10 Country Christmas Classics

Celebrate With Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Martina McBride and Others

Does anything say “Hello, Christmas” better than listening to Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash or Martina McBride while you open presents or enjoy some eggnog with family or friends?

I think not. So as you take time to wind down and get in the holiday spirit, I gift you with a few of my picks for classic country Christmas moments to perfectly soundtrack the day.

“Hard Candy Christmas,” Dolly Parton
Hello, Dolly. It wouldn’t be the holidays without this one. Though many argue it isn’t exactly a Christmas tune, I don’t discriminate. It kicks off my holiday playlist every year.

“Pretty Paper,” Willie Nelson
Now this is a classic. Perhaps one of the most iconic Christmas songs ever made, too. Although Roy Orbison did a great job on his version, the familiar vulnerability lingering in Nelson’s voice truly captures the emotions of the season. And if you’ve never heard troubadour Robert Ellis’ new version, it’s a must-have, too.

“O Holy Night,” Martina McBride
McBride could sing the phone book, and it would send chills down your spine. But something about her version of “O Holy Night” truly magnifies the meaning of the season with a reverence and power that is unmatched.

“Where Are You Christmas,” Faith Hill
Like McBride, Hill is one of the younger voices in my picks, as is the song “Where Are You Christmas” which first appeared in the 2000 remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But don’t let its tender age fool you. It carries all the message and meaning you seek in a timeless classic, and I’m certain is destined to become one.

“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Gene Autry
What else needs to be said? It’s timeless. Is there another version? Not in my universe.

“Away in a Manger,” Emmylou Harris
Her voice always sounds like an angel right here on earth, so it’s no surprise that Harris’ lilting delivery of this hymn is nothing short of heavenly. Those harmonies. Oh, those harmonies!

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” Brenda Lee
Whether you’re out last-minute shopping, at a holiday party or just watching that party scene in the holiday film Home Alone, admit it. When you hear this classic, you’re going to get up and dance. It’s OK. Only Santa can judge you.

“The Little Drummer Boy,” Johnny Cash
There have been many covers of this tune over the years, but I’d argue no voice is more perfect to perform it. His booming, velvet vocals on this song create such a feel of nostalgia and fuzziness. It’s perfect.

“Mary, Did You Know,” Kenny Rogers featuring Wynonna Judd
Rogers knows how to pick a duet partner, and Judd is the perfect voice to help share this message.

“Christmas in Dixie,” Alabama
My daddy will tell you that it “ain’t officially Christmas” until he hears Randy Owen singing this song. Maybe it’s because I’m a daddy’s girl, but I’d have to agree. Nothing makes me long to rush home to the Georgia pines (sans snow, of course) faster than hearing this one on the radio.

Samantha is a country radio insider with a deep love for the music and its stars. She can often be found on a red carpet or at a late-night guitar pull.