What Is Holiday Music? With 9 Top Examples & History
If you’ve just heard the term ’holiday music’, you may understandably feel it’s music that related to any holiday. For example, “Monster Mash” or “Flying Purple People Eater” around Halloween, or patriotic songs like “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless the USA” around Independence Day.
Although there are songs for other holidays, people generally think of Christmas when discussing holiday music.
What Is Holiday Music?
Holiday music is traditionally referred to as music played around the Christmas season. These songs are generally played after Thanksgiving and can continue being commonly heard in stores and on radios until New Years Day. There are several characteristics commonly found in holiday tunes.
Holiday Music Characteristics
Holiday music is easy to identify. It’s unmistakable and sometimes even unavoidable during the holiday season. Many holiday songs contain instruments, like sleigh bells, that you may commonly only think of with Christmas music. The most significant way to tell it’s a holiday song is they usually all have common themes and specific words.
Common Themes/Lyrics in Holiday Music
- Baby Jesus and nativity
- Sleigh Rides
- Love (lost or found)
9 Examples Of Holiday Music
In case you haven’t heard any holiday music, or maybe you want to go down memory lane, we’ve compiled a short list of examples of holiday music. Making this list wasn’t easy as there were many favorites to add.
White Christmas by Bing Crosby
This song is the epitome of nostalgia. This holiday classic is reminiscent of what many of us hope for on Christmas morning; a white Christmas. This song is a famous cover for other bands, but this one by Bing Crosby is generally the most famous and most downloaded each Christmas season.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Gene Autry
Many know this famous holiday song. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, is the story of Rudolph and how he became Santa’s most famous reindeer. Although he was different, his uniqueness was also his strength and allowed him to help out Santa on the big day.
Silent Night is a song looking at the night Jesus was born. The song goes into detail about what it must have been on that night. This song links to the Christian theme of the holidays and the feeling of peace.
Sleigh Ride by Ronettes
Bounce to the beat of a sleigh ride in this holiday favorite. Listening to this song can genuinely put you in the holiday spirit. This song speaks of fun, friends, snow, and a sleigh ride. What could be more Christmas than that?
Mary Did You Know by Pentatonix
Pentatonix puts a unique beat and twist to this Christmas song, Mary Did You Know. This song isn’t about fun and snow but more of a spiritual outlook on the Christmas season. It talks to Mary about baby Jesus and wonders if she knew of all the things He would grow up to do and be.
All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey
It’s not very often that an original holiday song becomes a classic like this Christmas favorite. All I Want for Christmas is You is a mix between holiday music and a love song. This beautiful song speaks about not wanting any of the material things that people traditionally want for Christmas. She only wants the one she loves.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Michael Bublé
This song is another one full of nostalgia. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is a song of what most hope for with the holiday season. It sings of many of the themes of Christmas, discussing fond times with friends, family, home, Christmas trees, and peace.
Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley
Blue Christmas is one of the sad holiday songs that are still popular around the holidays. This song is one of heartbreak and loneliness. Elvis sings about how he’ll be sad without his love, while she may be doing well without him.
Christmas Shoes by NewSong
This song shows what Christmas is meant to be about – doing for others. This holiday song pulls at the heartstrings when it tells the story of a little boy with no money and a dying mother. The little boy finds the perfect gift to give his mother but has no money to pay for it until the money is given to him.
5 Top Holiday Music Musicians
When it comes to the holidays, some holiday music musicians stand out above the rest. Whether for one hit single or several, each of these musicians earned their spot on this list.
He has been referred to as the voice of Christmas for a reason. He is one of the first famous singers to record a Christmas album. His version of White Christmas is also the best-selling Christmas single of all time.
Nat King Cole
He was a smooth jazz singer with the perfect tone for Christmas songs like Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire and The Christmas Song. His Christmas album was number one on the charts back in the 1960s.
Michael Buble is a newer artist, but he spans the generations with multiple Christmas cover songs. His Christmas albums have been one of the best-selling in the 21st century. He has a smooth, almost old-fashioned voice that can bring you back through time and make you question if his covers were the original.
With an iconic voice like his, it’s no wonder that Elvis is one of the top holiday musicians. His single Blue Christmas has been on the charts on several occasions. His Christmas album could be considered essential and is one of the top-selling Christmas albums of all time in the United States.
This woman has made the list of top holiday musicians solely on one song: All I Want for Christmas is You. With this song alone, she has topped the charts in four different decades during every Christmas season. She has blown several records, like most played on Spotify in a day and the highest charting holiday song. She’s truly a holiday gift to my ears.
The History of Holiday Music
Holiday music dates way back, possibly as far back as the 4th century. When it first began, it was traditionally all faith-based and centered around the birth of Jesus. It wasn’t until the time of the Great Depression that holiday music became a little less about Christianity and more about tradition and themes related to Christmas-time.
Holiday music is popular around Christmas, mainly for the nostalgia it brings. For many, these songs bring you back to the good ol’ days or make us dream of a better time. They’re full of feel-good lyrics and themes, with many fun, upbeat pieces full of love for others.
There are also some holiday songs with a more somber theme, but they still get you emotionally involved and draw you in to want to hear them again and again.
Because of nostalgia's power over us, Christmas music won’t be going away anytime soon. New songs come out, but it’s hard for a new classic to form. Many of the more recent versions of top holiday songs are just a new variant of a popular classic. These songs have been passed down through the generations and will continue to do.
There’s also a bit of crossover between holiday music, choral music, and gospel music due to their prevalence in religion.
What Is Holiday Music? Final Thoughts
Holiday music only comes out around Christmas time. It has common themes like Christmas, family, Jesus, snow, and Santa. One thing that remains true is how the holiday music draws us in emotionally; whether happy or sad, the sense of tradition and nostalgia we get when listening to it will keep us coming back year after year.
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