Readers Say

The best classic holiday songs and books, according to readers

"Listening to this song feels like going back in time."

Opera singer Marianne Cornetti, dressed as Mrs. Santa Claus, delivers presents and songs in Pittsburgh on Dec. 22, 2020. Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP

We’re all pretty familiar with the classic lyrics made famous by Andy Williams, and it continues to hold true — this really is the most wonderful time of year.

When we asked our readers to name their favorite Christmas songs and books from childhood, we received dozens of recommendations. Two dozen song titles poured in from readers and we even made a reader playlist that will surely get you in a festive mood. We also received 11 book recommendations with titles that brought readers back in time to a Christmas Eve shared with their families, and how they carry on the tradition with their own children today.


Ahead, check out the full list of favorite holiday music and books from childhood, according to readers.

Readers’ favorite holiday songs 🎶

“My Dad and I watched ‘A Christmas Carol’ every Christmas morning for decades. Now that he is gone, I watch it in his memory.”

— Jack C. from Provincetown, Mass. and India

“Listening to this song feels like going back in time. Though the events that inspired the song happened over 100 years ago now, through John’s storytelling he makes you remember not only the facts of what happened that night, but how it must have felt for the men that were there.”

— Robert in Cohasset

“‘John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.’ As I kid, I loved the Muppet’s Christmas with John Denver. That record got a LOT of playtime.”

— Zach in Boston

“My mom and I both love the Carpenters. Karen Carpenter has one of the best, most distinct voices of all time and the Carpenters’ Christmas album is wonderful and iconic.”

— Greta K. in Northborough

“When I was kid in the 70s the Charlie Brown Christmas special meant the start of the Christmas season for me. The scene where Linus and Charlie Brown go get the pathetic tree as the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s sublime jazz adaptation of ‘O Tannenbaum’ plays in the background definitely became my favorite Christmas song year after year. It also gave me a great appreciation for jazz.”

— Paul C. in Melrose

“Every year at Christmas, my grade school choir performed Fred Waring’s Night Before Christmas. I loved it. This was back in the fifties, and it was not only magical, but it was a sharing of tradition that I loved. It is something that has always been important to me; the fact that human beings have always, it seems, at the dark of the year, found ways to light up the long nights.”

— Anabel G. in Lexington

“The song is meaningful because of singing in chorus and learning it first as Greensleeves when I was learning to play guitar. I loved the harmonies and the simplicity.”

— Donna J. in Dracut

Readers’ favorite holiday books 📚

“My father read it to us every Christmas eve by the undecorated tree (lights only and fire in the fireplace) before sending us up to bed. We three were allowed to sleep together only on Christmas eve giggling and carrying on so mommy and daddy could play Santa and decorate tree and put out our presents. (This was in Delaware, SO [I was] surprised when I moved to Boston that Robert J. read it on radio.)”

— Deborah B. B. in Jamaica Plain

“It’s about a lonely house mouse who becomes Santa’s Helper and my brother and I asked mom to read to read it every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. [T]here is a great sequel too.”

— Paul C.

“The Adventures of K’Ton Ton: The Little Jewish Tom Thumb” by Sadie Rose Weilerstein

“At home, we celebrated Chanukah, and the K’Ton Ton books were always part of our celebration. It was a modest little publication, and I believe succumbed to years of childish play with crayons and pencils. It is my profound wish that humanity will learn to share our beliefs, our traditions and our religions peacefully. To learn that none of us know the ‘one truth,’ that that ‘one truth’ will never be the same for everyone. [E]ach of us can find the faith and truth that heals and sustains us without insisting that it be the same for everyone.”

— Anabel G. in Lexington

“The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore

“It was read to both my wife and I as children, and we read it to our child now.”

— Anonymous

“The book ‘‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ was only read on Christmas Eve before going to bed when I was a child. When I got married we’ve carried on this tradition as well with our four children prior to bed time on Christmas Eve. It tells the story of what’s about to happen once they go to bed and the expected visit from St. Nick! I love reading the story now just as much as the first time I heard the story. How talented was C. Clement Moore to write such a great story!”

— Brian in Easton

“We would have an annual family Christmas Eve party where my father would always read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ immediately before my uncle (dressed as Santa) would show up with a bag full of presents for every person at the party.”

— Zach

“‘The Night Before Christmas’ was read to my brother and I annually on Christmas Eve by our dad and the charming illustrations by Leonard Weisgard that hearken back to the Victorian era of the original poem really spoke to me. When I became a dad, I bought both books and read them to my daughters maintaining the tradition.”

— Paul C.

“The story just captures, in vivid detail, a single Christmas day in a kid’s life and you feel like you are sharing the day with him.”

— Donna J.