Stories

20 Essential Christmas Songs by Opry Members

You’ll fa la la love these country carols, both classic and new. We’ve even created a Spotify playlist for your holiday party.

Photograph courtesy of the Country Music Association

Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks | Christmas Together

The ultimate Christmas gift? Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood’s first-ever duets album. That’s what fans finally got when the couple released Christmas Together in 2006. The album features a delightful range of underrated classics like “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” and “I’m Beginning to See The Light.” Yearwood got to perform a medley of songs when she hosted CMA Country Christmas, which aired December 3.

Trace Adkins | “Silent Night”

Trace Adkins was adventurous when recording his Christmas album, The King’s Gift, a collection of Celtic carols. You might not expect such a project from the baritone, but Adkins handles the musical style’s melodic variation masterfully. We love his rendition of “Silent Night” alongside Kevin Costner, who has also performed on the Opry, and daughter Lily Costner. You can see Adkins perform a medley of seasonal songs during his festive residency at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort, now through Christmas day.

Loretta Lynn | “To Heck With Ole Santa Claus”

Loretta Lynn tells it like it is — after all, we’re talking about someone whose hits include “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” and “Fist City” — and she’s not afraid to put Santa in his place either. “To Heck With Ole Santa Claus” is exactly the type of original Christmas song you’d expect from Lynn with lyrics that include “I like to hit him in his (ho ho ho) with a bunch of big snowballs.” We can’t help but smile the whole way through.  

Keith Urban | “I’ll Be Your Santa Tonight”

Keith Urban released his first-ever original holiday song this year, “I’ll Be Your Santa Tonight.” The soulful number is reminiscent of “Blue Ain’t Your Color” but dons a Christmas sweater. Urban sings about making the most of the holiday with the one you love, even if traditions don’t go according to plan.   

Martina McBride | “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Martina McBride is the long-reigning queen of Christmas music, having released not one but two holiday albums. Twenty years after she released White Christmas, McBride dropped It’s the Holiday Season in 2018. Her latest release harks back to the days when swing bands reigned supreme, which makes track “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” our pick to listen to as we adorn the tree with tinsel. 

Vince Gill | “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)”

Vince Gill and Amy Grant have a longstanding tradition of playing Christmas at the Ryman, a string of shows at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, every holiday season. But when we can’t be at the Ryman, we’ll put on one of the numerous Christmas albums they’ve each released. One of our favorite songs is Gill’s “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song),” which was co-written by Grant and included on the eponymous album Breath of Heaven: A Christmas Collection.

Chris Janson | “It is Christmas”

We love whenever Chris Janson tickles the ivories during his performances at the Opry. In the music video for his single “It is Christmas,” he’s at it again. Janson opens the number with a spoken verse that paints a picture of a familiar, cozy Christmas Eve, one with A Christmas Story playing in the background and the dog trying to lap up water from the tree stand. It captures the simple magic of Christmastime perfectly, even though Janson wrote the song in July.

The Oak Ridge Boys | “Don’t Go Pullin’ On Santa Claus Beard”

Southern gospel quartet The Oak Ridge Boys deliver the harmonies and cheer with each Christmas album the group releases, and this year’s Down Home Christmas album is no different. For this project, the group enlisted the help of top-notch singer-songwriters for original singles including “Don’t Go Pullin’ On Santa Claus Beard” by Anderson East and “South Alabama Christmas” by Jamey Johnson.

Brad Paisley | “Born on Christmas Day”

When Brad Paisley was just 13 years old, he wrote “Born on Christmas Day.” Twenty-one years later, that same kid would appear on grown Brad Paisley’s album Brad Paisley Christmas. Brad – both of them – sing together thanks to an old recording of a young Paisley on radio show Jamboree USA.

Alan Jackson | “Let It Be Christmas”

Is it even Christmas if you haven’t listened to Alan Jackson’s “Let It Be Christmas” at least thrice? Since the song’s release in 2002, it’s become the gold standard of country Christmas songs and one that we can’t help but sing along to.

Rascal Flatts | “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

Gary LeVox delivers the goosebumps in the opening line of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” before Rascal Flatts bandmates Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney join him in harmony. We don’t know what we did before hearing this a cappella interpretation, which makes our playlist year after year since the song’s 2008 release.

Emmylou Harris | “Light of the Stable”

Can you imagine Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Neil Young, and Linda Ronstadt caroling at your door? The chances might be slim, but lucky for you, you can play Harris’ “Light on the Stable” anytime. The song features Parton, Young, and Ronstadt as background singers. Together, the four sound like angels. 

Marty Stuart | “Even Santa Gets The Blues”

Even the big jolly guy isn’t immune to a little holiday sadness. There’s no better person to put Santa’s blues to music than “Hillbilly Rock” singer Marty Stuart. We hope Santa can take a break from his workshop and drown his sorrows in some milk and cookies soon enough. 

Darius Rucker | “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” featuring Sheryl Crow

As a soloist, Darius Rucker’s voice is velvety smooth, but it’s twice as nice when paired with Sheryl Crow’s. When Rucker released Home for the Holidays in 2014, he selected Crow to sing the classic duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” along with him. The pair recorded the track in the same studio session, which makes the song feel that much more intimate. It’s not the only song the dynamic performers have together. Rucker tapped Crow’s talent a year prior for “Love Without You” on his True Believers album. 

Dolly Parton | “Hard Candy Christmas”

Between Dolly Parton’s Hallmark movies and numerous Christmas songs, there are countless ways to Dolly-fy your holiday. But one of her most beloved Christmas songs surprisingly came from her appearance in the 1982 film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. A bittersweet number, Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” has been covered by countless artists including Cyndi Lauper, LeeAnn Rimes, and fellow Opry member Reba McEntire. 

Reba McEntire | “I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus” 

The Jackson 5 original “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” gets the swing treatment with Reba McEntire’s 1999 rendition. McEntire’s sense of humor and vocal ornamentation lend themselves perfectly to the track. Of course, the word “mommy” gets swapped out for “mama” — this is country music, after all. 

Chris Young | “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” 

Cozy up to a cup of cocoa and Chris Young’s silky baritone when you play “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” The uptempo song, which is set to sleigh bells and included on his album It Must Be Christmas, is Young at his holiday best, showcasing his impressive vocal range. 

Carrie Underwood | “Do You Hear What I Hear?” 

It’s hard not to get goosebumps when listening to Carrie Underwood sing a hymn, and her rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is no exception. The song is a comfort and a reminder of what makes this time of year special. 

Riders In The Sky | “Let It Snow/The Last Christmas Medley You’ll Ever Need To Hear”

Riders In The Sky are masters of clever turns of phrase. The cowboy quartet never takes itself too seriously, which is why we love the band’s holiday album Christmas The Cowboy Way. The track “Let It Snow/The Last Christmas Medley You’ll Ever Need To Hear” will surely lighten the mood when your uncle burns the roast beef — again. Bassist Too Slim posits every Christmas song is based on “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” before the band does a wacky mashup of more than a dozen yuletide hits including “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

Blake Shelton | “Two Step ’Round the Christmas Tree” and “You Make It Feel Like Christmas”

You can dress Christmas song up or down to your liking, and Blake Shelton is a pro at doing both. On Cheers, It’s Christmas, he covers the Suzy Bogguss original “Two Step ’Round the Christmas Tree,” and last year, he appeared on girlfriend Gwen Stefani’s album You Make It Feel Like Christmas. Their duet of the same name is equal parts glitzy and silly. 

Listen to our full Christmas playlist!