The holiday season can be magical, but no matter how much cheer you have, a month of the same 8-10 songs can be tiring at best. That’s why we’re here to furnish you with a few new, singable holiday songs you’ve probably never heard before. From soul, to alt, to indie, we guarantee you’ll find at least one more song to put on your holiday playlist.
6. ‘A Great Big Sled,’ The Killers
You can’t really skip down the street to this one, but the imagery in ‘A Great Big Sled’ was beautiful enough to make the list. The song successfully evokes how it feels to be a kid on Christmas, as well as how it feels to get disillusioned and lose sight of that magic. Probably don’t play this in lieu of “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
5. ‘Hanukkah Dance,’ Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie is one of the most influential folk musicians to have ever lived. Nicknamed “The Dustbowl Troubadour,” he traveled all over the US, collecting folk songs along the way. During his time living in New York, he collaborated with his mother-in-law, an influential Yiddish poet, to write a number of Jewish cultural songs. ‘Hanukkah Dance’ is perhaps the most “Americana-esque” Hanukkah song you’ve ever heard.
4. ‘Christmas Means Love,’ The Soul Stirrers
The Soul Stirrers is a gospel group that’s been active since the 20’s in one form or another. They are, in part, responsible for pioneering the Motown and Doo Wop sound, employing such techniques as, “…ad-libbing lyrics, singing in delayed time, and repeating words in the background as both a rhythmic and emotional support for the lead singers.” We thought this great song belonged here—can’t argue with that title!
3. ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,’ The Civil Wars
Based on the 1863 poem “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” has seen tens of versions over the years. Yet people still don’t seem to know about it. The lyrics describe the narrator’s fear that war and evil will prevail over goodness. Yet, in the last few stanzas, the sound of the Christmas bells brings new hope for “peace on earth” and “good will to men.” Here it is being performed by The Civil Wars.
2. ‘Swingin’ Dreidel,’ Kenny Ellis
Okay, so this one might sound familiar to you. In fact, this is a variation of one of the most popular Hanukkah songs out there: “I Have a Little Dreidel.” But this swinging big band version is different and cool enough for us to include it on our list.
1. ‘The Secret of Christmas,’ Ella Fitzgerald
Originally written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen for a 1959 film, we prefer Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of this song the best. It’s one of our favorites, because it really hits home the universal “good will toward men” sentiment in its lyrics. So much so that we’re just going to copy and paste ’em right here.
It’s not the glow you feel
When snow appears
It’s not the Christmas card
You’ve sent for years
Not the joyful sound
When sleigh bells ring
Or the merry songs
The little gift you send
On Christmas day
Will not bring back the friend
You’ve turned away
So may I suggest, the secret of Christmas
It’s not the things you do
At Christmas time but the Christmas things you do
All year through