth, easy voice compliments the lyrics perfectly and seamlessly meshes with jazzy instrumentals. Consider adding this hidden gem to your holiday playlist.