PCC(E)’s favorite holiday songs

Yes, even though I’m an apostate Jew, I still like a few Christmas songs, and I’ve put them below to celebrate the beginning of my personal holiday. All three songs were written fairly recently—since 1962.

Drawing courtesy of reader Laurie

This is a lovely one by Sarah McLachlan and a children’s chorus; it even includes an antiwar message, included in the original song written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. That was recorded in 1971 by the John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir. I like this version because it shows the song being recorded.

Who could forget Karen Carpenter, to my mind the possessor of the world’s best female pop voice? And this is her most famous holiday song, written by her brother Richard and Frank Pooler and recorded in 1970. She’s already anorexic in this video, but the voice (prerecorded) is strong—and gorgeous. Richard called her low notes “the money notes”: the word “Christmas” is one.

And the owner of the world’s best male singing voice, with one of my favorite Christmas songs (yes, it refers to baby Jesus). The song was written only in 1962—as peace song during the tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis. (The Carpenters’ version is here, with Karen coming in at 0:55).



  1. Posted December 25, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    The Johnny Mathis version of Do You Hear What I Hear becomes surreal menace in Gremlins.

  2. Sabine
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Happy Birthday, Jerry!=^..^=

  3. Christopher
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Elvis, Blue Christmas
    Springsteen, Santa Claus is Coming to town & Merry Christmas Baby
    Chuck Berry, Run Rudolph Run (Lemmy’s version works, too)
    Beach Boys, Little Saint Nick
    And yes, I admit it, I like Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas Time.

  4. Mark Joseph
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “I Believe in Father Christmas” (“the first atheist Christmas carol”)
    John Lennon, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”
    Trans-siberian Orchestra, “Carol Of The Bells”

    Also, J. J. Ryba’s Christmas mass, “Hej mistre” (imagine a hacek over the “r” in mistre and the “c” in hacek).

  5. Robert
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    My wife, the feminist, loves Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt.

    • Christopher
      Posted December 25, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Well-known feminist Miley Cyrus appears to have given Santa Baby a feminist update. I haven’t bothered to listen to it.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted December 25, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        It’s worth a listen. She has a great voice, and it is funny.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 25, 2018 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, it made me laugh.
          ‘Stop interruptin’ me when I talk
          And don’t text me pictures of your …’




    • Posted December 25, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      That’s my favourite!

      I also like this version of the classic “While shepherds watched their flocks by night”:
      “While shepherds washed their socks by night
      All seated ’round the tub,
      A cake of Guinea Gold soap came down,
      And they began to scrub.”

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted December 25, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      I second that. After Ms Kitt’s Santa Baby, my favorite Xmas listening is on Jethro Tull’s Christmas album, which contains jazzed instrumental versions of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, Greensleeves and We Three Kings.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 25, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Damn straight, Eartha Kitt. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that schwing!

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Happy birthday, Jerry, and Merry Christmas to all! As an athiest, I still love the old carols like “Silent Night,” O Come, All Ye Faithful,” and “God Rest You, Merry Gentleman.” Of more modern fair, Mel Torme’s ‘Christmas Song,’ ‘Silver Bell’s’ by Bing and Rosemary Clooney, and Gene Autry’s ‘Up on the Rooftop.’

    • Posted December 25, 2018 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Even though an atheist, my favorite Christmas music is Handel’s Messiah, and I am in awe to know that he wrote this magnificent piece in two weeks.

      • Mike Cracraft
        Posted December 25, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        Yes in two weeks, but he had the advantage of borrowing from some of his earlier choral and orchestral works.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted December 25, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        I am compelled to recommend Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Favorite parts : glorious first track, Part 2 Sinfonia – has a subtitle, something about sheep , … not sure if “Sheep May Safely Graze” – another beautiful piece – is part of that.

        St. Johannes Passion – Christmasy? Not sure – opening song evokes deep pain, nails through flesh, (John Eliot Gardner said that), demons. Rare sounds for Bach.

        If interested check out A Passionate Life on YouTube. Perfect BBC viewing for December in the northern hemisphere.

        • Posted December 25, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          I am listening to Bach’s Oratorio as I write. Another Christmas masterpiece. One of the few things for which I am thankful to Christianity is that inspired some fine music and art.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted December 25, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink


            I actually play the Christmas Oratorio – and any Bach – all year.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted December 27, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

          The Oratorio title is :
          Part II
          Second Christmas Day
          And Abiding in the field in that same country
          10. Sinfonia

      • Terry Sheldon
        Posted December 25, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        I have also been told by my vocal teacher (who I regard as an authority on that period of music history) that Handel was an agnostic/atheist. Made me feel a bit better about singing in a performance of “Messiah” this year!

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I must listen closely later, I apologize- but :

    1. The children’s choir / chorus (I think Lennon’s used a non-pro “chorus”) is the real heartstring puller here, for me. I’ll have to put it in the rotation.

    2. Must listen later

    3. Agree 100%. The call-response element of the “do you hear what I hear lyric” really helps set the song up. also needs to be in my rotation.

    I know we weren’t asked to add our own songs, so I expect readers to tear me apart for not reading the post carefully


    I submit what I think is one appropriate selection for this website and this post, and, a favorite of mine :

    Anita Baker – yes THAT Anita Baker
    Cyrus Chestnut trio
    My Favorite Things
    (Rodgers and Hammerstein..?)


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 25, 2018 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      “I know we weren’t asked to add our own songs, so I expect readers to tear me apart for not reading the post carefully.”

      Why? It never stopped anybody else. They’ve all done it. 😉


  8. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Gotta admit, Mariah Carey All I Want for Christmas is You is pretty great.
    But I am heartily sick of hearing it.

  9. Posted December 25, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this post. Happy holiday!

  10. Posted December 25, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Those Christmas songs will go well with your Chinese food tonight, PCC. Happy Coynezaa!

  11. Posted December 25, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    For a fun Christmas song, try “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses. I saw them live a couple of times and they put on a good show.

  12. Terry Sheldon
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    In addition to ELP’s “I Believe in Father Christmas” (which I posted about on FB just to see how many of my Christian friends actually listened to the lyrics) many of my favorites come from “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics” on “South Park”, including the immortal “Merry F**king Christmas”, “Christmas Time in Hell” and (best of all) “The Most Offensive Song Ever”.

  13. Doug
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Favorite Christmas novelty song: “Snoopy’s Christmas” by the Royal Guardsman.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Call me a philistine if you wanna, but I’ve always kinda dug the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick”. 🙂

    • Posted December 25, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      That’s too similar to “Little Deuce Coupe” for my tsste. In fact, it’s almost the same song!

  15. revelator60
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    My favorite Christmas songs:

    “O Holy Night” — Jackie Wilson

    “Santa Claus is Back in Town” — Elvis Presley

    “Christmas Must Be Tonight” — The Band

    “A Star Was His Candle” — Lawrence Tibbett

    “Merry Christmas Baby” — Otis Redding

    “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer” — The Temptations

  16. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    I find most Christmas carols rather dreary. Silent Night is a possible exception.

    I don’t mind Boney M’s ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ – a good reggae beat will make almost any tune upbeat. I just mentally pipe the lyrics to /dev/null and listen to the tune.

    If Xtianity consisted entirely of listening to Boney M I could almost tolerate it.

    (My BMW, which is bright red and hence inevitably known as Manfred, likes Snoopy’s Christmas. The New Zealand Herald called it the Worst Christmas Song of All Time, which is an outstanding endorsement.)


  17. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    I agree about Johnny Mathis though I prefer his ‘Island in the Sun’.

    But – no disparagement of Karen Carpenter intended – I think the world’s best female pop voice has to be Linda Ronstadt.

    Linda’s best songs weren’t Christmas songs IMO, but here’s Silent Night –
    or this one:


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 26, 2018 at 2:38 am | Permalink

      Oops, Island in the Sun was Harry Belafonte. I really should check Google before I open my big mouth. 8-((


  18. Conelrad
    Posted December 26, 2018 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    Let me put in a word for two or three of the carols written by Alfred Burt back in the 1950s.
    I am thinking of ‘Come, Dear Children..’ & ‘Bright, Bright, the holly berries, in the wreath upon the door…’

  19. Richard Bond
    Posted December 26, 2018 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    I am surprised that no-one has mentioned my favourite: White Wine in the Sun, either the original by its author Tim Minchin, or the version by Kate Miller-Heidke accompanied by her husband on guitar. Both are on Youtube.

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