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15 Best Country Christmas Songs
The commoditization of Christmas is so pervasive that its songs need to be categorized by genre. And it might be the country Christmas song sub-category that has the most to offer every Christmas. There’s something about a low twang that quiets the heart and makes you want to slow down when your work calendar is impossibly full and your gift budget keeps expanding past its limits. There aren’t a lot of Christmas songs that have the power to stay fresh all season long, but when Dolly, Reba, Johnny, Kenny, and Loretta are singing around the Christmas tree, it’s suddenly not a problem. Grab your lap steel, piano, guitar, or whatever instrument makes you happy. It’s a country Christmas.
Elvis Presley, “Blue Christmas”
This song is the epitome of melancholia at Christmastime. If you haven’t missed someone and bellowed this song alone in your car while crying into your holiday sweater, then you don’t know what Christmas is.
Rascal Flatts, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
This already sentimental song just pulls at the heartstrings when you hear it with a tender country twang. And that a capella opening? Damn, Santa.
Dolly Parton, “Hard Candy Christmas”
This is a heartbreaker. Initially a single from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, “Hard Candy Christmas” got co-opted to become the breakup anthem of Christmas. Get out of here, George Michael. Dolly has this covered.
Brad Paisley, “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy”
This one is a real chuckle. There’s something particularly humorous about a grown man singing from the perspective of a child at Christmas.
Merle Haggard, “If We Make it Through December”
Here we go. This is the country music take on Christmas: a song about survivalism and thinking about better times. It’s also one of the most iconic guitar melodies in country.
Johnny Cash, “The Christmas Guest”
Johnny Cash knew the power of a good story, and that’s what this is. He also might have outdone Rex Harrison on the speak-sing with this one.
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, “Christmas Without You”
Dolly knows how to get the tears going at Christmas, so why would her longtime singing partner, Kenny Rogers, be any different?
Carrie Underwood, “Do You Hear What I Hear”
A familiar song with a country legend’s twist. Never a bad thing to have a little variety with the covers, especially when you have Carrie Underwood’s powerful range.
Loretta Lynn, “Country Christmas”
Well, the theme is in the song title. Loretta Lynn had the perfect country Christmas song down 53 years ago. She’s a true master.
Kelly Clarkson, “Grown Up Christmas List”
Here’s another tearjerker for the emotional ones around the tree. The world is a broken place, and despite all the distractions that try to help us forget that, it’s important to remember what privilege is. Clarkson’s soulful voice helps drive the message home.
LeAnn Rimes, “Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart”
This song will get you tapping your foot even if you don’t want to. “Put a little holiday in your heart” suddenly sounds like a stern command, and this song is so upbeat it doesn’t even matter.
Blake Shelton, “Jingle Bell Rock”
One for the party list: Blake Shelton kicks up the tempo and turns on the party lights with this familiar tune.
NewSong, “The Christmas Shoes”
This song. This song. The This Is Us of Christmas songs, “The Christmas Shoes” is maybe the saddest story ever to assault the ears on the radio. Here’s some advice: Buy into it once, sob, and then for every holiday season for the rest of your life, skip it every time it comes on the radio. It has deep themes of loss and grief, so if that’s not at all your jam, just leave it alone.
Kacey Musgraves, “Feliz Navidad”
Kacey Musgraves’ Christmas album is a new favorite, and if you know anything about how much she loves to tip her pink cowboy hat to her Texan roots, it’d be crazy if she didn’t put her own spin on “Feliz Navidad.”
Reba McEntire, “Up on the Housetop”
Reba McEntire is like the fun aunt you always want to come over and read you Christmas stories even when you’re way too old. She’s just that fun. This song is like a warm hug from Reba. Nothing better.
Hilary Weaver is a freelance writer based in New York who writes about politics, queer issues, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, and every woman the Queen has ever made a dame.