December is the month when many of us listen to a small group of songs, over and over and over again.  And we love it.

If you think about it, there are really not many well-known Christmas songs.  I just looked through my music and developed a list of most-recorded holiday tunes; I ended up with 38 on my “religious” list and 33 on my “secular” list.  Most singers or music groups recording Christmas CDs work primarily from this small body of music.

Out of curiosity, I just took a look at the music stored on my computer, and discovered I’ve got 10 different versions of “White Christmas.”  Performers include Bing Crosby, Martina McBride, The Drifters, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Johnny Mathis, and The Beegie Adair Trio.

I was also surprised to find I have 20 different tracks of “Silent Night.”  My list includes versions in piano, harp, jazz, orchestra, country instrumental, and bossa nova.  I’ve got everything from Michael W. Smith to the Robert Shaw Chorale to the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble to Simon and Garfunkle.  And I’ve got additional “Silent Night” versions that are not on my computer.

I suppose this should not surprise me.  I’ve been collecting Christmas music my whole adult life.   Between Thanksgiving and Christmas day I often listen to it for several hours a day—mostly as background music while I’m working.  Accordingly, much of my Christmas music is instrumental—piano, orchestra, jazz, etc.  (And in case you’re wondering, it’s playing right now as I’m typing these words.)

With so much variety in the holiday music available today, there’s something for seemingly every musical taste.  Since my preferences are rather eclectic, I’m going to share a list of my favorite holiday CDs, with a special focus on music about Christ’s birth.  As much as I enjoy the other holiday songs, my true favorites are those that reflect the true spirit of Christmas.  This is the music that fills my mind as Christmas day approaches.

All these CDs are available in stores or online; perhaps you’ll find something new—or perhaps something old that will feel new.


1. A Traditional Christmas, by Brian Crain

2. Christmas Magic, by Jennifer Haines

3. Christmas, Plain & Simple, by Michele McLaughlin


4. A Christmas Album and Home for Christmas, by Amy Grant.

5. Greatest Christmas Songs, by Julie Andrews

6. White Christmas, by Martina McBride


7. The Music of Christmas and Hallelujah! by the Percy Faith Orchestra.

8. The Glorious Sound of Christmas, by the Philadelphia Orchestra

Chorale groups

9. Christmas with the Academy, by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Orchestra and Chorus

10. The Little Drummer Boy, by the Harry Simeone Chorale

11. The Many Moods of Christmas, by the Robert Shaw Chorale

Miscellaneous instrumental

12. Christmas on the Mountain, by Craig Duncan  (country instrumental).

13. Enchanted Christmas, by Anna Maria Mendieta (harp and orchestra).

14. A Festival of Carols in Brass, by the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble

15.  A Music Box Christmas; 19th-century music boxes from the collection of Rita Ford

And finally, my favorite of all.  This CD includes a few secular Christmas songs, but anyone who has watched the television special knows how the story ends …

16. A Charlie Brown Christmas, by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.


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