CHRISTMAS AND MUSIC, two of my favorite things. And this time of year, I get to combine them.
But where to choose? How to narrow down a virtually endless library of songs, renditions and artists into a list fit to grace my home's music player, responsible for piping holiday cheer throughout the house?
If you'd take a poll, you'd get 10 different answers from 10 different people. You're favorite song may be Silent Night, but it's likely a different version than the person standing next to you.
That's the beauty of Christmas music. Each song and/or singer holds different meanings for different people. This just happens to be my Top 10. It's not definitive and it's not everyone's cup of tea.
But it's a good starting point.
1. Bing Crosby
any Christmas song
To me, Bing Crosby is the epitome of the Christmas crooner.
Crosby was a famous singer and actor. He had plenty of classic hits, but aside from serious fans, the only ones people remember are his Christmas renditions and for good reason. Crosby's crooning has become synonymous with the Christmas season. It just feels right.
The best, for me, is either White Christmas or It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I'm also kind of partial to Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas Song), the Little Drummer Boy and Crosby's rendition of Christmas in Killarney, which I'll mention later.
Coming in a close second to Crosby in the "greatest Christmas voice" is Perry Como. Like Crosby, Como's crooning was smith as silk. But I give the edge to Crosby every time.
2. Vienna Boys Choir
Stille Nacht/O Tannenbaum
The Vienna Boys Choir, Mormon Tabernacle Choir there's something to be said for a full compliment of singers to be belting out a holiday tune.
Being part German, I appreciate giving a listen to these two songs in their native language.
O Tannenbaum's English version is Oh Christmas Tree.
But it's Stille Nacht, or Silent Night in English, that is chilling to hear. It's more chilling when factoring in its one of the songs sung by German, English and French troops in their native tongues during the Christmas truce of 1914 during World War I. It could be heard being sung from the trenches as it was one all three sides knew the words too.
3. The Irish Rovers
Christmas in Killarney
And this is my other half. There are plenty of great Irish specific Christmas songs, but I always keep coming back to Christmas in Killarney.
Crosby's version is wonderful, but I have to give the nod to The Irish Rovers.
Their take on this 1950 tune is more lively and upbeat. It's a fun song. It should be sung as such.
4. Dean Martin
Let It Snow
Frank Sinatra may have been known as the Chairman of the Board, but Dean Martin is the Rat Pack member who is chair of the top Christmas songs.
The Steubenville native knew how to croon out a Christmas tune, the best of which is Let It Snow.
Martin's versions of Baby It's Cold Outside, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the Christmas Blues are all classics, as is his Winter Romance album as a whole.
5. The Christmas Song
Nat King Cole
While Crosby is the unquestioned king of Christmas carols, no one comes close to Nat King Cole's rendition of the Christmas Song.
The you know the one chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
It's Cole's version that really brings the song to life.
6. Chuck Berry
Run Rudolph Run
Speaking of bringing to life, that's exactly what Chuck Berry does with his twist on the tales of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
You can argue that it's not quite as traditional as some of the other songs on the list, and you'd be right. But Berry cranked out a fun holiday hit and it's good to have on your playlist.
7. Etta James
Merry Christmas Baby
What's Christmas without a little soul?
And what's soul without the sweet sounds of the late, great Etta James.
There are many fine renditions of this song, but in my opinion, James' stands alone.
You just have to sit back, close your eyes and feel the music on this one.
8. Burl Ives
Holly Jolly Christmas
Like Crosby, Ives had a string of hit records. But as time has worn on, what he's most remembered for are his honored Christmas songs.
Ives' probably most famous holiday single is Holly Jolly Christmas.
The man with a speaking voice for the holidays, many a child, both young and old, can instantly recognize Ives as the voice of the snowman narrator from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
9. Judy Garland
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
While Garland may best be remembered for playing Dorothy in the original version of the Wizard of Oz, this actress and singer could sing quite a tune.
Her contralto voice led itself perfectly to slower tempo Christmas carols and Garland's version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is near perfect.
10. Gayla Peevy
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
OK, so when I think Christmas, I don't think about hippos. Nor should I.
However, my daughter is obsessed with the song, so I'll begrudgingly put it on the list.
Still, it is a catch tune sung by the then 10-year-old in 1953.
Basically, the young girl wants a hippo for Christmas and only a hippopotamus will do.
Have fun feeding that.
Whichever artists or songs you use to fill your home throughout this Christmas and holiday season, as long as it holds a special place in you're heart, it's the perfect song.
There are many others that could have made this list, some that likely would find their way into yours.
Hughes may be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org.