Programming, Broadcaster, Holiday, Playlist

8 Holiday Music Playlist Ideas You Can Use This Season

Okay, so we know you're probably busy this holiday season. You've got a tree to decorate, food to make, presents to wrap. However, one task that often goes overlooked in holiday celebration prep is music programming. That's right: most people just pull up a random seasonal Spotify playlist, or ask their Alexa to play them Christmas music, or dig through their old pile of CDs to find an album that their party guests might like. There's a lack of choice and personalization in all of these scenarios.

We feel holiday music playlist-making is just as integral as hanging up your lights. So today, we're combating this problem with 8 holiday music playlist ideas you are free to take from us and use for yourself this year. If you're a radio broadcaster you can also use these themes for your rotations throughout December. Your own eardrums, those you care about, and maybe even old Kris Kringle will thank you for it.

1. Decades

Want to feel nostalgic? Play some holiday songs from a specific decade! There's a treasure trove of holly jolly numbers from every decade since the 14th century! Of course, when it comes to modern midwinter music, you've got from the 1940s until the present day.

What's great about exploring decades holiday music is that you'll find each time period has their own unique sound. For example: 80s holiday songs are slower-paced and warm, while early 2000s holiday hits sound more crisp and cover a variety of genres. Pick your favorite decade and stick to it!

Check out these Live365 pieces for holiday decades playlist ideas:

2. Funny Holiday Tunes

Okay, let's admit: the holiday season can get a little stressful at times. Therefore, we recommend keeping a playlist of hilarious holiday songs on hand for the days when you feel like pounding a fist through the fruitcake.

There are some genuinely funny holiday-themed bops out there...some that we're sure would make Santa laugh "ho, ho, ho!" We're thinking songs like "The 12 Pains of Christmas" by Bob Rivers, "Very First Christmas" from Spongebob Squarepants, and "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" by Gayla Peevey.

Of course, funny can also mean weird and corny songs, too. (Everyone has their own sense of humor!) If you really want to make people say "what the heck?" at the holiday party, you could also play warped songs like Iggy Pop's "White Christmas." Some of your friends may get a laugh out of it. But fair warning: some people may hate you, too.

Check out these two Live365 articles for funny holiday tune recommendations:

3. Specific Genres

There's an abundance of pop, classical, and hallmark holiday songs from the 40s and 50s out there. But what about country Christmas songs? Hip-hop? R&B? Even reggae? Trust us: they're out there.

Have the courage to stand out, do some research, and create a holiday playlist that caters to a specific niche genre. These kinds of playlists are particularly useful if you're a broadcaster that runs a station with a tighter format.

Take a look at our list of Holiday Songs for Specific Radio Genres to get some inspiration for the genre of your choice!

4. Instrumentals

If you want some great music to play at the holiday party without having to worry about Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra's crooning overpowering the words of your guests, then you should think about programming some instrumentals this year. There are countless orchestras and bands out there that strictly play instrumental holiday music. It really allows you to savor those sleigh bell, organ, and piccolo trumpet sounds commonly used during the yuletide season.

Also, instrumentals aren't just limited to classical music. There are plenty of lyric-less jazz pieces perfect for yuletide get-togethers, as well as rockin' tunes from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for those who want some progressive metal infused into their Christmas songs.

5. Songs Without the 'C' Word

Whether you celebrate a holiday besides Christmas or just want to be inclusive of everyone at your get-together, there are plenty of yuletide songs that actually don't use the 'C' word. We're thinking of carols like "Let It Snow," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," and "Deck the Halls," just to name a few.

There are songs for every seasonal celebration, but perhaps the holiday with the most commercial music after Christmas is Hanukkah. If you participate in the Festival of Lights, you've got some pretty great jams to play: including "8 Days (Of Hanukkah)" by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, "Hanukkah (Favorite Time of Year)" by Too $hort, and even Adam Sandler's hilarious "The Chanukah Song."

6. Songs From Christmas Movies

This idea is for cinephiles, geeks, and film students! Not only can great Christmas/holiday songs be found on the radio, but also within seasonal movies. Some of our many favorites include "What's This?" from The Nightmare Before Christmas, "It Feels Like Christmas" from The Muppet Christmas Carol, and "When Christmas Comes to Town" from The Polar Express. And let's not forget all those great Vince Guaraldi Trio songs from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

There's no limit to how deep you can go with this playlist idea. Do you consider Die Hard and Gremlins to be holiday movies? You can even stuff scores from those soundtracks into your playlist, too!

Check out our list of Top 10 Holiday Movie Musicals to get some song ideas for your Hollywood-approved playlist!

7. Love Songs

Feeling romantic this holiday season? Missing a faraway lover or grateful you get to spend Christmas with your special someone? Create a playlist of holiday love songs just for them!

Cheery songs like Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and Toni Braxton's "Snowflakes of Love" work. But if you're dealing with heartbreak or loneliness, songs such as Sabrina Carpenter's "santa doesn’t know you like i do," Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas," or even "Last Christmas" by Wham! could bring some catharsis.

8. Songs by One Successful Holiday Artist

Many music stars have tried their hand at a holiday album or two. Some of them – like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Mariah Carey, and even Pentatonix – have plenty of Christmas hits to their name. Other artists have that one beloved yuletide record superfans can't get enough of. (Justin Bieber's Under the Mistletoe and Josh Groban's Noël come to mind.)

If one specific artist's voice gets you in the holiday spirit...we say play them loud and proud! Go for it! You'll be doing them or their estate a big favor. (If you're broadcasting, just be sure to note the DMCA rules on consecutive artist and album track plays – so you'll need to mix in another artist or 2.)

So far, we have these lists of great songs by artists who have revolutionized the holiday genre...

We hope these playlist ideas help you have a merry and bright holiday season. Happy broadcasting, and enjoy the holiday season!

Looking for some holiday music? We've got you covered! Head to for a selection of holiday stations.

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Article Image: A woman sits by her Christmas tree and around wrapped presents, dancing to the music playing in her headphones. (deagreez1 via DepositPhotos.)

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey