Christmas isn’t Christmas without…


Every year, right after Thanksgiving, we hoist down the Christmas box out of the attic, and before locating the Santa Baby doll that was bought the year I was born, before unwrapping the delicate blown glass ornament my mother gave us when we were married, even before locating the fragile and precious paper ornament Mariah made when she was 5… I find the red leather portfolio that holds the Christmas music.

As I load the CD player with my love worn favorites, it doesn’t take but a second for the memories of Christmases gone by to wash over me.  Even though the Southern California sun may be burning brightly,  I am immediately transported to visions of a white Christmas as in my mind I slide down the hill in the snow on my red disk sled at Grandma’s mountain cabin.

Music does that.  It has magic qualities more powerful than any drug.  In fact, it can be one of the most effective therapies to completely change your frame of mind.  Just try to fight it.

If you’re happy, feel yourself slide into unbridled mirth after listening to Leonard Patton’s “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer (don’t miss it… it’ll make your day).   Experience the wonder of God’s gift to the world as you listen to Billye’s killer version of “Mary Did You Know?.  If you’re feeling blue, don’t even attempt to battle the change of heart a little Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas” will cause within.  Feel the love flood over you as Bing Crosby sings “White Christmas“.  Taste the frisky as Natalie Cole and James Taylor purr “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.   And  I dare you to withstand the weight of melancholy one second longer after listening to Chris Tomlin rock “Joy To The World“.

What are some of your favorites?     (Keep reading… contest details coming up…)

Below are some of mine.  For me, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without these in the rotation.  They’re all available on iTunes but just in case you’d like the physical CD or vinyl version, I’ve made it easy for you; all you have to do is click on the album cover image.   


All that’s ever required for me to truly exhale is a little sweet baby James.  How it took so long for this hero of mine to put out a Christmas CD is anyone’s guess, but a few years ago, it appeared… and it did not disappoint.  Let his version of Joni’s “River” wash over you and just say “ahhh…” .

I couldn’t squander this opportunity to shamelessly plug my own Christmas album, featuring a mix of jazz, Celtic, and traditional renderings of some classics.  I must admit though, I really do love this record and hope you will order a copy right now while it’s on sale for just $8!  Don’t miss “Uncle” Hugh’s “Have Yourself A Blessed Little Christmas”, with new sacred lyrics that describe the real Reason for the season. 

Staci Frenes is a fellow World Vision artist and an accomplished singer-songwriter with several records under her belt you won’t want to miss.  This holiday album is a favorite of mine… fresh and pure, and her song “Wise Men and Angels” will tear your heart out as you worship the Object of her affection.

Not only is my friend Mike Schmid a poet, keyboardist, arranger, producer, and father, but he also plays keyboards and sings with the likes of Miley Cyrus and many others.  His own Christmas EP is a favorite of mine and I know you’ll agree when you hear the beauty of his writing/arranging. Pay special attention to his original “Full House” and be transported to those raucous, fun, family Christmases full of your own family’s usual suspects.

What would Christmas be without a little “tender Tennessee Christmas”?  I never tire of this record by the sweet Amy Grant.  Click the image above and be taken to a site where you can get both this classic album along with her “Christmas to Remember”.

Need a lift?   A little Take 6 and you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face.

Sara Groves is, hands down,  Wolf’s and my favorite Christian artist any time of year, but her Christmas offering is our favorite.  There isn’t anything this child of God writes, sings, or subscribes to that we don’t adore.

 What’s not to love about Michael McDonald?  When “Through The Many Winters” first came out a few years ago it was only available in Hallmark shops but now you can get it here. Click on the album cover image to pick one up for dirt cheap, and don’t waste a minute when it arrives!


Sylvia is a singer and Christian women’s speaker, and lives in Southern California.

Read Sylvia’s other posts, and LIKE her on Facebook!

72 thoughts on “Christmas isn’t Christmas without…”

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  33. I agree; music stirs my heart like nothing else. Recently found angelic Christmas music sung by Irish women with angelic voices. Can listen per youtube: Celtic Woman A Christmas Celebration.
    During Christmas season, I have your CD Pure Christmas in my car and enjoy it. There seems to be a shortage of Christmas music on both AM and FM radio. Heard lots more when I was a kid, but that was a long time ago.

  34. What a great blog! “Let Every heart prepare Him room” in a season where “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”…. Are we be beholding His glory? Are we caught up in shopping, lights and Christmas trapping? I love listening to Amy Grants Tennessee album, as it is sweet and helps me zero in On our Jesus this season!

    Thanks to Sylvia for keeping us focused on the One!

  35. Last minute entry…. so sorry!!!
    I grew up in a family that was filled with music. Although we didn’t play any instruments all 3 of us girls were in the local Choir. Music was a part of our every day life. We would entertain family when they came over with sing-a-longs and musical plays. We were a bunch of hams!!! Every Saturday we would wake up and Dad would pop something into the 8-track player and we would be-bop around the house singing into our brooms and mops as we cleaned. We listened to everything from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s 90’s and today. It was very eclectic and I am thankful for it. Whether it was Country or Classical all the way to Jazz, Hip Hop and Rap. Christmas is always huge in my house. Music is a big part of that. I prefer the compilation CD’s from various artists for Christmas because I get an overall experience spanning all of the genres in music. My favorite CD is Holiday Sounds of the Season 2000. It is an amazing CD of new and traditional Christmas music sung by everyone from every genre. I cant tell you why it is my favorite. I can only tell you that when I listen to it I start to float. I get choked up and I tear up. It is a beautiful CD that instantly puts me in the Christmas spirit. My guilty pleasure is listening to it not only during the Christmas season but at different times during the year as well.

  36. Christmas is my favorite time of year and I love all the music that comes with it. My favorite album is actually one that is listed above. Amy grant’s Tennessee Christmas album. That album is so much more than just music for me. It is a whole wave of memories that wash over me every time I hear any of the songs. It’s the smell of our Christmas tree when we would bring it home from the lot and decorate it as a family. Its creeping down the stairs on Christmas morning in a brand new pair of pajamas to see what santa had left us. It’s the smell of pine trees and the feel of sitting by the warm fireplace. It’s memory of my uncle, who gave my family our first cd player on Christmas with our first CD, Amy grants Christmas album. But, most of all, it is a reminder of why we celebrate this season to begin with. My favorite song on the CD is Emmanuel, which reminds me that we have a Mighty God, wonderful counselor, prince of peace!!!

  37. How do you pick one, or even three, favorites? I love them all – from classic Bing Crosby to nutty and fun Relant K (Santa Clause if thumbing to town cracks me up every time I hear it and my kids think I’m insane)! My all-time favorite is “O, Holy Night”, sang by anyone who does it with reverence and hits the high notes at the end. And another is the mix of “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” sang by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. Since I was a little girl, this song brings Christmas to life for me – the holy reverence for the Christ child and all our hopes for peace on this earth for our children. I think I’ll go home and turn this one on … again. Merry Christmas!

  38. My favorite is the Carpenters Christmas Album. I just love listening to her album and wish we would play Christmas songs all year round!!

  39. My favorite has always been Little Drummer Boy. I was raised in foster homes from the age of 4 until 16 and watched the cartoon of the same name each year, feeling a little like that drummer boy. It was as if I’d go from foster home to foster home, hoping that home would let me “play for them” and that they’d keep me but eventually they’d time out and I would have to move on to the next family. Fortunately at the age of 16 my foster family adopted me and they have been my family ever since. It was a rough road but I can honestly say now at the age of 48 I feel sure God let me “play for him” and listened closely to me. I love your blog by the way. I wish you would come to Arizona and “play for us”. Merry Christmas.

  40. I love Sleigh Ride, and I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas. O Holy Night is my favorite classic. Rudolph is my favorite kid’s. I like to hear Sinatra and singers of that era, but enjoy a “fresh” version my more contemporary singers as well.

  41. My favorite Christmas music comes from artists like Barbara Streisand, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Burl Ives. I think I love their music so because it reminds me of my childhood listening to music with my Daddy.Barbara was always special to me because her voice is so strong, yet can be subtle and tender. She makes your ears grab onto those notes and hold them close

  42. My favorite Christmas CD or “record album” was the Julie Andrews Firestone Christmas album. “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” was one of the most beautiful on the album. I have a vivid memory of childhood associated with this album. I remember laying in bed, a few weeks before Christmas, and I could hear my Mom listening to Julie Andrews as she hand wrote her Christmas letters with our Swedish Angel Chimes tinging in the background. My Mom passed away twenty years ago on December 29, and it’s been a tradition for me to put on that CD and light the Angel Chimes as I write our Christmas cards late at night and remember my Mom. Lovely memories!

  43. My all-time favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night sung by Twila Paris on her CD “It’s the Thought…” I just love how the music flows from her voice into my heart and is expressed through my hands. When I sign it, it touches me to my very core. Every single time I have my own personal worship experience that just bubbles over, and if I get to share that with someone else, all the better.

  44. My favorite is “Still, Still, Still!” Our chorus, the Peninsula Singers, is performing on Fri. Dec.7 at Balboa Park’s Organ Pavilion at 7pm! It’s part of the December Nights Holiday celebration…it will be great fun!

  45. What a treasure you (and Wolf) are. I did not know Chris Tomlin had a Christmas CD! But because of your fabulous blog, I own it, or rather I will when UPS delivers it. And I would extend your title a little: Life isn’t life without music. Thank you SLL…;)

  46. I can’t really say I have a favorite, as my favorites seems to change depending on my mood. But, the one that transports me back to my childhood, and back to childlike faith, would have to be “The Little Drummer Boy.” I remember hearing it when I was a kid and imagining what it would be like to be a poor child who wanted to give a gift to the baby Jesus. Now when I hear it, I am reminded that I really “have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give a King.” I can’t even play an instrument for Him. All I can give him is my life. I am reminded again of the wonder of God becoming a man and coming to live on this Earth. I am reminded again of Christmas.

  47. I have three favorites!
    1) “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”
    I remember being only 5 or 6 years old and my mother came running down the hall and danced freely and happily to it.
    2) The Carpenter’s “Merry Christmas Darling”
    evokes the warmth and love also offering one of the most beautiful chord progressions ever written. (My brother even told Richard how much our family loves that album and those chords!)
    3) Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven”
    He’s the reason for the season!
    Merry CHRISTmas~

  48. I love everything about this time of year, but my absolute favorite would have to be all the music!! And even though I have about 25 albums already, I will most definitely check out the few you’ve recommended…

  49. As I go to bed on Christmas Eve with the story of how baby Jesus came to this earth still fresh on my mind and the song of Silent Night still ringing in my head from the family Christmas carol singing, I can smell the freshly baked cookies left for Santa and the evergreen tree all decorated with homemade ornaments. I could feel the excitement in the air for Christmas was finally here. Snuggled warm in my bed With my new pajamas on, which we were always allowed to open the night before Christmas. Trying so hard to get to sleep so the morning would come quick, but the excitement was so overwhelming. Before we knew it morning was here! I would wake my younger brother and we would sneak into the living room. The cookies would be gone and the celery and carrots half eaten by the reindeer. Under the tree were gifts all delicately wrapped with bows. With excitement we would wake our mom up “Santa was here”! Before brushing our hair or teeth or grabbing some breakfast the Christmas music of Evie Tornquist – Come on Ring Those Bells (Vinyl Record of course) would come on, after that was Bing Crosby – White Christmas and by then we have received new bikes and it was out the door. – Age 7

    That was 26 years ago and I will never forget those times and memories of how music set the mood and played into our excitement and hearts. When I hear those same songs play I can smell the cookies and feel that same joy just as if I was 7 years old again!

    Thank you for bringing such great memories back into this time of hustle and bustle. May the true meaning of this season ring through your hearts and souls. Merry Christmas!

  50. Thanks for giving a refresher on great Christmas music. Deep in my soul, “Mary, did you know?” moves me every time I hear it. But if I could only listen to one CD, it would be Handel’s Messiah. Every year since we have been married we go to a performance of the Messiah. That is 42 years this Christmas. It is the story of the foretold coming, the arrival, the passion and the coming again of my sweet Savior. How I need it at Christmas with all the hustles and bustles of often meaningless activities. It centers me, anchors me and reminds me why we have Christmas. One year we were in Thailand at Christmas without a performance anywhere, so we pulled up rattan chairs, turned the lights down low and held hands across the chairs as we once again kept our tradition of listening to the whole Messiah CD again. This year we may have to do it again, because I cannot find a performance to attend.

  51. For those wanting a journey into Christmas music history, the Oxford Book of Christmas Carols (long out of print) is a wonderful collection of songs from centuries gone by. Anyone heard of the Christmas song “I Sing of a Maiden?

    Who remembers “Amal and the Night Visitors” – the Christmas musical/stage play? I wish that was still on.

    Favorite traditional carols/hymns – “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent”, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.

    Aside from those mentioned already I find Billy Batstone’s “He Took the Form of Man” an excellent song on the mystery of God becoming man. I love Marsha Skidmore’s incredibly clear and effortless rendition of “One Small Child”, and then Jim Cole’s “Bethlehem Tonight” is one to be enjoyed by James Taylor fans.

    I submit Mele Kalikimaka (Bing Crosby) as one of the worst Christmas songs ever recorded. I play it every year – why? Because my grandparents liked it and it reminds me of them. I used to make fun of it and thought it was hideous. Still do. But as you pointed out, Sylvia, sometimes it’s about the journey the music takes us on, and that’s why Christmas isn’t Christmas without it.

  52. When I was growing up, it was always just me and my mom. So the weekend after Thanksgiving, she and I would decorate the house for Christmas. She always pulled out her vinyl records of Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, along with classic hymnal Christmas records. I grew up remembering decorating the tree; baking through the holiday season; wrapping the presents and sitting by the fire with my mom, listening and singing to these GREAT classices. We would also travel back to my grandparents who also had the same music playing, but when we went to church back their, I was blessed to hear the full choir sing the hymns in the candlelit church at night, with the quietness of fresh snow outside. Music has ALWAYS been such an important part of our family holiday traditions. Ohhh how I just LOVE this time of year!

  53. So many favorites for so many different reasons, but Donna Summer’s version of Breath of Heaven sends a shiver up my spine every time.

  54. I love Little Drummer Boy! Any and all versions of the song! I just love the beautiful reminder about what Christmas is all about and that even those who think they have nothing to offer have the gift that He gave us.

    Oh, and if I can vote for an entry…Anne’s made me cry! What a special memory!

  55. I’m loving this post on Christmas music Sylvia! Right now I’m enjoying a new cd by Stefanie Kelly all piano except she sings the last two songs.
    It puts me in a prayerful, worship frame of mind listening to my favorites like: “What Child Is This?” “Silent Night,” “Oh Holy Night”… I had the chance to put out my nativity collections from over the years early this year. Each one has it’s own uniqueness. I love how symbolic each piece is and points to Jesus. He truly is the good shepherd, lamb of God, protective father, wisest, generous gift giver! He comes gently, humbly into our hearts just like a child. Being a new grandma, I am in awe of new life and how much love we have for our newest member of the family. Love all your posts…this one really speaks to me! Love, Love, Love the music of Christmas!

  56. It isn’t Christmas at the McCauley’s until we listen to a classic…The Carpenter’s “Christmas Portrait.” It was released when I was 2 years old and became a seasonal favorite of mine when I was in elementary school. My fave tracks: “An Old Fashioned Christmas” and “It’s Christmas Time/Sleep Well, Little Children.”
    Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith fill our decked halls with lots of “fa la la” every year too!

  57. My all time favorite is Handel’s Messiah. When the Hallelujah Chorus is sung it brings shivers to my heart and soul because I can almost see myself singing it before Him in heaven and I can almost see Him Face to Face. My next favorite is “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” That one reminds me of the Christmas my brother sent that record to my mother for Christmas from California to N.Y. A couple of days before Christmas we got a call from Richard asking us to pick him up at JFK as a surprise to our mother. He has a beautiful voice himself and when we got him to the house mom had gone to bed but he stood at the foot of the stairs and sang “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” It woke her up and the look on her face when she came down the stairs had us all in tears. This was one of the few happy moments with my mother.

  58. My favorite song now is “Mary did you know?” It touches my heart and soul. My older favorite is Handel’s “Messiah.” Our high school sang it at the Ellipse by the White House. That always brings back good memories! And I appreciate your statement about the power of music. I need to listen to more, instead of learning CDs and talk radio…thanks Sylvia you are one smart and talented cookie. Have yourself a merry little Christmas love ya.

  59. Sylvia, I think your list is my list. Sweet Baby James, Micheal McDonald, Crimson Bridge, Sara Graves….you have them all. But my all time favorite Chrismas Song is “Mary Did You Know?”, however no one gives me chills down my spine as the way you and Billye sing it. Have you recorded it? Need to know where to get that cd! You are so wonderful and you are correct, nothing is as stirring as Chrismas Music!

    1. That powerful version of it that we sang at your event is available on Billye’s album “A New Perspective” ( I love it too!

  60. My favorite has always been Christ Child’s Lullaby. When I discovered you a couple of months ago imagine my happiness when I saw that you had recorded it. It was my grandfather’s favorite holiday tune and it makes me remember him.

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