Christmas trees are going up faster than Jelly Roll and Lainey Wilson are climbing the charts these days! To help set the mood, we took some inspiration from “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and rassled up 12 of our favorite country Christmas songs that can be enjoyed over the coming weeks. There’s a little something for everyone in the mix — there are modern artists and legendary ones, traditional tunes and originals, and songs that promise to make you feel all the feels, inspiring laughter, joy and romance, along with a few tears, too. As Loretta Lynn so famously sang, “we’re keepin’ it country”!
After all, tradition is important, as Dolly Parton (who shows up, below) knows. “We didn’t even have electricity for lights on the tree,” she’s shared about her years growing up in the East Tennessee mountains. “We had popcorn garland [and] that’s one of the things I have to have today. I never got over being country.”
Celebrate the season with Dolly and several other amazing artists by diving into our collection of country Christmas songs below.
12. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Darius Rucker and Sheryl Crow
Darius Rucker was inspired to record this perennial favorite after seeing Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell’s shower version in 2003’s Elf. And when it came to recording his own version for 2014’s Home for the Holidays album, the artist’s first choice to be his duet partner was Sheryl Crow.
Christmas clearly came early for Rucker that year, as she agreed and they nailed their swinging and playful version. They had a ton of fun doing so, too. “We just sat across from each other and laughed and had a great time. She’s such an amazing singer,” he’s shared, adding, “That’s one of the songs on the record that just gives me chills. I go, ‘Man, that’s really good.’” We’ll second that!
11. “Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton
Though it came from a decidedly non holiday project — the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas musical — this melancholy song has become a huge holiday favorite thanks to the magic of Dolly Parton, who, of course, starred in the 1982 screen version.
The country queen’s version even hit No. 8 on the country charts in 1983. Dolly put the unconventional song on an updated version of her Once Upon a Christmas album when it was reissued in 1984 as a collaboration with Kenny Rogers. She also sang it on Bob Hope’s 1988 Christmas special. Several artists, including Reba McEntire, have covered it, and this sad yet ultimately uplifting tune, is the gift that just keeps on giving.
10. “Santa Claus Was My Uber Driver” by Lee Brice
No other genre injects humor into its songs better than country. This delightful 2022 toe-tapper from Lee Brice proves it. “His license plate read SANTA1, just killin’ time ’til December comes. I couldn’t make this up if I tried but Santa Claus was my Uber driver last night,” Brice sings.
The best part? It was inspired by a real pickup Brice had! After tracking the driver down, Brice kept the tune as truthful as possible, as both the driver and the song character spends his off-season in Virginia Beach “with his feet in the sand, cold beer in his hand, playin’ rock ’n’ roll drums in a ’90s cover band.” Sure sounds like a Santa we’d want to hang out with! “When that kind of story lands in your lap, you can’t help but write it,” Brice notes.
9. “O Holy Night” by Mickey Guyton, country Christmas songs
“I get really intimidated to sing Christmas songs. I was really nervous to record it,” Mickey Guyton told Apple Music about tackling one of the most sacred of the genre. But she didn’t have anything to worry about: Her 2021 version is stellar. When she sang it at the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting ceremony, Country Living raved that “she brought the house down” and that her “performance will go down as one of the best in history.”
The accolades are appreciated, but the artist says she had more simple goals while recording the classic. “I really want [listeners] to just feel Christmas, I want them to feel festive,” she noted. “I hope they feel warm. I hope they feel love. I hope they feel the spirit.”
8. “Pretty Paper” by Willie Nelson, country Christmas songs
Willie Nelson is country music’s gift to everyone, and when the legend made his first Christmas album in 1979, he titled it after this song he wrote in 1963. Roy Orbison had a hit with it that year before Nelson recorded it himself in 1964. “Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue, wrap your presents to your darling from you,” starts the song, inspired by a disabled street vendor Nelson remembered from Ft. Worth, Texas.
The man would sell gift-wrapping materials on a crowded street as “busy feet hustle by him.… In the distance the ringing of laughter, and in the midst of the laughter he cries.” Sure, it’s a sad song, but it’s also a great reminder, especially around the holidays, that we should spread some cheer and joy to everyone we meet.
7. “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” by Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani
Blake Shelton popped up on Gwen Stefani’s 2017 holiday album for this bouncy, romantic romp, which they helped co-write. “I sent Gwen a couple of lines…. She took it and made the song what it is,” Blake confessed to Entertainment Tonight. “She tries to say that I co-wrote it, but I just sang on it.” Recorded close to four years before they wed, the song is extra sweet regardless of who came up with the lyrics. “Sweet gingerbread made with molasses, my heart skipped and I reacted. Can’t believe that this is happening, like a present sent from God,” they sing.
Its entertaining video shows them driving their tree home, building polar-opposite versions of snowmen and dancing with pint-sized Santas and Mrs. Clauses in front of an adorable orchestra of kids. This is definitely a fun one that will brighten up any holiday party.
6. “Glow” by Brett Eldredge, country Christmas songs
Time for a little Christmas romance, courtesy of Brett Eldredge and his countrified Frank Sinatra-inspired vocal stylings. “This fire is nice, but so are your eyes,” he croons on the track, which he co-wrote, and it just gets sweeter from there. “So nice, you are my sunshine over a field of snow, and I love to watch you glow,” he sings, before slyly heating things up from nice to naughty with, “Pour on the bourbon, it’s gettin’ late. Let’s melt all the frost on the window pane.” “I always wanted to do a Christmas album with this classic crooner, swingin’ vibe, and I think we got it,” he told Good Morning America of his 2016 Glow CD and its title track.
5. “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy” by Buck Owens, country Christmas songs
“Or daddy looked a lot him,” as this charming and humorous 1965 gem from Buck Owens goes. It’s country humor at its finest, and features plenty of great “pickin’ and grinnin’,” as the famed Owens and Roy Clark Hee-Haw segment was titled. “He didn’t come down the chimney, so momma must’ve let him in,” the song continues, with the suspicious child promising to turn Kris Kringle and momma in after he sees the two embrace. Garth Brooks, John Pardi and many others have covered this tongue-in-cheek treat and had plenty of their own fun with it.
4. “There’s a New Kid in Town” by Keith Whitley and Alan Jackson
“There’s a new kid in town, and he’s lying in a manger down the road. There’s a new kid in town, but he’s just another baby I suppose. Heaven knows there’s a new kid in town.” Alan Jackson and Keith Whitley, two country kings in their own right, pay tribute to the reason for the season in this beautiful tune, which Whitley co-wrote and released in 1985. Many have covered it, but this “duet,” done in 1993, is extra magical considering that Whitley passed away in 1989. “It was kind of tricky getting both our voices on there,” Jackson told Yahoo! Music of the behind-the-scenes expertise needed to put his voice on Whitley’s original track, but the result is worth its weight in gold, frankincense and myrrh.
3. “Do You Hear What I Hear” by Carrie Underwood
When you listen to Carrie Underwood’s version of this traditional song, it’s clear why she won American Idol and has gone on to be one of the most respected voices in the business. Her delivery is restrained and pure through most of the song, but she also lets her voice soar when needed and the result is beautiful.
One of the things she loves about this song in particular is how children connect with its descriptive lyrics. “It brings a smile to my face when I sing it. It talks about things that, as a child, you would understand, such as ‘dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite.’ Or ‘voice as big as the sea’: stuff that kids all know,” she revealed in a radio interview.
2. “Blue Christmas” by Martina McBride and Elvis Presley
In another example of expert editing, Martina McBride not only “duets” with Elvis Presley on his favorite holiday classic, but she also performs it “live” with him onstage in 2009, 32 years after his death. Gorgeously done up in ’60s hair and makeup to fit the footage from his 1968 comeback special, McBride magically appears in the track’s official promo clip, singing side-by-side with the King. “That…was such a cool project, with the technology to be able to insert me into the video,” she’s shared. “We were so lucky that the only Christmas footage we could find of him singing on film was ‘Blue Christmas’ and it just happened to have this empty spot right next to him that we were able to put me into that spot.” The video, and the “duet,” are both brilliant.
1. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee
Like the perfect topper for your tree, this is one of those classic songs and the perfect country Christmas tune to get your holidays rolling … or rockin’. Originally recorded in 1958 by Brenda Lee, a true national treasure, the song exploded when it was featured in 1990’s Home Alone and its popularity seems to grow exponentially every year. In fact, this year, it just hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Lee’s first chart-topper since 1960.
The “Dynamite” 4’9” singer, once nicknamed “Little Miss TNT,” even shot an official video for it this year featuring cameos by Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood. The living legend, who turns 79 on Dec. 11, has even burst onto the social media scene thanks in part to the song’s success. Fans old and new are tickling her heart and sending her sweet messages, which she’s read out loud in some posts. “As a fan of Mariah Carey, I personally want Brenda to also hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100,” one fan wrote in, adding, “The world is big enough for us to have 2 Queens of Christmas.” We agree, and would love to have the two duet on both their Christmas classics!
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