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As you read this I am probably on the way to a cabin in Vermont with my mother, where my Dad and brother are waiting.  And by waiting, I mean likely out skiing and not really waiting for our arrival at all. Tonight we’ll open a bottle (or two) of wine and our Christmas presents, a new tradition started when my younger brother crossed the threshold of 21.

It’s been a busy week or getting ready for this day. Wrapping up the year at work. Various holiday parties (and a birthday party).  Plus, I’ve been battling a chest cough since Thanksgiving, so I forced myself to go to bed between 10:00pm – 11:00pm most nights before my boyfriend and I took off for the East Coast on a red-eye flight on Friday evening.  My parents hosted their annual holiday party on Saturday.  Last minute shopping (and a manicure.  and a magical voyage to Stew Leonard’s) wrapped up the weekend in Connecticut.

And now it’s Christmas Eve and we’re off to the mountains.  True vacation, other than the fact that I plan on throwing up a couple more posts this week.  I mean, it’s the end of the year after all and that calls for at least one list.

Today though, since I will be opening my presents tonight, I thought I would give something to you.

As is likely the case with any Christmas-celebrating unit, music plays a huge part in this holiday for my family and I.  From hymnals in church, to carols on the streets, the 24/7 takeover of many radio stations, and the deluge of pop star holiday albums (this year saw releases from Cee Lo Green, Lady Antebellum, Colbie Caillat and Sufjan Stevens) Christmas songs are inescapable even if you’re trying to avoid them.  And my Dad chooses to add to the racket by singing them.  Constantly.

Truth be told I don’t really mind.  I love Christmas songs.  The only reason I get upset when I hear them on the radio before Thanksgiving is that it seems like a cruel joke to make us think Christmas is closer than it is.

Growing up, my family took a very classic approach to Christmas tunes.  My Dad is a sucker for the standards, Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, and so forth, with the occasional pop album of the moment in there (I forced holiday albums from both ‘N Sync and 98 Degrees on them).  Thanks to the stop-motion-animated TV special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, “Holly Jolly Christmas” is probably the one song that will put me in the Christmas mood any time of year.

Recently however, I’ve been introduced to versions by the likes of the Jackson 5, The Temptations, Darlene Love and Nat King Cole.  The latter two gained huge amounts of success with their versions of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “The Christmas Song” respectively.  The injection of some soul into old favorites is the perfect soundtrack for any holiday party.

And so I thought I would put together two playlists of quintessential Christmas tunes – one of trusted, classic artists, and the other comprised of motown, jazz and funk icons.

Both should be kept on repeat for the next 24 (or heck, 48) hours, not matter when you open your presents.

A Classic Christmas
1. “Holly Jolly Christmas” – Burl Ives
2. “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Gene Autry
3. “Jingle Bells” – Brenda Lee
4. “White Christmas” – Bing Crosby
5. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Frank Sinatra
6. “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” – Andy Williams
7. “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” – Vaughn Monroe
8. “Frosty the Snowman” – Gene Autry
9. “Sleigh Ride” – The Andrews Sisters
10. “It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas” – Perry Como with The Fontaine Sisters
11. “The Christmas Song” – Mel Torme
12. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey (I know this technically doesn’t belong, but Mariah has been a part of my Christmas tradition for decades)

A Soulful Christmas
1. “O’ Come All Ye Faithful” – Luther Vandross
2. “Go Tell It On The Mountain” – Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
3. “What Child Is This” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
4. “Jingle Bells” – Dianne Reeves
5. “Winter Wonderland” – Louis Armstrong
6. “Silent Night” – Ella Fitzgerald
7. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love
8. “Silver Bells” – Stevie Wonder
9. “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” – The Temptations
10. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – Jackson 5
11. “Joy To The World” – Dionne Warwick
12. “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) – Nat King Cole