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10 Essential Country Christmas Songs

If you’re a country artist, it’s an unspoken rule that you just have to release a Christmas album. From Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn to Carrie Underwood and Kacey Musgraves, every artist has released one sooner or later.

Most have recorded the usual standards, like “The Christmas Song,” “Silent Night,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Some artists even toss in entries like “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” (looking at you Miss Musgraves).

Whatever it might be, there’s always a treat or two, and we all have our absolute favorites. It’s like opening a package on Christmas morning; each version has a special charm, even if the artist in question paints inside the lines.

Below, we’ve compiled 10 essential country Christmas songs, largely focused on originals rather than the slew of recognizable covers.

“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” – Elmo & Patsy

With a bouncy piano, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” is among the most unconventional on this list. Folk comedy duo Elmo & Patsy bring a lightheartedness to the warm, fuzzy holiday season, and it’s enough to make you chuckle every step of the way. “You can say there’s no such thing as Santa / But as for me and grandpa, we believe,” sings Elmo.

“A Willie Nice Christmas” – Kacey Musgraves & Willie Nelson

Co-written with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, Kacey Musgraves’ “A Willie Nice Christmas” finds the singer fusing a tropical flare with rootsy, acoustic-based country. “Here’s to finding your own little peace on earth,” she sings. The iconic Willie Nelson trades verses, his voice fitting the musical sway like a glove.

“Pretty Paper” – Willie Nelson

Originally cut by Roy Orbison, “Pretty Paper” is actually written by the one and only, Wilie Nelson. A dusting of snow in the form of percussion coats the song, as Nelson sings with a heart-torn emotional quality. “You better hurry / My how time does fly,” he sighs. Based on the real story of a Fort Worth, Texas vendor, the sweeping ballad is like a gut punch.

Kacey Musgraves’ A Very Kacey Christmas
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“I’ll Be Your Santa Tonight” – Keith Urban

The crackle of a fire soundtracks Keith Urban’s “I’ll Be Your Santa Tonight.” A twirling little ditty, the song makes a bid for love in a seductive sort of way. “You don’t have to be alone,” coos Urban, his eyes glistening with magic. “I’ll bring the lights / I’ll make you the star at the top of the tree, shining so bright,” he continues.

“Let It Be Christmas” – Alan Jackson

Alan Jackson has a way of delivering his melodies that make for a heavenly, blissful experience. “Let every bell ring,” the singer proclaims. “Let It Be Christmas” is like a fleece blanket wrapped around you while you nestle in front of the fireplace. Jackson yearns for the warmth of the holiday season, those small things that make it so special.

“Christmases When You Were Mine” – Taylor Swift

A country essentials list isn’t the same without a dose of Taylor Swift. In “Christmases When You Were Mine,” Swift laments the loneliness the holiday sometimes brings. The heartbreak still pulses in her chest, finding her unable to enjoy Christmas like she used to. “Everybody’s here except you, baby,” she sings.

“364 Days to Go” – Brad Paisley

Over piano and a guitar’s gentle smolder, Brad Paisley looks ahead to the next holiday season, just as the current Christmas rolls right past. “Don’t you get the sense tonight that for now, the world is right,” he sings. He basks in the present moment, yet he can’t help but let his mind drift away and imagine what tomorrow may bring.

Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton’s Once Upon a Christmas

“Christmas Without You” – Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers

There’s just something electric about a Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers duet. “The fireplace keeps burning / And my thoughts keep turning / The pages of memories of times spent with you,” muses Rogers. Both the singers have weathered heartache, but it’s still so terribly difficult to push through Christmas so sad and so blue.

“The Christmas Shoes” – Newsong

It might be labeled the “worst song ever,” but “The Christmas Shoes” is quite a stunner, telling a heartbreaking story about a young boy who wants to buy a pair of shoes for his terminally ill mother. The narrator, who stands behind him, gives him the money. “Could you hurry, sir / Daddy says there’s not much time,” sings Newsong, ripping your heart from your chest.

“Country Christmas” – Loretta Lynn

With hits steady giddy-up, Loretta Lynn’s “Country Christmas” regales a tale about a down-home country Christmas. “We’ll have a good ole country Christmas, alright,” she sings. The family is gathered ’round the tree; the eggnog is flowing; and it seems life could not be better. Sometimes, a meager Christmas is even better than the razzle-dazzle of a big one.

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