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Top 50 Holiday Music Countdown - Yule Be In My Heart

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
5

Carol of the Bells


114 Points, 4 Lists, Highest Vote: #1 Johnny Unusual

by: Peter J. Wilhousky (Carol of the Bells), Mykola Leontovych (Shchedryk)

Year of Release: 1936 (Carol of the Bells), 1914 (Shchedryk)

Type:
sZOLJdo.jpg


It has origins in a pre-Christian folk tale

Carol of the Bells is a Christmas carol based on the Ukrainian song Shchedryk. Shchedryk is actually an orthodox New Year’s song, making it the song for the latest holiday of this list Jan. 14 (technically the dates have been moved to the standard time for… I think political reasons. About Russia. But my family still celebrates a big orthodox New Years meal with borsht, perogies and the greasiest, heaviest yummiest Ukrainian food around. But I digress) The original song is about a small swallow that flies into a chimney to sing of good news of a bountiful new year. Taking the tune, Peter J Wilhousky published and copyrighted completely original lyrics for the same tune. Because Wilhousky was the arranger of the NBC orchestra, he was able to reach a wide audience and Carol of the Bells became one of the most iconic Christmas carols.

Carol of the Bells doesn’t sound like anything else on this list… except #4. We’ll get into that tomorrow. But what I mean is it is metrically bistable and a listener can focus on either measure or switch between them. It is such an interesting and haunting piece of music that I couldn’t help choosing it as my number one. Yeah, I guess being related to my Ukrainian heritage helps, like a little bit, but mostly I just find it to have an energy that is beautiful but can also have a quality that’s weirdly foreboding yet not intimidating, as if the season is a force of nature that is going to take you on a ride, like it or not. It might be also the best Christmas tune to set to an action set piece or heist scene in a movie. Just my opinion.

Other Covers

Pentatonix
Mannheim Steamroller​

Here’s an odd one

Mr. Mackey
SEO is messed up: when I looked for Carol of the Bells lyrics, it kept saying “m’kay”

Christmas Creep take

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Tomorrow we’ll talk about the song that completely nearly messed up this list!
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
an interesting and haunting piece of music
I agree - I had Carol of the Bells at #2 on my list. But I do find it hard to put into words why I like it - there is just something ineffable about the song.

Carol of the Bells is a Christmas carol based on the Ukrainian song Shchedryk. Shchedryk is actually an orthodox New Year’s song, making it the song for the latest holiday of this list Jan. 14
I have a post in my holiday music thread about Shchedryk which includes a solo performance of it.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Oh man, I bet I could make a list of 25 different versions of Carol of the Bells if I wanted to. I will exercise restraint because I think that would be a bit too weird, but I'm probably going to put a few versions of it on my list.
I was very good and only did two different versions on this list but still stand by the idea that I could have done 25 of them.

I have a post in my holiday music thread about Shchedryk which includes a solo performance of it.
I remember when you posted that and that almost made my list because I think it's so lovely. Very late cut.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
4

Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24

Trans-Siberian Orchestra
126 Points, 5 Lists, Highest Vote: #2 Violent Vixen

by: Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Year of Release: 1996

Type: Nothing applies to this one…

Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24 is an instrumental melody of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a side project of the heavy metal band Savatage. The medley consists of both previous entries God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen and Carol of the Bells. The medley was inspired by the true story of cellist Vedran Smailović, who, played music in the town square during the bombing of Sarajevo as part of a 22 day vigil (a day for each person). The narrative accompanying the piece the band provided is based on the true story but includes some creative license, such as Vedran being a white-haired older man (he was 36), probably because the Sarajevo String Quartet, which did include older men, also played a vigil during the bombing. The intent in the piece is the rock music represents one side of the conflict, the orchestra another and the cello being Vedran.

OK, this is where you guys tried to trip me up. You pulled a real Napster on me here. Remember when Napster was constantly attributing songs to Weird Al he never did, just because they were comedy songs? Y’All tried to trick me because a lot of you wrote “Carol of the Bells by the Trans-Siberian orchestra” so I put that in with the other Carol of the Bells. This is not the case and there’s no song they released JUST called Carol of the Bells (yet) and any time it appeared in youtube, it was just Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24 with a different name. Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24 was nearly near the bottom of the list. Oh, right, the piece itself. It is very beautiful. Yes, there might be some inaccuracies (which… doesn’t really matter in a piece without lyrics, I think), but the heart of it is still there with it’s image of a lone man playing music among the rubble.

Other Covers

George Lynch

Here’s an odd one

Eric Tingstad & Nancy Rumbel
This medley is interesting because it came out a year before Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24 was recorded.

Christmas Creep take

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You say “Sa*va*tage”, I say “Sava*tage*”
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Pretty sure I had the right title, heh. My list note was that sure, it’s just an arrangement of two other songs already on my list, but man, what an arrangement.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
You pulled a real Napster on me here. Remember when Napster was constantly attributing songs to Weird Al he never did, just because they were comedy songs? Y’All tried to trick me because a lot of you wrote “Carol of the Bells by the Trans-Siberian orchestra” so I put that in with the other Carol of the Bells. This is not the case and there’s no song they released JUST called Carol of the Bells (yet) and any time it appeared in youtube, it was just Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24 with a different name.

I was very good and only did two different versions on this list but still stand by the idea that I could have done 25 of them.

Ha! Guilty! And I learned a thing!
 
I forgot that was what it was called and voted for it as Carol of the Bells (Trans Siberian Orchestra). Glad you were able to sort this one out, Johnny!
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
3

Feliz Navidad

José Feliciano
127 Points, 6 Lists, Highest Vote: #7 JBear

by: José Feliciano

Year of Release: 1970

Type:
mUhbOu4.jpg


I mean, he says Christmas so many times. Eventually it must summon baby Jesus.

Feliz Navidad is a Christmas song by Puerto Rican singer José Feliciano. Feliciano was in LA at the time, away from family in New York and was feeling really homesick and missing his favourite Christmas activities like eating homemade Puerto Rican food and singing carols. The song is simple: repeated use of the Spanish greeting for Christmas and New Years. The song wasn’t a big hit on the charts until the year 1998 but since then has become a Christmas standard and is now one of the most downloaded Christmas songs of all time.

This is one I have strong memories of; it was one of the pieces that was on frequent rotation in my family household as a child. Feliciano may have been fueled by a sense of sadness but the song’s whole energy is Elvis. It goes big. And the shocking part is it is among the most repetitive songs lyrically but it is a real blast of joy and it’s easy to see why it eventually became so big. Like, I imagine singing this song as a huge musical number in an Elvis-like cape in Vegas. As a kid, this one bounced off me a bit but as a growned up, I appreciate it much more.

Other Covers

]Natasha St-Pier

Here’s an odd one


Was not expecting this. But I guess I assumed the Von Trapps just stopped singing in the 60s, which is naive of me.

Christmas Creep take

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In Spanish, I’m la Persona Repugnante de Navidad
 
4

Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24

I'm actually surprised it didn't pop up as an alternative version of Carol of the Bells. For a long stretch, every year my family and I would go to the Christmas TSO concert, then Covid, and only this year did we go back. It is their biggest hit and they know it. They play it twice, once as part of the "story" portion of the show (currently it's based on the DVD film you can sometimes catch on PBS) and then as the finale for the whole concert. If you go, do NOT leave before you hear it a second time, you'll miss half the show if you do.

But being their biggest hit, I'm not sure it's their absolute best in the non-lyric category. There are so many like Wizards in Winter that are at least as good. Still if you want impact, nothing tops Christmas Eve/Sarajevo.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
OK, this is where you guys tried to trip me up. You pulled a real Napster on me here. Remember when Napster was constantly attributing songs to Weird Al he never did, just because they were comedy songs? Y’All tried to trick me because a lot of you wrote “Carol of the Bells by the Trans-Siberian orchestra” so I put that in with the other Carol of the Bells. This is not the case and there’s no song they released JUST called Carol of the Bells (yet) and any time it appeared in youtube, it was just Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24 with a different name. Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24 was nearly near the bottom of the list.
Not me. I had the official title (at #14 on my list).
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
2

White Christmas

Bing Crosby
143 Points, 5 Lists, Highest Vote: #6 Johnny Unusual

by: Irving Berlin (songwriter), Bing Crosby (original performer)

Year of Release: 1941

Type:
gGn0AaU.jpg


White Christmas is a song that originated in the musical comedy film Holiday Inn. It is the only Academy Award winning song on the list! Irving Belin wrote the song and accounts vary on where it happened. Supposedly he spent the weekend writing it and claimed to her. "I want you to take down a song I wrote over the weekend. Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it's the best song anybody ever wrote." The song was first sung publicly Christmas Day 1941 on NBC by Bing Crosby (who claims he didn’t initially see anything special in the song).

While there were secular Christmas songs before this, White Christmas, even more than Rudolph, proved the viability of the format. This song written by a Jewish immigrant created not only the subgenre of Christmas songs wistfully thinking towards the Christmases of yesteryear or associating it with home and hearth but essentially made it so Christmas songs in pop culture weren’t just little blips but could be a recipe for success. This song basically birthed the modern Christmas song. Crosby himself would also be associated heavily with Christmas music throughout his career. But this song? He thinks he’s not the one who made it big. "A jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully", said he. Maybe Berlin was right.

Either way, White Christmas is a song that changed it all. It’s joyful but a little bit sad, a song about a dream of the past. I think we who celebrate Christmas often put our minds into the holidays of the past and sometimes want to recapture that magic, even if we know that the myths we created in our heads might not actually meet the reality. White Christmas is very much about our longing for the world of the past yet doesn’t feel like a sad song but wanting the now.

Other Covers

Drifters

Here’s an odd one

Flippers​

Christmas Creep take

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And brace yourself because if White Christmas is a little bit blue, the winner proves that’s exactly how we like it.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
1

Christmas Time is Here

Vince Guaraldi
189 Points, 6 Lists, Highest Vote: #1 Adrenaline and Daikaiju

by: Vince Guaraldi (composer), Lee Mendelson (Lyricist)

Year of Release: 1965

Type:
gGn0AaU.jpg


Christmas Time is Here is a song written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson for the television special A Charlie Brown Christmas and appears in the opening. After the score was completely written, one piece of music struck the writers as particularly beautiful and they decided to see if they could write lyrics to it.

Mendelson –

“So I sat down with an envelope — I'll never forget this — at our kitchen table and wrote 'Christmas Time Is Here' in about ten minutes. It was a poem that just came to me — never changed the words to this day. It was only about a minute long. And Vince got a bunch of little kids together to sing it.”

Those kids were the choristers from St. Paul's Episcopal Church in San Rafael, California, whom Vince had worked with before.

The special itself is about Charlie Brown who finds himself in a malaise, wondering if Christmas is even about anything anymore as it gets lost in commercialism. The special also had ads for Dolly Madison snack cakes that the kids would eat. The music throughout is by the Vince Guaraldi Trio and has become as iconic for it’s jazzy score. It’s a perfect sort of marriage, Guaraldi already having performed a “jazzy mass” earlier in the year with the same choir.

I couldn’t think of a more perfect song to end this on as this one. Not because I think it’s the best (though I truly love it) but because it’s the perfect song for the evening of Christmas day, after all the anticipation falls away and the food is eaten and the dinner dishes are cleaned away, we can all rest. It’s a bit of a comedown but also a relief. The lyrics in the song are all hopeful but the minor key gives it a sadness perfect for the season. It isn’t forced, either and doesn’t betray or ironically contradict the content of the music; the melancholy can coexist with the sense of wonder at the beauty and joy of the season as we pick up the wrapping paper and while we have many toys and books, there’s also the feeling that someone cared enough to give that to you. It’s us, man. That’s what it is all about. Being together with you. You talking time. Thank you so much for participating in this list. It was a bit stressful, especially since balancing this with school, but I’m super glad to have done it.

Other Covers



Here’s an odd one


Kind of pretty but sounds like it’s being sung backwards.

Christmas Creep take

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone. Wait… it’s going to be an election year?



Hug your loved ones, everyone.
 
Can't argue with that choice. Thanks for running this, Johnny! It was fun and festive.

Anyhoo, I'll post my list later but this was my #1, which somehow didn't make the list even though TT is the place that introduced me to this song. Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Daikaiju

Rated Ages 6+
(He, Him)
Per tradition, here's my submission

  1. Christmas Time Is Here (Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown)
  2. We Three Kings (Wil Vinton's Claymation Christmas)
  3. O' Holy Night
  4. Simple Gifts
  5. When The River Meets the Sea (A Muppet Family Christmas Featuring John Denver)
  6. Joy To the World (Wil Vinton's Claymation Christmas)
  7. Carol of the Bells Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 (Trans Siberian Orchestra version)
  8. What's This?! (A Nightmare Before Christmas)
  9. We Need a Little Christmas
  10. So This is Christmas
  11. Silent Night (A Muppet Family Christmas Featuring John Denver)
  12. Little Saint Nick (A Muppet Family Christmas Featuring John Denver)
  13. Holiday Road (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation)
  14. Little Drummer Boy (Bing Crosby and David Bowie)
  15. Silver Bells
  16. Have A Holly Jolly Christmas
  17. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
  18. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
  19. Even A Miracle Needs A Hand (Rankin Bass Twas The Night Before Christmas)
  20. All I want for Christmas is You (cliched, but still a banger)
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
  1. Suzy Snowflake - The Nornam Luboff Choir (with Norma Zimmer) as shown on WGN-TV
  2. Carol of the Bells
  3. Frosty the Snowman - Jimmy Durante MGM Records 1950 version
  4. Jingle Bell Rock - Bobby Helms / original recording
  5. Deck the Halls
  6. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee / original recording
  7. Welcome Christmas - performed by the MGM Studio Chorus and used in the 1966 TV special version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
  8. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Andy Williams
  9. A Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives / original recording (as used in the 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special produced by Rankin-Bass)
  10. Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town
  11. Jingle Bells
  12. The Twelve Days of Christmas - John Denver and the Muppets from their 1979 Christmas television special or see note below
  13. All I Want For Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey / original recording
  14. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 - Trans-Siberian Orchestra (original recording)
  15. The Little Drummer Boy
  16. Mele Kalikimaka - Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
  17. Silver Bells
  18. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Burl Ives (as used in the 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special produced by Rankin-Bass)
  19. Sleigh Ride
  20. Hardrock, Coco and Joe - The Nornam Luboff Choir (with Norma Zimmer) as shown on WGN-TV
  21. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer - Elmo & Patsy / original recording
  22. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas - Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters with Mitchell Ayres & His Orchestra
  23. Christmas at Ground Zero - "Weird Al" Yankovic / original recording
  24. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  25. Zat You Santa Claus - Buster Poindexter and His Banshees of Blue
Got 20 out of 25 matches which I think is the best I've ever done. I think the narrow focus of this Top 50 was what made that possible.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
This was a really fun one, thank you @Johnny Unusual for running it! I went hard on personal preferences rather than what I thought would place/win on this one and had a lot of fun with it.

1​
Stille NachtGerman version specifically but doesn't have to be this choir
2​
Carol of the Bells Trans Siberian OrchestraTrans Siberian Orchestra specifically
3​
Carol of the Bells Lindsay StirlingSpecifically this version
4​
Hello - AdeleAlready just a good song for winter wistfulness, but the SNL sketch has permanently made this a holiday song for me
5​
Ave Maria José Carreras
6​
The Streets of Whiterun - SkyrimJust a peaceful winter town
7​
What Child is This/GreensleevesNo specific version
8​
Jingle Bell RockNo specific version
9​
Evergreen - MC Chris CW: SwearingSpent a lot of late nights singing this in the lab as a group in grad school. That "I'm too poor to go home for winter break but honestly I'm still having a great time" feeling
10​
Ice Cap Zone Act 1 Sonic 3
11​
Fresh Static Snow - Porter Robinson
12​
Hating You for Christmas - EverclearA staple at at the Christmas parties and a balm for everyone who is sick of hearing about winter engagements
13​
Dona Nobis PacemInstrumental Version
14​
A Wish - Secret of Mana
15​
Four Seasons - Winter - VivaldiNo specific version, but I really like this one
16​
How to Save a Life - The Fray CW: SuicideThe pressure to be cheerful and attend everything at the holidays and the amount of food and drink can be too much for some. This song is a good reminder to think about people who might be having a hard time.
17​
Aurora Borealis - Seiken Densetsu 3I like this remix but if someone else votes for the OST version grouping together is fine
18​
Jsou svátky - Karel GottI'd heard this song growing up but never seen this video until now. Delightfully 70s!
19​
Darshan - Reena Esmail
20​
This Will Be Our YearLink is the OK Go cover but I like the original too and am fine with them being merged
21​
In the Cold Cold Night - The White Stripes
22​
Skating in Central Park
23​
Home Alone Main title
24​
God Rest Ye Merry, GentlemenAny version is fine
25​
Jak to kapru říctThis is my throwaway last place vote, a Czech Christmas carol about how great carp are. It gets stuck in your head!

Seriously my throwaway 25th is the dumbest thing ever and I love it:
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
I prefer the instrumental version of Christmas Time Is Here, but really the vote was a stand-in for the whole A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack album, which is the best holiday recording in history.
 
  1. Santa's Laughter Mocks the Poor ~ The Attery Squash
  2. The Night Santa Went Crazy ~ Weird Al Yankovic
  3. Theme from Elf ~ John Debney
  4. Christmas Time is Here (from A Charlie Brown Christmas) ~ Vince Guaraldi Trio
  5. Somewhere in My Memory (from Home Alone) ~ John Williams
  6. Patrick Swayze Christmas (Joel and the Bots)
  7. White Christmas ~ Bing Crosby
  8. This Christmas ~ Donny Hathaway
  9. Christmas Canon ~ Trans Siberian Orchestra
  10. Oh Holy Night (Any Choral Version)
  11. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) ~ Darlene Love
  12. Ukrainian Carol of the Bells ~ Trans Siberian Orchestra
  13. Good King Wenceslas (Any Choral Version)
  14. Merry Christmas - If That's OK ~ Mike and the Bots
  15. Oh Holy Night ~ Eric Cartman
  16. Holly Jolly Christmas ~ Burl Ives
  17. You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch ~ Thurl Ravenscroft
  18. Silent Night (Any Choral Version)
  19. Blue Christmas ~ Elvis Presley
  20. Silver Bells ~ John Denver
  21. Oh Come, All Ye Faithful (Any Choral Version, the more bombastic the better)
  22. Frosty the Snowman ~ Jimmy Durante
  23. Feliz Navidad ~ Jose Feliciano
  24. What Christmas Means to Me ~ Stevie Wonder
  25. Christmas in Hollis ~ Run DMC
 

Olli

(he/him)
1. Sia - Santa's Coming for Us
2. Mariah Carey - All I Want for Christmas Is You
3. Leslie Odom Jr. - Snow
4. Ariana Grande - Santa Tell Me
5. Michael Bublé - Cold December Night
6. Leslie Odom Jr. - Winter Song
7. James Brown - Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto
8. Michael Bublé - It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas
9. Kylie Minogue - Santa Baby
10. Cee-Lo Green - What Christmas Means to Me
11. Kelly Clarkson - Underneath the Tree
12. Jose Feliciano - Feliz Navidad
13. Leslie Odom Jr. - Mele Kalikimaka
14. RUN-DMC - Christmas in Hollis
15. Otis Redding - Merry Christmas Baby
16. The Jackson 5 - Up On The House Top
17. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - Ain't No Chimneys in the Projects
18. The Supremes - My Favorite Things
19. Sia - Puppies Are Forever
20. Sia - Ho Ho Ho
21. Wham Last Christmas
22. The Pogues - Fairytale of New York
23. Kurtis Blow - Christmas Rappin'
24. Aloe Blacc - I Got Your Christmas Right Here
25. Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton - You Make It Feel Like Christmas

You might notice that I really like
* Sia's Christmas album Everyday is Christmas
" Leslie Odom Jr's Christmas albums
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Johnny Unusual

  1. Carol of the Bells
  2. Christmas Time is Here
  3. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
  4. O Holy Night
  5. I’ll Be Home for Christmas - For the wistful away from home on Christmas (which shockingly only happened twice to me, I think)
  6. White Christmas
  7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  8. Silent Night
  9. Do you hear what I hear?
  10. Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Ever since a Charlie Brown Christmas' finale, this one kept speaking a lot to me.
  11. O Come All Ye Faithful
  12. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
  13. Christmas Wrapping - A fun "Christmas is stressful" song
  14. The Little Drummer Boy
  15. Good King Wenceslas
  16. The Christmas Song
  17. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
  18. Zat You, Santa Claus
  19. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  20. Auld Lang Syne - Happy New Year. I will never remember the words to this song. Also for some reason my brain auto-corrects "never brought to mind" to "never brought to harm"
  21. Christmas in Hollis
  22. Snow Miser/Heat Miser
  23. Winter Wonderland
  24. Jingle Bells
  25. The Hannukah Song
 
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