Musicians Share Their Favorite Christmas Songs

Hear the tunes that put Southern artists from Reba McEntire to Adam Hood in the holiday spirit

Photo: Maggie Armstrong

Music is an irreplaceable part of the holiday season, and Southern artists have plenty of traditions that celebrate it—think Warren Haynes’s hard-rocking annual Christmas Jam, the Texas flare of Robert Earl Keen’s Cosmic Cowboy Christmas, or the good cheer of CMA Country Christmas. This year, we asked more than a dozen artists to tell us about their favorite holiday songs and explain what makes them special. Read on to see their picks, and click here for a Spotify playlist.

“Pretty Paper”

“Christmas songs are difficult to write. It’s hard to put a new spin on one timeless topic. I always thought Willie nailed it. The melody is beautiful and the direction is brilliant.”
Adam Hood

“O Holy Night”

“I love ‘O Holy Night’ because of the harmonies. It’s really a very spiritual song that touches my heart.”
Reba McEntire

“I was very close to my grandparents, and this was my grandma’s favorite song. It’s so timeless and beautiful, and always makes me think of my grandmother who I miss so much.”
Carly Pearce

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

“It’s a lovely reminder of what Christmas is all about: spending time with loved ones and enjoying the moment. It’s so simple, no talk of fancy gifts or material things—just letting go of your troubles and having a nice time with friends.”
Lindi Ortega

“A Holly Jolly Christmas”

“It’s just a really happy song—especially for caroling.”
Brett Eldredge

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

It’s very sweet and very sad, and happy at the same time.”
—Matthew Ramsey of Old Dominion

“Oh, Tenenbaum”

“The version by Vince Guaraldi instantly snaps me in the mood of Christmas.”
—Geoff Sprung, of Old Dominion

“Grateful for Christmas”

“Hayes Carll put this Christmas song on his album KMAGYOYO, which is in no way a Christmas record. It’s just a great song that happens to be about the holidays. It’s like the sadder version of Robert Earl Keen’s ‘Merry Christmas From the Family.’ Everyone experiences the holidays differently. Things can get a little complicated, and this song perfectly captures those emotions.”
Ryan Hurd

“White Christmas”

“My sister and my Mom and I watch the movie [of the same name] each holiday. We have it memorized. This song always makes me cry at the closing scene.”
Heather Morgan


“Oh Come All Ye Faithful”

“I have so many memories of my family singing this song. You can sing it quietly or really rousing. It’s a good come-together song.”
Amy Grant

“Jingle Bells”

“James Taylor’s version of ‘Jingle Bells’ is so good. It’s not what you’d expect it to sound like. His version is bluesy and full of that classic James Taylor soul.”
Russell Dickerson

“Let It Be Christmas”

“Alan Jackson’s ‘Let It Be Christmas’ is definitely one of my holiday go-tos. It brings in those great ’90s country vibes, while getting you into the feel-good spirit. It’s a country Christmas classic.”
Cole Swindell

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”

“I always catch myself singing it year round, no matter what time of year it is. There’s something to Bing Crosby’s Christmas album that I really love, and this is my favorite song.”
Dustin Lynch

What are your favorite holiday songs? Tell us on Twitter at @gardenandgun with the hashtag #ggholidaysongs.