ECHO’s Favourite Underrated Christmas Songs

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Around the studio, we’re all fans of Christmas music. Despite our shared love of holiday hits, this is where consensus ends. Pop chart toppers? Jazzy favourites? Indie underground? Choral institutions? Just as in any family, discussions around Christmas music can get pretty contentious here. To quell the debate, we decided to lovingly assert our opinions by sharing our favourite underrated holiday songs that don’t get as much airplay as we think they deserve. Sorry, not today, Mariah.

Ali Smith-Cairns, Project Manager

“Fairytale of New York”

 “My tolerance for Christmas songs that aren’t either a) classical, b) classic (Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Elvis) or c) on the Charlie Brown’s Christmas soundtrack is close to zero. Anything pop-y or overly jazzy – basically anything piped through the mall from November 1 to December 26 – grates on my ears and puts me in a grinch-like mood. But there are a handful of tunes that I love. These lyrics are depressing and frankly pretty unbecoming of the season, but the melody is beautiful, and the refrain – ‘the bells were ringing out for Christmas day’ – seems to wash away the sadness of the song and puts me right in a cobblestone square in front of a church lit for Christmas on a clear December night.  This version by Billy Bragg and Florence Welch is my preferred one, because anything Florence Welch sings is perfection.”


Andrea Fraser-Winsby, Studio Manager

“Pretty Paper” by Willie Nelson

“Willie Nelson was one of my parents’ favourite artists when I was growing up, and he was on our record player pretty much every day. Willie’s soft, sad, twangy voice and his Spanish guitar are so comforting to me, and whenever I hear his voice sing literally anything, I immediately feel like I’ve put on my favourite sweater. Plus, the song reminds us to stop and look outside of our busy Christmas bubbles. It’s the perfect holiday feeling.”


Gerilee McBride, Production Manager

“Surfer’s Christmas List” by The Surfaris

“I really dig surf music and when it’s combined with a fun holiday it’s even better.”


John Burns, Story Director

Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten

“During Christmas, I’m a fan of sacred music — it is, after all, a sacred holiday. And all year I’m a fan of choral music. So I take special delight in Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, a 25-minute setting of nativity-themed carols for children’s choir and harp. Yes, the only instruments are the sounds of angels — those sounds that make the blood of the Grinch and Satan run cold.

“Speaking of Satan, WQXR’s Jeff Spurgeon has a great account of Ceremony‘s ‘This Little Babe’ and the mighty battle it relates of Baby J. v. Lucifer — or, as Spurgeon describes it, ‘the battle of good and evil fought and won by a baby born in obscure poverty.’ The lyrics (written in the late 1500s) begin this way: ‘This little Babe so few days old is come to rifle Satan’s fold / All hell doth at his presence quake, though he himself for cold do shake / For in this weak unarmèd wise the gates of hell he will surprise.’ Now that’s how to kick-start the holiday spirit!”


Kristina Roberts, Project Manager

“Carol of the Bells” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra

“This is music I really like when it comes on the radio. Joyous, uplifting, energetic. Simply put … love it.”


Lauren Cheal, Senior Content Strategist

“White Wine in the Sun” by Tim Minchin
“If you like your Christmas music with a side of uncontrollable sobbing, have I got a song for you! Really, though, this a lovely tribute to one of the great things about the holidays — getting to be with the people you love. Tim Minchin is a powerful storyteller, and this song showcases that incredible talent. ‘White Wine in the Sun’ delivers joy and love and melancholy — all things that say Christmas to me.”


Norma Larson, Studio Manager

“Please Come Home for Christmas” by Charles Brown

“This song isn’t necessarily underrated, but this version is. For some reason I love the combination of the blues and holiday music. It just seems to filter out the saccharine sweetness and make the song even more poignant.”

Sam Reynolds, President and Founder

“Petit garçon” by Nana Mouskouri

“Like any kid at French immersion school in the 1980s, I was initiated early into the musical world of Nana Mouskouri, especially at Christmas. Her French Christmas album played nonstop at our school over the holidays. Whenever I hear ‘Petit garçon,’ I am transported back into Mme. Doucette’s Grade 1 classroom with the comforting smell of construction paper and pencil shavings. We had a Christmas concert that year, and this was the song our class performed. Audrey Roburn had a much nicer voice than mine but she got the flu, so I sang her solo part. Just me and Nana. Incidentally, for years I thought Nana Mouskouri was an old Greek grandma and it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I actually saw an album cover and realized that ‘Nana’ was just her first name and she was actually a gorgeous Mediterranean version of Audrey Hepburn.”


Stephanie Toth, Production Coordinator

“A Marshmallow World” by Dean Martin


“I’m of the sincere belief that the only appropriate way to ring in the holiday is with the Rat Pack. I guess technically this is more of a winter song than a holiday song, and in Vancouver our holidays are so very rarely actually snowy, but I love this song for the absurd playfulness of it. Picture, if you will, the King of Cool with his cigarette and scotch, crooning about marshmallow, yum-yummy worlds ad whipped cream days. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of the pre-holiday season, and while I’m all for sentimentality, it can also get a bit heavy this time of year. I like this song because it shakes it off: ‘The world is your snowball just for a song / Get out and roll it along.’

We hope you are warm and cozy for the holidays this year, and your favourite things get the respect they deserve. To contribute to your coziness, please enjoy this Spotify playlist of all our underrated favourites listed above, along with some honourable mentions.