20 of the best Christmas albums of all time

Perhaps more than any other holiday season, Christmas is full of nostalgia. As the years go on, whether anyone likes it or not, it can be nearly impossible to avoid memories of the seasons that have passed and Christmas traditions around the tree, whether spent with family or alone. As different as those holiday memories are for everyone, so, too, is the music often heard during this time, be it traditional Christmas carols or new tunes.

With the holiday season fast approaching, Stacker dug into articles and data from various leading music websites and curated a list of great Christmas albums across various genres and eras as of November 2023.

Of course, traditional Christmas music makes up the greatest Christmas albums. The tunes that generations have grown up with—from such recording artists as Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and Nat King Cole—have endured. More recent Christmas albums, such as Mariah Carey’s now-classic “Merry Christmas,” are legendary in their own right. This Christmas albums list spans various genres, from hip-hop to country. Nevertheless, each one helps listeners reflect on their memories of the holiday.

Photo of Charles Brown in front of a microphone.
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‘Sings Christmas Songs’ by Charles Brown

– Released: 1961

Charles Brown’s Christmas album features the highly popular and frequently covered “Please Come Home for Christmas,” which peaked at #76 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1962 and was Brown’s only solo Billboard hit. Brown co-wrote the song with Gene Redd—though Brown later claimed he was the sole songwriter. Another holiday classic on this album is “Merry Christmas, Baby,” originally recorded in 1947 by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, of which Brown was a member.

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‘The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album’ by The Beach Boys

– Released: 1964

Consisting of classic holiday songs like “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” the Beach Boys’ seventh studio album was an instant success. Debuting at #6 on Billboard’s Christmas LP chart, the album featured not only classic Christmas songs but five original tracks as well. The album maintained its popularity in the following decades and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America almost two decades after its initial release.

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‘White Christmas’ by Bing Crosby

– Released: 1945

For many, Bing Crosby’s elegant voice is instantly synonymous with Christmas. Though Crosby’s original album came out in 1945, subsequent reissues and expanded tracks from the ’40s and ’50s comprise a compilation released in 1986. Featuring songs like the acclaimed titular track and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” the album features Crosby at his best—crooning Christmas tunes that make the holiday feel all the cozier.

Ella Fitzgerald sings into a microphone.
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‘Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas’ by Ella Fitzgerald

– Released: 1960

Ella Fitzgerald’s first Christmas album put a jazzy spin on 12 classic holiday songs. The album, filled with secular tunes from “Jingle Bells” to “Frosty the Snowman,” allowed Fitzgerald to display her more spirited and fun side, with each track making the listener feel like the singer is swinging along with them.

Elvis Presley performs on stage with his band.
Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

‘Elvis’ Christmas Album’ by Elvis Presley

– Released: 1957

Despite being his third studio album, the Elvis Presley collection of classic Christmas songs became some of his most famous and acclaimed. The album featured 12 songs and held the #1 spot on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart for four weeks. It has since gone diamond. Presley’s “Elvis’ Christmas Album” remains the top-selling Christmas album of all time.

Chance the Rapper performs at the 94th Annual National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony.
Cheriss May // Getty Images

‘Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama’ by Jeremih and Chance the Rapper

– Released: 2016

Self-released via SoundCloud on Dec. 22, 2016, this collaborative Christmas album was dedicated to Chicago, the hometown of both Jeremih and Chance the Rapper. The album has nine original tracks and features guest appearances from Noname and Hannibal Buress. The album was followed by a deluxe version, “Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama Re-Wrapped,” the following year.

Johnny Cash at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
Kevin Mazur // Getty Images

‘Christmas with Johnny Cash’ by Johnny Cash

– Released: 2003

Released the year he died, “Christmas with Johnny Cash” is an incredible compilation of the country star’s greatest Christmas songs. With 12 tunes, many previously released, the album showcases Cash at his best and most festive.

Kacey Musgraves performs on stage during the CMA 2016 Country Christmas.
Rick Diamond // Getty Images

‘A Very Kacey Christmas’ by Kacey Musgraves

– Released: 2016

The first Christmas album by country singer Kacey Musgraves, this album is filled with nostalgic tunes, as well as four originals. She gives classic songs like “Let It Snow” a new country flair while showcasing her lyrical talent on new songs like “Christmas Makes Me Cry.”

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton perform at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
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‘Once Upon a Christmas’ by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

– Released: 1984

Accompanied by a 1984 CBS television special, “Once Upon a Christmas” is Kenny Rogers’ second Christmas album and Dolly Parton’s first. The following year, it peaked at #12 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. The album was certified double platinum by the RIAA in 1989, five years after its initial release.

Brandon Flowers of The Killers performs onstage during 2016 Governors Ball Music Festival.
Jeff Kravitz // Getty Images

‘Don’t Waste Your Wishes’ by The Killers

– Released: 2016

Combining annual Christmas singles released by the band from 2006 to 2016, “Don’t Waste Your Wishes” was the Killers’ first—and only—Christmas album. Despite releasing exclusively on the iTunes store in 2016, debuting at #41 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart, the LP was added to Spotify in 2020.

Gareth Paisey of Los Campesinos! performs on stage during the Stag and Dagger music festival.
Ross Gilmore // Getty Images

‘A Los Campesinos! Christmas’ by Los Campesinos!

– Released: 2014

Released by indie Welsh band Los Campesinos!, this album contains five original songs and one cover. The tracks range from displaying a melancholy dream-pop sound to an indie-rock sound more fitting of the band’s other music.

 Mariah Carey performs at the 81st Annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting.
James Devaney // Getty Images

‘Merry Christmas’ by Mariah Carey

– Released: 1994

Though the attempts to trademark her self-proclaimed title of “Queen of Christmas” were unsuccessful, Mariah Carey’s first Christmas album consisted of timeless covers and original material. The best-known of which, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” has charted every holiday season since its release. Notably, the song also peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2019, 25 years after its original release.

Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

‘The Magic of Christmas’ by Nat King Cole

– Released: 1960

Despite recording several holiday songs as singles earlier in his career, “The Magic of Christmas” remains Nat King Cole’s only Christmas album. It reached #1 on the Billboard Christmas Albums chart and stayed there for two weeks.

M. Ward and Zooey deschanel of She & Him perform at Stubb's Ampitheatre.
Andy Sheppard // Getty Images

‘A Very She & Him Christmas’ by She & Him

– Released: 2011

She & Him, comprised of actor Zooey Deschanel and musician M. Ward, released their first Christmas album in 2011. It includes the songs “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Last Christmas,” “Little Saint Nick,” and others that everyone can enjoy. The album went #1 on Billboard’s US Folk Albums and US Independent Albums charts.

Tyler, the Creator performs onstage during Mala Luna Music Festival.
Rick Kern // Getty Images

‘Music Inspired by Illumination & Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch’ by Tyler, the Creator

– Released: 2018

Accompanying the 2018 animated film “The Grinch,” the theme album “Music Inspired by Illumination & Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” is Tyler, the Creator’s first Christmas album. Consisting of original tracks from the rapper, the six-song EP is an innovative take on the Christmas album.

Snoop Dogg performs during Lollapalooza at Shoreline Amphitheatre.
Tim Mosenfelder // Getty Images

‘Christmas on Death Row’ by Various Artists

– Released: 1996

Featuring songs by popular artists from Death Row Records, the album includes both covers and original songs. “Christmas on Death Row” was the label’s first and only Christmas album and peaked at #30 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

‘A Motown Christmas’ by Various Motown Artists

– Released: 1973

This Christmas compilation features covers from popular Motown artists like the Jackson 5, the Supremes, the Temptations, and Stevie Wonder. Although the album was recycled into different packaging throughout the decades, it was finally reissued in 1992.

Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

‘The Ventures’ Christmas Album’ by The Ventures

– Released: 1965

The Ventures are an instrumental rock band and have released two Christmas albums. This offering includes covers of classic Christmas tracks and is an instrumental album, making it the perfect mood-setter during the holidays.

Jazz composer Vince Guaraldi plays piano in circa 1962.
Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ by Vince Guaraldi Trio

– Released: 1965

Featuring covers of songs like “O Tannenbaum” and jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi’s own original work, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” remains one of the most beloved Christmas albums. The record charted on the Billboard Christmas Albums chart every holiday season from 1988 through 2003.

Willie Nelson performing onstage at Chicagofest.
Paul Natkin // Getty Images

‘Pretty Paper’ by Willie Nelson

– Released: 1979

“Pretty Paper” was the first and most successful Christmas album country legend Willie Nelson recorded. Since it dropped in 1979, the album has been certified platinum by the RIAA.

Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Paris Close. Photo selection by Clarese Moller.

Provided by Stacker

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