As a guitar player and musician, I have a deep appreciation for the iconic Christmas songs that get played year after year. In this list, I’ll countdown my picks for the 25 best Christmas songs ever from both a music perspective and a guitar perspective. Get ready to feel the holiday spirit!
25: The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole
The warm and welcoming vocals glide over a soothing melody accented by sweeping strings and crackling fireplace sounds. Guitarists can explore their jazz sides during the extended musical interludes, experimenting with rich chord voicings and improvised solo lines. The Christmas Song never fails to set a relaxing mood.
24: Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland
While saddening at first glance of the lyrics, this song encourages hope during the holiday even in difficult times. The sweet, gentle melody allows plenty of room for fingerpicking on the guitar.
23: Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande
A more recent Christmas tune, Ariana Grande’s soaring vocals over dance pop/R&B rhythms make this an instant modern classic. The syncopated strumming rhythms and melodies are an opportunity for chord embellishment and funky riffs on guitar.
22: Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney
Upbeat and cheerful, thanks to the thumping tempo and synths, this song will get anyone into the spirit. As a guitarist, the harmonic minor solo over rock rhythms allows you to shred some Santana-esque lines.
21: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by Bruce Springsteen
The Boss gives this Christmas classic his classic stadium rock treatment with a full band, heavy piano, and saxophone. But the spotlight is on the electric guitar, ripping through pentatonic rock solos and chunky open-string riffing.
20: Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) by Darlene Love
A beloved classic from 1963, Darlene Love’s huge, emotional vocals will give you chills. As a guitarist, it provides opportunities for soulful string bends and bluesy embellishments.
19: Last Christmas by Wham!
That funky, delayed guitar riff will be stuck in your head for days. Combine it with George Michael’s catchy melodies and heartbreak lyrics, and you’ve got ’80s pop perfection. The riff is simple but effective in locking in the groove.
18: Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano
A bilingual holiday staple, Feliciano’s light Latin rhythms will have you swaying along in your seat. The nylon-string guitar and vibraslap give it a tropical Christmas vibe. Practice your tresillo strumming pattern!
17: Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Mixing lush orchestral arrangements with a metal guitar shred, this proggy instrumental will both move you emotionally and leave your jaw on the floor technically. The sweeping arpeggios show off guitar virtuosity.
16: Please Come Home For Christmas by Eagles
Featuring blues rock legend Joe Walsh on slide guitar, this Eagles cover oozes soul. The vocal melody and descending chord progression will connect with anyone missing a loved one this season. Throw in some crying guitar licks!
15: Christmas Time Is Here from A Charlie Brown Christmas
This gentle jazz waltz from the classic Peanuts special captures innocent holiday wonder. Fingerpick your way through jazzy chords on an archtop or hollow-body guitar.
14: Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon
Lennon’s plea for peace during the Vietnam War era resonates in any age. The lilting light rock treatment spotlights gentle, emotional electric guitar melodies.
13: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas by Johnny Mathis
Joyful and swinging, you can’t help but smile hearing this. The snappy rhythm and vocals lend themselves well to classic jazz guitar comping and chord soloing over the chord changes.
12: Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee
A rockabilly Christmas classic to get the party going with a blues shuffle groove and walking bassline. Simple but effective guitar riffs and solos let rock and blues players cut loose.
11: Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives
Bringing hand-clapping, toe-tapping Christmas spirit, Ives captures holiday cheer. From acoustic fingerpicking to jazz chords to rock rhythm guitar, guitarists have a lot of options.
10: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by Frank Sinatra
Fly Me to the Moon… the Chairman of the Board mixes swingin’ big band arrangements and crooning vocals for fireside coziness with this winter classic. Guitarists can compile jazzy chords and improvise.
9: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Sam Smith
Smith’s emotive vocal delivery gives this classic a modern makeover. His piano-driven soul treatment spotlights swelling guitar melodies and tasteful fills behind the vocals.
8: White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Arguably the most iconic Christmas song ever, thanks to Bing’s nostalgic vocals and waving gently over the simple melody. That melody shines when played on electric and acoustic guitar over minimal chord comping.
7: Frank Sinatra – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Sinatra caresses each line behind the dreamy Hollywood strings section. Guitarists need to carefully choreograph soft chord voicings and melody lines to support their vocals. But Old Blue Eyes pauses often allowing guitarists to answer with legato phrasing and rich jazz chords. Season’s greetings from old-school cool!
6: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Mariah Carey
Who better than Mariah and her incredible multi-octave range to do this ’60s classic justice? Alongside her soulful runs, the blues rock guitar licks interplay beautifully in that vintage Phil Spector style.
5: The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole’s warm, velvety voice alongside lush strings never fails to make the season bright. Guitarists can explore complex jazz chords and improvise over the melody for days.
4: Do You Hear What I Hear? by Whitney Houston
The best vocalist of her generation, Whitney Houston, adds her cannon-like multi-octave range to this hauntingly beautiful melody. Guitarists can sprinkle moving accompaniment and accent melodies around her towering vocals.
3: Silent Night by Stevie Nicks
Fleetwood Mac’s mystic chanteuse stripped this classic carol down to just her emotional, raspy vocals and subtle guitar. That leaves plenty of room for guitarists to fingerpick acoustic with texture and expression.
2: Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley
No one brings snowy holiday blues to life better than the King with his sultry voice and country-inspired guitar licks. Guitarists can let loose with bending cries over a slow blues progression.
1: All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey
Simply the ultimate modern Christmas pop song thanks to Mariah’s masterful songwriting and legendary pipes. Playful guitar melodies weave around her joyful vocals and ’90s R&B rhythms with bells on top. Guitar nirvana!
There you have my picks for the 25 best Christmas songs ever from a guitar perspective. This would allow you to include songs that didn’t quite make the top 25 but are still worth listening to. It was hard to narrow so many excellent tunes down, but these capture everything magical about the season across genres. Let me know your favorites to play on guitar during the holidays!