Christmas is a nostalgic time, and MCM Christmas music in particular can have a way of wrapping you up in the coziness of Christmases past. We thought it was only fitting, then, to make a playlist of mid century holiday classics and maybe some lesser familiar songs from beloved mid century voices. From the bright, warm, sweeping strings of holiday classics to quirky and playful to introspective and melancholy, we hope there’s something for everyone on this playlist. Spin these up on vinyl or let us inspire you to make your own MCM Christmas playlist on the newfangled platform of your choice! (We’ve linked to vinyl records when we could find them, but spin them up whichever way you’d prefer.)
MCM Christmas Music Playlist
“The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole from The Christmas Song. Nat King Cole’s voice is like as soothing to the ears as a warm fire is to chilly fingers. It’s an invitation to slow down and take in the season’s small pleasures.
“Good Morning Blues” by Ella Fitzgerald from A Swinging Christmas. Swing is a mid century specialty, and Ella Fitzgerald may be its queen. And it’s good to remember that, even in the optimism of the mid century, Christmas isn’t all sugar and glitter.
“Skating” by Vince Guaraldi Trio from A Charlie Brown Christmas. The simple wonder of childhood and the joy of ice skating is palpable in this instrumental gem from a familiar classic.
“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby from Christmas Classics.Bing Crosby is Mr. White Christmas himself in the enduring movie musical classic by the same name.
“Sleigh Ride” by Johnny Mathis from Merry Christmas. A cheerful tune in general, Johnny Mathis’ version is particularly delightful with all the bells and pizzicato strings.
“Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney from Wonderful Christmastime. The quirky bounce to this song says Christmastime in an iconically Mid Century Modern voice.
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” by Carpenters from A Christmas Portrait. The beginning track of the classic Christmas album, the vocal mix is both charming and immediately evocative of the mid century. And the unabashed chorus and orchestral arrangement feels like the equivalent of strolling down Disneyland’s Main Street.
“A Marshmallow World” by Dean Martin from The Dean Martin Christmas Album. Snow is the classic Christmas weather, and Dean Martin is a classic mid century voice, so we chose a slightly lesser known tune that doesn’t get overplayed celebrating snow.
“Snow” Rosemary Clooney (with Percy Faith and his orchestra) from Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”.
Ok, yes, clearly this playlist is weighted towards snow appreciation. We couldn’t resist a second nod to White Christmas, this time from Ms. White Christmas. (If you’re a snow grinch, substitute with a “Christmas Island” version of your choice.)
“Christmastime All Over the World” Sammy Davis, Jr. from Christmas with the Rat Pack.A celebration of Christmas’ international appeal, this song is worth dusting off, and the whole album is pitch perfect for warm nostalgic mid century holiday tunes.
“My Favorite Things” by The Supremes from Merry Christmas. A natural combination, the song from a thunderstorm in The Sound of Music becomes a bright holiday tune in The Supremes’ talented hands.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” Frank Sinatra from Ultimate Christmas.
While so many vocalists sing the same Christmas songs, Frank Sinatra’s voice is the quintessential one for this song in my mind. (Honorable second goes to Michael Bublé.)
“Let It Be” by Aretha Franklin from Soul Queen: Aretha Franklin. So this one isn’t directly billed as a holiday tune, but Aretha’s voice is certainly a mid century one, and this song appeals to Mary’s words in the biblical Christmas story—”Let it be unto me as you have said,” words for which Mary is still revered. Here’s to soulful women who remind us that Christmas is for the “brokenhearted” waiting for an answer.
“Silent Night” by The Johnny Cash Family from The Classic Christmas Album. Another iconic mid century voice in another genre, there’s a pathos to Cash’s voice that makes his rendition of the Christmas carol especially poignant. And his family on background vocals certainly helps, too!
“Joy Will Find a Way” by Bruce Cockburn from Joy Will Find a Way.
While mid century music brings to mind swing, jazz, and blues, it was also something of a golden age for folk singer-songwriters like Bruce Cockburn, whose lyrical abilities keep pace with his technique on the acoustic guitar. “Joy Will Find a Way” is not off a Christmas album, but may we suggest it as a hidden gem in your holiday playlist.
“River” by Joni Mitchell from Blue. This one’s on the melancholy side, but there’s nevertheless something soothing and beautiful about it. It’s rare that a Christmas song becomes an enduring part of an artist’s repertoire, but this may be one of Joni’s best known tracks.
“Silver and Gold” by Burle Ives from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.Another mid century childhood Christmas staple, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is full of nostalgia, and “Silver and Gold” is not quite as overplayed as the titular tune.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Perry Como from Season’s Greetings by Perry Como. The bright sound of brass says Christmas, as does Perry Como’s crooning vocals on this classic carol.
“Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano from Feliz Navidad.
Be wary of overplaying this one, but this tune occupies a unique space in the mid century Christmas canon and is dangerously catchy. (I find it particularly difficult to dislodge this one when it gets stuck in my head!)
“Someday at Christmas” by The Temptations from Christmas Card. The mid century quintet sends us off with a hopeful vision of what could be.
For retro and retro-inspired equipment for spinning MCM Christmas music, don’t miss Staff Wish Lists: Mid Century Tunes and Record Players. If you love to listen to MCM and MCM-inspired music beyond Christmastime, find some recommendations Contemporary Music With Throwback Mid Century Sounds.