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Christmas music is as much a holiday tradition as the cookies, the tree, the presents and even the big guy himself, Santa Claus. And every year your local radio stations crank up the Johnny Mathis, Dean Martin and Brenda Lee, playing the same tunes, beloved though they may be, ad nauseam. While these songs are cherished for a reason, they need to make room for a new, swingin’ set of seasonal favorites. Look, you’ve done the jingle bell rock, you’ve seen mommy kissing Santa Claus and you’re well aware that “baby, it’s cold outside” (and, while we’re on the topic, you’re probably none too thrilled about the implication either). So with that in mind, here’s a Christmas playlist of shoulda-been, coulda-been and surely soon-to-be yuletide classics.

 

1. Coldest Night of the Year

by Vashti Bunyan

Well, it’s supposed to be cold in December, and even if it isn’t, this folk-pop number from British chanteus, Vashti Bunyan, is a lovely alternative to the many “please stay so we can make-out” standards of the season.

 

2. I Wish You a Merry Christmas

by Big Dee & Little Eva

No Christmas party is complete without this upbeat swinger from the lady who taught us all how to do the Locomotion. Pour some eggnog and cut a rug.

 

3. Presents for Christmas

by Solomon Burke

You can practically hear the wrapping paper being ripped to shreds as this classic from the 1968 Atlantic Records Soul Christmas LP plays. It’s guaranteed to make those socks you’re bound to get a little more interesting.

 

4. Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)

by The Ramones

Let’s not kid ourselves: the holidays are stressful. Sure, there’s good cheer, peace on Earth and all that, but disagreements are inevitable. Should you encounter an acrimonious moment or two this Christmas, worry not, as the boys from Queens have just the solution.

 

5. Merry Christmas Everybody

by Slade

A monster of a hit in England and an official “Christmas number one” on the British airwaves (a unique radio tradition in the UK), Slade’s holiday anthem has slowly, but steadily found its way to the States. And with good reason: it’s a warm, nostalgic and totally rockin’ ode to December 25.

 

6. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

by Wizzard

A sentiment that in theory we can all probably get behind, “I Wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday,” evokes that joyous feeling you get when everything is in full swing, everyone is having a grand time and you really don’t want the season to end. Of course, a day later you might feel quite different. (Note: this song can be quite effective during the dog days of summer as well.)

 

7. Rock and Roll Santa

by The 5.6.7.8’s

Everyone’s favorite all-female Japanese retro-rockablly trio tackle this yuletide rave-up by first generation rockabilly singer, Little Joey Farber. It delivers an instant party.

 

8. Back Door Santa

by Clarence Carter

You can’t have the “nice” without the “naughty.” This fun, raunchy ode to Santa as a lovable cad also provides the sample for Run-DMC’s classic, “Christmas in Hollis.”

 

9. Jesus Christ

by Big Star

Christmas is, of course, a religious holiday whether we celebrate it with that in mind or not. Though not a religious man himself, Big Star frontman, Alex Chilton, knew what made a good tune. The jangling guitar pop of “Jesus Christ” has emerged as a holiday staple for a new generation of revelers.

 

10. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

by Aimee Mann

While Mann is better known for her melancholy numbers about life’s more tragic characters, her recent foray into Christmas has presented a new side to her artistry. Her rendition of this holiday standard evokes both the beauty and the subtle mournfulness of the season.

 

11. Silent Night

by The Temptations

Motown is perhaps the definitive American record label, once called “the Sound of Young America,” so it’s no surprise then that the label’s Christmas albums would be a source for new holiday standards. The Temptations take on perhaps the most solemn of Christmas carols, from their 1970 album The Temptations Christmas Card, is handled with a deep soulful warmth thanks in large part to the bass vocals of Melvin Franklin.