Holiday songs

How to Find Your Favorite Holiday Songs

There are three things you can count on encountering every holiday season: cheer, goodwill and millions of Americans hitting the road to reach their proverbial home for the holidays.

Like any road trip, this odyssey back home is helped by a little music. Here's a playlist of songs we enjoy for the memories they recall and the mood they set for the road trip. Of course, distances will vary—so please feel free to add a few favorites of your own.

The start of a road trip can be a little exhausting, particularly if you've just left work. Sure, your cashmere sweater is a great travel outfit, but to get yourself re-energized for the drive, you'll need something that's poppy, upbeat, and too catchy not to sing along to. Mariah Carey's 1994 hit, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" delivers on all fronts. You'll want to keep that good energy going for as long as you can, so fire up "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"—preferably the 1970 cover off of the Jackson 5 Christmas Album next.

You're on the road and you're making progress—but don't feel like you've got to maintain that high energy the whole way through. At your first chance, slip into a pair of driving slippers. Then ease into a good pace on the highway with Burl Ives's mellow "A Holly Jolly Christmas," and continue that cruise control tempo with "Jingle Bell Rock."

The last leg of your journey may require a little more energy. Start to dial that back up with the poppy, New Wave treat that is Wham!'s "Last Christmas." If that drum machine doesn't have you totally up and ticking, throw on Louis Armstrong's "'Zat You Santa Claus." Sachmo's rollicking, bumptious 1953 jazz hit is guaranteed to raise spirits. You also have permission to swap the cashmere sweater for a flannel shirt, sleeves rolled, untucked.

With your destination getting close, slow it back down with classics that will remind you of all the holidays past—and the special people you're lucky to be spending them with this year. Start with a burst of Dean Martin's "Let It Snow! Let it Snow Let it Snow!," then dip into the slower stylings of "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole. Just make sure you have time for Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" (getting a little misty eyed is certainly acceptable). Put on a pair of leather gloves, even if they're not exactly driving gloves. It helps keep you in the mood.

If you time things just right, you'll be pulling into the driveway as Crosby finishes crooning through another one of his classic hits—"I'll Be Home for Christmas." You'll catch a glimpse of the personalized Christmas needlepoint stockings hanging on the mantel. Nothing will feel quite as good as stepping out of that car and realizing that you are where you were meant to be.

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