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Top 10 Country Christmas Songs

Willie Nelson Martina McBride Merle Haggard
Andrew H. Walker / Jason Merritt / Bryan Steffy, Getty Images

Merry Christmas!! That most wonderful time of the year is here, and the hustle and bustle of shopping, parties and tree-trimming is keeping you busy. But you can’t have the holidays without music, so The Boot has made our list — and checked it twice — and come up with our picks for the Top 10 Country Christmas Songs of all time!


'Pretty Paper'


Willie wrote this holiday lament and first gave it to Roy Orbison, who had a huge hit with it in 1963. Nelson recorded it as the title cut of his first Christmas album in 1978 and since then, 'Pretty Paper' has been recorded by dozens of artists, including Chris Isaak, Carly Simon and Kenny Chesney. Its message of folks getting too caught up in holiday shopping and failing to spread good will during the holidays rings true in any economy.


'Christmas in Dixie'


Country's best-loved band of the '80s released this to the approval of all audiences, especially fans in the South. Painting a picture of how the holidays are celebrated nationwide, the group inevitably makes its way back to its own hometown for a special wish: "And from Fort Payne, Alabama, Merry Christmas tonight!" 'Christmas in Dixie' is a traditional, warm-fuzzies-by-the-fireplace kind of song.


'Beautiful Star of Bethlehem'


This mid-20th-century classic comes out of the same rural tradition as Wynonna and Naomi Judd, making the popular bluegrass tune an instant favorite. The blended voices of mother and daughter rise like a mist out of the Kentucky mountains. Other neo-traditionalists including Emmylou Harris and Patty Loveless have also recorded it, ensuring the song's popularity for years to come.


'It Wasn't His Child'


Hit songwriter Skip Ewing penned this moving song about the Christ Child. Other artists, including Sawyer Brown, have recorded memorable versions for their Christmas albums. It's Trisha, though, who really makes the listener feel the struggles of Joseph as he tries his best to be a good father to a child who isn't his own. A beautifully written and performed modern classic that should be a part of any holiday collection.


'If We Make It Through December'


A reminder that the holiday season isn't always about twinkling lights and candy canes, this sobering look at the financial constraints that some families face during Christmas time was a No. 1 hit for Haggard in 1973, ultimately becoming the No. 2 song of the entire year. Now considered a classic, the oft-covered tune continues to resonate with listeners who struggle through the holidays.


'Merry Christmas From the Family'


Only Robert Earl Keen could get away with such an acerbic take on Christmas. Forget about joy to the world, pretty paper and angels - this is Christmas in the real world, where you've got to drink heavily just to deal with the stress of seeing your extended family and all the complications a get-together can bring.


'Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer'

Elmo & Patsy

What list of Christmas tunes would be complete without this novelty hit? First sung by writer Randy Brooks at a hotel in Lake Tahoe, Nev., in 1978, it was recorded by husband-and-wife duo Elmo & Patsy Shropshire. Gaining momentum in the early '80's, the song about an over-served granny felled by Santa Claus' sleigh eventually reached Christmas cult status. In 2000, it even spawned an animated television special.


'O Holy Night'


Few songs capture the full sacred meaning of the season as does this hymn. Fewer still are the artists who can handle the challenging vocal range of the song, let alone with the passion and sentiment befitting the lyrics. Written in 1847 by Frenchman Adolphe Adam, the carol is now a worldwide expression of hope. Martina's unforgettable version reached the country chart five years in a row, from 1997 through 2001. It is not to be missed.


'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree'


Brenda Lee was all of 14 years old when she recorded this song in 1958. It has since become one of the all-time holiday classics, landing at No. 4 on a list of the most popular seasonal songs of any genre. The rockabilly take on the tune will forever be linked to the versatile vocalist nicknamed "Little Miss Dynamite," whose influence is so vast that she has been inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'

Gene Autry

Our No. 1 spot goes to "the most famous reindeer of all." Written as a story for a children's coloring book in 1939 by Robert L. May, 'Rudolph' was commissioned by the Montgomery Ward department store as a holiday marketing giveaway. Autry's 1949 musical version (the original) has now sold more than 25 million copies and inspired the 1964 CBS-TV special, which remains the longest-running holiday special in TV history.


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