Thanksgiving has passed, meaning only one thing: Christmas is now a go. I repeat, Christmas is now a go! It is now undeniably okay to trim the tree, pin up the mistletoe, wrap the presents, and string the lights. That also, of course, means it’s time for one of the most cherished holiday festivities: Christmas music. So here are 10 country music holiday hits to add to your Christmas playlist (if they’re not there already).
10. Montgomery Gentry: “Merry Christmas From the Family”
Originally written by Robert Earl Keen in 1994, Montgomery Gentry released the title in 2001. Their version is arguably more popular than the original; the track hit the Top 40 that year.
A far cry from the Norman Rockwell images we are used to seeing about Christmas, this song celebrates a dysfunctional southern family. References include third wives, AA, cigarettes, bloody Mary’s, and bean dip. If you’ve ever wanted to experience redneck holidays, add this to your Christmas playlist!
9. Luke Bryan: “Run, Run Rudolph”
Though not quite as popular as Chuck Berry’s original release, Luke Bryan’s 2008 cover is the second-highest charting of the song.
The song was written in 1958 by Johnny Marks. Marks wrote other iconic holiday hits, including “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and “Holly Jolly Christmas.”
8. Johnny Cash: “The Christmas Guest”
Told with Cash’s signature country sound, this song tells the story of shopkeeper Conrad. Conrad is waiting on God to visit him and then realizes that the beggars who came to his door are actually God asking for generosity. It’s a touching story amplified by Cash’s storytelling ability.
7. Martina McBride: “White Christmas”
McBride recorded this Christmas classic for her 1998 White Christmas. The album’s popularity was so great that it was re-released in 1999 and again in 2007. McBride’s version of this classic is beautiful.
6. Kenny Chesney: “All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan”
For those living in warm climates–or simply dreaming of one–this is your Christmas tune! From the album of the same name, this Christmas album has the unusual distinction of charting in the Top 10. Trade in eggnog for some Jamaican rum, and dream of the beach.
5. Taylor Swift: “Last Christmas”
Released from her 2007 album Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection, her cover of this Wham! hit reached No. 28 on the country charts the year. Of course, it’s appropriate that Swift would do a breakup song, even for Christmas.
4. George Strait: “Christmas Cookies”
Though you can’t get this song except on compilation albums, it’s well worth purchasing. It’s one of the only tributes to Christmas cookies, which is unfortunate considering their place in holiday traditions.
3. Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd: “Mary, Did You Know?”
This Christmas chart-topping duet released 1996. Asking about the Virgin Mary’s knowledge about who her future child would be, it has a haunting soft melody. Kathy Mattea also did the song, but the Rogers/Judd version really brought it to a much wider audience.
2. Merle Haggard: “If We Make It Through December”
This is one to add if you like a side of realism with your holiday feast. With themes of sadness and unemployment, Haggard took the No. 1 spot with this classic. Because the holidays can be so difficult for so many, this song is definitely timeless
1. Alan Jackson: “Let It Be Christmas”
This author’s favorite Christmas tune (country or otherwise), no Christmas playlist is complete without it. Jackson’s Christmas images come to life in this song. Released in 2002, the warm tones evoke the nostalgia of Christmas past beside the hope of Christmas future.
Lyrics reference new family members being born, elders passing away, the sounds and smells of Christmas, and the joy of the season. Picturesque images of Christmas landscapes also fill the song. It’s a wonderful song to play as you decorate your tree or sit by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate.
Of course, there are dozens more country classics to add to your Christmas playlist, but these are the must-haves of the season!