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A Christmas Playlist

Illustration of a family with two children caroling in the snow.

I have always been a Christmas music junkie. In fact, my freshman college roommate had to ban me from turning on the tunes as early as October. Since then, I’ve learned restraint, but once the season starts, I pack in all the Christmas music I can.


Last year, each time I baked cookies, I streamed a Christmas album from my personal history, working through every album I could remember listening to, beginning with Contemporary Christian Music from the 80’s. That’s right, Amy Grant’s A Christmas Album. Oh, as a young girl, how I longed to be her! I loved the Fair Isle sweater she wore in a snowy scene on the cover of the cassette tape! Those songs represented my happy early childhood.


I moved through all the stages of both my life and technology: the CCM cassettes of childhood, the jazz CDs I ordered with my BMG membership in college, the value pack of 20 instrumental CDs we bought when my husband worked at Christian Book Distributers while attending seminary, the indie digital downloads of early family life, and finally, songs from the Singer/Songwriter station on Pandora. Each album brought back memories that played out in the periphery of my vision while I measured and mixed.


I remembered my big brother singing falsetto along with the boys’ choir on Michael W. Smith’s Christmas. I remembered dancing to Mindy Smith’s “It Really Is (A Wonderful Life)” during one of the happiest Christmas seasons of my life, celebrating in our first house after our second son had been born. I remembered taking my then ten-year-old son to hear The Messiah live and him following along in his personal copy of the score.

I looked back on the moments knowing in hind sight what would come later: that I would lose my brother when he was only 25, that there would be another baby in the house by the next Christmas, that my son would begin composing his own music three short years later. The music, and the memories they sparked, made my preparation of Christmas even more special than usual.


My kids were familiar with most of the songs but were especially intrigued (offended?) by the synth sounds of the 80s. (I'm looking at you, Manheim Steamroller!) “What is this?” they’d ask, strolling into the kitchen to pinch a bit of dough from the bowl. 


“Hey!” I’d say, defending both my musical heritage and my cookie dough (defending neither particularly well with that underdeveloped rhetoric).


Having listened through roughly 20 albums, I can say that two that really stood out were the aforementioned Michael W. Smith Christmas and Chris Tomlin’s Glory In the Highest. Both contained meaningful original songs about Christ’s birth. As much as I enjoy songs about snow (I love snow!) and sleigh rides, and as much as I like traditional songs, I paticularly enjoy new songs about Christ's birth. Many of these songs lead me to worship, even if I’m just singing alone in my kitchen.


I took a Marie Kondo approach to the albums as I listened. Each time I heard a song that "sparked joy"—perfectly captured the album and era and made my heart happy—I added it to a playlist titled, “Jamye’s Christmas Heritage," which I share with you today on Spotify and Pandora.

(Disclaimer: The only albums that aren't represented here are the Celtic Christmas CDs I once owned. As I listened again, I was like, "Why/How did I go through a Celtic phase?" and "How is this even about Christmas?" In true KonMari fashion, I didn't let guilt interfere with cutting these ones out.)


This playlist is completely devoid of the pop songs you're hearing in store aisles. From the 1980's to the early aughts, from Manheim Steamroller to Ella Fitzgerald, from Tchiachovsky to The Peanuts, from Sufjan Stevens to Amy Grant, here is my Christmas music heritage. May you find something new to add to your own annual favorites.


Jamye's Christmas Heritage Playlist

(on Spotify and Pandora)

“Christmas Hymn,” Amy Grant

“A Mighty Fortress/Angels We Have Heard on High,” Amy Grant

“Love Has Come,” Amy Grant

“The First Noel,” Al Green

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Kim Hill & Phil Keaggy

“One Small Child,” David Meece

“Still Nacht (Silent Night),” Manheim Steamroller

“Christ the Messiah,” Michael W. Smith

“No Eye Had Seen,” Michael W. Smith

“All is Well,” Michael W. Smith

“Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song),” Amy Grant

“Emmanuel, God With Us,” Amy Grant

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” Ella Fitzgerald

“Winter Wonderland,” Ella Fitzgerald

“Jingle Bells,” Ella Fitzgerald

“Thanksgiving,” George Winston

“Joy,” George Winston

“Carol of the Bells,” George Winston

“Good King Wenceslas,” Loreena McKennit*

“O Tannenbaum,” Vince Guaraldi Trio

“Skating,” Vince Guaraldi Trio

“Christmastime is Here,” Vince Guaraldi

“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” Over the Rhine

“The Christmas Tree” The Nutcracker

“Nutcracker March,” The Nutcracker

“Pas De Deux,” The Nutcracker

“For Unto Us a Son is Born,” The Messiah

“Angels from the Realms of Glory,” Dallas Brass

“Go Tell It on the Mountain,” Dallas Brass

“Angels, We Have Heard on High,” Dallas Brass

“Deck the Halls,” Dallas Brass

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,”World Harmonic

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” Maeve

“Love’s Pure Light,” Maeve

“Child of Love,” Sara Groves

“It’s Christmas Time,” Various

“In Bleak Midwinter,” Paul Colman Trio

“Carol of the Bells,” The Bird and the Bee

“Sister Winter,” Sufjan Stevens

“Silent Night,” Sarah McLachlan

“Snow,” Sleeping at Last

“Everything’s Gonna Be Better Next Year,” The Rescues

“Winter’s Night,” Joshua Hyslop

“Christmas for Two,” Sixpence None the Richer

“Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year?” Rosie Thomas**

“It Really Is (A Wonderful Life),” Mindy Smith

“Christmas Lights,” Coldplay

“My Soul Magnifies the Lord,” Chris Tomlin

“Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy),” Chris Tomlin

“Winter Snow,” Chris Tomlin

“Glory in the Highest,” Chris Tomlin


*The single Celtic song I allowed to stay, because it's actually a Christmas song.

**Guaranteed to make you dance.








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